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. john

