January 20th, 2008
08:20 PM ET
15 years ago

Obama: I feel like I'm running against both Clintons

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/01/20/art.obama0120.ap.jpg caption="Obama is striking back at Bill Clinton"]MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina (CNN) - More tit-for-tat on the campaign trail – only this time, it’s between Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

After losing the caucus tally in Nevada, the Obama campaign took aim at Bill Clinton and the comments he made during his many campaign stops in that state on behalf of his wife, Hillary Clinton.

Now the Illinois senator himself is taking on the former president, telling Good Morning America that he feels as if he’s running against both Clintons.

In the interview, Obama reportedly says that the former president has been misrepresenting both “my record of opposition to the war in Iraq” and “our approach to organizing in Las Vegas,” as the controversy over Saturday’s Nevada caucus vote continues to grow.

Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod did not back away from the remarks after they became public Sunday night, telling CNN the Clintons “have a good cop, bad cop thing going” in which “he comes with a negative message she stays positive.”

Axelrod accuses the former President of “doing slash and burn stuff,” and slams the Clinton campaign, saying “there’s a philosophy of saying and doing anything it takes.”

“It’s very clear that Bill Clinton is playing fast and loose with the facts,” says Axelrod, and unbecoming of a former president: “It’s been a little crass, as someone who supported him and respects him, I think it’s disappointing.”

And Axelrod vows Obama will continue to hit back. “As long as he’s out there, we aren’t going to let him distort the record,” he says. “We’ll aggressively challenge him when he misrepresents the facts.”

He also calls on the former president to stop distorting Obama's record. “If he wants to help his wife, just be honest - don’t parse words, don’t truncate quotes to make your case.”

The ABC interview with Obama has yet to air, but the Clinton camp is already fighting back.

“We understand Sen. Obama is frustrated by his loss in Nevada, but the facts are the facts,” said campaign spokesperson Phil Singer. “President Clinton is a huge asset to our campaign and will continue talking to the American people.”

The new brawl comes as the battle between the two camps over the Nevada vote shows no signs of abating, with both sides accusing the other of voter intimidation.

On Sunday, Obama’s Nevada State Director David Cohen said there had been a “clear-cut disenfranchising” of voters in the state because of actions by Clinton supporters, and the campaign's general counsel, Bob Bauer, said they were asking the state and national party to investigate.

Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson called the allegations “absurd” and “laughable,” and spokesman Phil Singer responded charged that “Sen. Obama’s allies in Nevada engaged in strong arm tactics and intimidation against our supporters.”

Singer also repeated former President Clinton’s charge that the senator’s record on the war had been “inconsistent.”

–CNN's Jessica Yellin

soundoff (653 Responses)
  1. Mac in Nova Scotia

    Wake up voters, Bill is running for a third term under his wife's name. Obama is at least giving us a candidate who would prove that America can once again gain the respect of the people of other countries who have been so turned off by the present administration. Hillary is a female who runs and gets her husband to beat up on people who hurt her feelings. Some leader??

    January 21, 2008 07:08 am at 7:08 am |
  2. cyrille


    This is the reason why BUSH with CLINTON´s VOTE sent young men and women to fight nonsense Wars.In the name of democracy young americans a re dying evry day in Irak,Afghanistan. We are quick to criticize african leaders for not being democratic!!!

    In the U.S.A we have 2 families ruling over the nation BUSH senior 4 years,Clinton 8 years,Bush junior 8 years and now again CLINTON.....


    And we are here clapping and encouraging the Clinton establishment machinery to go on with their tricks,lies and intrigues...

    BUT we the people,we are more than decided to STOP this NONSENSE!!!

    They ( Dynastic Clans) will not withstand the waves of CHANGE WE BELIEVE IN.

    OBAMA 08

    January 21, 2008 07:12 am at 7:12 am |
  3. Bimmer

    The comments made by Obama and his capaign staff about Bill Clinton sound interesting.

    Is not Obama the one who started the MLK controversy by distorting the comments made by Hillary and were taken to task by prominent African-American leaders, including Andre Young who was one of the consistent civil rights fighters alongside MLK?

    Did not his capaign call Hilary shameless in spanish language add?

    Is not Obama the one who praised Ronald Reagan whom the labour union and the African-Americans were not too fond of?

    As to the voter suppression by Obama camp in Nevada, did not Edwards campaign make the same complaint?

    Did not Obama promise a positive campaign, but in every debate attacked Hillary?

    His position on Iraq is a fair game as he claims he showed judgement by not voting when he had no voting right but then he voted for the funding after he said would not vote for it. Almost sounds like John Kerry's infamous line " I voted for it before I did not vote for it".

    Is he not one who has attacked Hillary's Iraq vote again and again?

    January 21, 2008 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  4. Barbara

    Now it's not just about who's fighting dirtier to win the race by 'using' the race card, but about who's more stupid by showing support for either candidatel. Seems to me that it's time, once again, to go beyond the rhetoric of who's black, who's not black, and who's 'evil' and who's not, to looking at experience and positions of both candidates in an honest and comprehensive manner.

    The 'blogger' who claimed that Clinton only got to run for president because she happened to marry Bill Clinton who became president, should also note that part of the reason that Obama managed to rise to the top of the public mindset so quickly is because he just happens to be black.

    As for experience – it's not simply 'years' in the state or federal legislature but what bills were initiated, supported or voted on by each candidate. In short, were they 'active' while sitting in the legislature.

    And as for spousal support – if you're going to run ramshod over Bill Clinton's record of infedelity, and how that 'hurts' his support for his wife's bid for the presidency, then in all fairness you should be prepared to cover the support that Michele Obama is giving to her husband and his bid.

    Mrs. Obama has also made comments to encourage black voters to sympathize with, favour her husband 'because he is black'. Yet supporters of Obama fail to make mention of this when they rail against Mr. Clinton for his views on Obama's positons or experience.

    If you're going to sink to the level of insult then be prepared to get it back. In short, if it's ok to rehash Bill Clinton's infidelity as good reason note to vote for his wife, then it should be ok to rehash Obama's past as good reason not to support him. If you're not prepared to accept that – then stop with the useless insults, and start thinking in terms of 'record of experience'.

    January 21, 2008 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  5. Jack K.

    He's absolutely right...
    one takes the low road....
    the other takes the low, low, road.....
    then they get assassins to take the low, low, low, low road.....

    They will indeed take whatever road...takes them to the White House.

    January 21, 2008 07:39 am at 7:39 am |
  6. roger, conway sc

    OBAMA the Clintons probably feel they are running against two Obama's & two Edwards don't forget your wives are either by your side or in another place campaigning for you giving them heck...do you think we are stupid....another thing everytime something is said by the Clintons the Obama or the black leadership start the race card crap....I would have no problem voting for a black person for president but I do not feel the black leadership such as Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Jim Clyburn, Donna Brazzella, Roland Martin & Jesse Jackson Jr. are ready. If Obama is the nominee or elected president everytime something is said the media is going to jump on it & spin it with the black leadership and that is all we are going to hear....you had better think about this before you put your support behind Obama.

    January 21, 2008 07:39 am at 7:39 am |
  7. SPQR753

    If Obama pretend to compare promise of "change" to that of President John F. Kennedy , he will need to show much more than rethoric and trite sounding slogans such as "I'm fired up!" / "Are you ready to go?" .

    Thanks to a bungling Republican Administration, these are difficult times and the problems to be solved are many and urgent.

    American voter need much more than crowds-warming slogans.

    January 21, 2008 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  8. Bo

    2 against 1 is not fair. 🙂

    Too much divisiveness seems to come from Hillary and Bill. I believe Obama is the better candidate to bring the country together more.

    January 21, 2008 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  9. Justin

    Wow, Joe, thank you for your comment on Hillary... Brilliant!

    "Did she cry at Katrina ? Did she cry at 911 Did she cry for all the blokes yours and ours that died after she voted for bushes iraq war ? No to all !

    Did she cry when she though she was going to lose ? Yes!"

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. haha Oddly enough, I think Obama being not used to being a politician one of his best assets. The Clinton team, surely are politicians and yes, of course they will say or do anything to get elected. Obama seems to really believe in what he is saying, where as who knows what Hillary thinks or believes besides the fact that she is an outspoken enemy of the Republicans.

    I don´t want a repeat of the 50/50 Bush vs Gore or 50/50 Bush vs Kerry type of election. Obama seems to be the only Democratic candidate who has the energy, charisma, and ideas to bring both parties together, to actually pass laws... come up with some solutions to these huge problems our nation is facing. Edwards is great too, but doesn´t have the momentum or vast unilateral support that Obama has. Please don´t let Hillary win this election for her celebrity, her "friends" of influence, or her husband. She should win it because she is the best candidate. In my opinion she has too many enemies on the Republican side and therefore won´t be able to bring our country together as a Democratic President and might even lose (!) to a Republican candidate like McCain.

    Also I read a speech that Michelle Obama gave where she said (I´m paraphrasing here) "How would it feel to have a president who knows what it´s like to be on food stamps? To grow up in a single parent household? To be poor yet fight his way through Columbia and Harvard Universities?" Has Hillary ever been on foodstamps?? No! She had struggles of her own, but Obama´s diverse background can actually help him relate to real people, normal people, people who have hardships like you and me... Do the right thing and vote Obama.

    January 21, 2008 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  10. D'Mar

    35 Years experience goes back to Hillary's days as the Governor's wife in the state of Arkansas and championing similar type issues there. You seem ok with giving Obama all 11 years when he's just been elected to the Illinois Senate, and work within the state house first; but Hillary's been elected to the Congress since 2000, White House for 8 years, and was in the Governor's mansion for several terms before then. I don't mind a healthy debate on the facts, but please have some. If you are a Democrat and don't support the nominated Democrat who is elected, you're doing the same thing that happened to Al Gore and John Kerry, and deserve the crap the Republicans shovel down your throat. Stand firm in your beliefs, but don't let down the party again. We don't need flip flopping folks to vote for a Republican. If you don't like the nominee, fine; just don't vote. Those that do support will be strong enough for you too; and you will benefit because of it. I'm so sick and tired of people talking as if Bill Clinton didn't do huge changes for America; because he did. You can't find one political scholar to say anything negative about his politics. His personal conduct and behavior was far less severe to our image abroad than George Bush's; yet George is still in office after lying to the American people, continuing to lie to the American people; and kiling our heroes. Yet, you don't have outrage and disguist for him; but for someone who balanced the budget, had a $586 trillion surplus, increased jobs, put more police officers and civil workers in jobs; you want to wipe him off the record books; give me a break. In Bill's own words, "that's the biggest fairy tale" I have ever seen. Wake up. The presidency is not a popularity contest, Hillary and Obama are not on American Idol, they are running for the highest office in the World, and you relegate them to "like" or "dislike" like a five year old in first grade, do you like me, i like you. It's distasteful. Stand for your beliefs and if you have them; but don't trade your party; we don't need that right now.

    January 21, 2008 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  11. william hunter

    Is it beyond the realm of possibility that Bill Clinton may distort the facts? Coming from someone who has trouble admitting the truth even when confronted with it, I am amazed that so many people give him a free pass without fact checking the statements he's making. If Bill Clinton continues to knee-cap Barack Obama, the Clinton campaign risks losing Democrats like me in the general election.

    January 21, 2008 08:02 am at 8:02 am |
  12. NoLonforehead

    Oh well, two Clintons put together don't even make one decent president. Nonetheless, what he says is true. It's like Bill is out making speeches and running his own campaign for office, except he is pathetic and needs to go away for good. Slick Willy loves the attention, so of course he will try and create controversy. On the other hand, I see good qualities with Obama, but he is too polished with no substance. He is getting cocky and likes to talk some trash, which is not what the country needs. Despite his likeable demeanor and great talk of change, he does not have the experience or details to make this happen. (yet) Please vote McCain!!

    January 21, 2008 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  13. Jon, Pittsburgh, PA

    Hey Eric, please tell us what Bill Clinton lied about – except the obvious personal relationship with another adult outside his marriage.

    January 21, 2008 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  14. Tim

    Obama needs to quit whinning. He uses every dirty trick he can to win votes. But complains about running against Bill and Hillary. This again show his weakness and inexperience. Obama wants a free ride to the White House. If You can't take the crap,then don't dish it out.

    January 21, 2008 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  15. Obama 08

    Obama had to say this publicly. Clinton has been given a wide berth because he is a past president. However, he has been given notice, not just from the Obama campaign but by senior members of the Democratic party, that it what he is doing is harmful and unseemingly for a past president and it will not go unanswered as Clinton has crossed the line.

    It should be worrying that Hilary Clinton is unable to win by standing on her own two feet.

    January 21, 2008 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  16. Australian

    On Martin Luther King Jr. holiday you have a chance to make his dream a reality when a person is judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.

    As an Australian I wish I could vote I have seen both of them and Obamas character has earnt my respect.

    Hillary has shown her charater and earnt my contempt.

    I hope you guys make the right choice this time America please no more Bush's and please no more Clinton's. Remember the second ones are always the worst !

    Bush snr then Bush jnr now B Clinton then H Clinton ?

    Obama is what I as an Australian believe both the USA and the world needs.

    Vote well and vote based on truth!

    January 21, 2008 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  17. betty

    I wonder if Obama wrote the speech or did someone else write it. I have yet to hear anything positive that Obama is going to do for this country. I have only seen him touch lightly on the changes Americans will want to see. Obama should not make the mistake that all of us are going to vote for him because he is Black. If he do not win the election maybe Oprah will give him his own tv show.

    January 21, 2008 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  18. Mark R. Fort Lauderdale FL

    Anyone who says they are a democrat but will not vote for Hillary Clinton if she is the nominee is just lying. Everyone knows it is too important, there is too much at stake, for 4 more years of republican rule, even a moderate like John McCain. If you're not lying, then you are REALLY stupid. One more conservative on the supreme court will set our country back 50 years!!!! We MUST all rally behind the democratic nominee, whoever it is, and take back our country.

    January 21, 2008 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  19. Susan

    Think about it people ....if you vote for Hillary ...you get Bill too!!! Do we really want another Slick Willy in the White House? Come on People.........Bill Clinton should keep his mouth shut..........He does not sound like a supportive spouse on the campaign trail..........he sounds like he is running for president himself..........Do we really want more of the same politicians in the White House.....we have been there and done that........Please people ........wake up!!!!!! Hillary is full of it.and so is Bill...........WAKE UP AMERICA!!!!!!!

    January 21, 2008 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  20. Dixon, Des Moines Iowa

    I agree with Barrack. The Clintons seem to have something negative to say just before each contest. It worked in New Hampshire and Nevada. It is sad that we continue to reward this kind of campain tactic.

    January 21, 2008 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  21. Ernesto

    Ohhhhh Obama
    Your dirty tricks are good, Clinton’s bad?

    You have played the race card and engaged in dirty tricks throughout the campaign.

    Did you really think you could play every dirty trick in (and out) of the book and no one would challenge you? Now you are nervous because Hillary's husband is campaigning for her and criticizing you baseless attacks on her.

    You have better learn, you haven't have a free pass to falsely accuse your opponents, defame their character, and belittle the hard work and civil rights achievements of the Clintons.
    It is shameless as democrat to praise Reagan and not Clinton. For many people is Bill Clinton still a hero and it takes some arrogance to denounce the good works he and Hillary have done. It is exactly this sort of negative campaigning that turns people off.
    You are not JFK or MLK; these shoes are too big for you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    January 21, 2008 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  22. Ray

    poor NObama. Hillary is running against Michelle also. Its just no one cares or likes her is not Hillary or Bills problem. And if he cant take someone calling out the facts, then he is not ready for President.

    Anybody but Obama!!!

    January 21, 2008 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  23. Scott, Madison, WI

    I don't think Hillary is woman enough or ready to be president if she can't stand up for herself. It's time she puts on her big girl underwear and fends for herself.

    I want a leader who isn't sending out her crabby husband to yell at the neighbors! Yes, Hilllary you are a grown up now, and you have to stand on your own two feet in heels and in flats.

    I can't wait for all the self-righteous, indignant fingerpointing to start from hubby- boy and the victim routine to start from the so-called feminist.

    What a total embarassment to our country this couple has become.

    January 21, 2008 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  24. Mary, Beaver, PA

    Yes you are, Obama. And, guess what? There are many Americans who are sick to death of the both of them!

    January 21, 2008 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  25. jack ny, ny

    when did south carolina became deciding factor. Jesse Jackson won S. carolina. It didn't take him any further. If Obama wins S. Carolina so what. He is not going to win the nomination. forget about being president.

    theo January 21, 2008 4:32 am ET

    Clinton did not do to well among the black voters in Nevada, I think if the same happens in south Carolina, Obama will take that state and go all the way.

    January 21, 2008 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
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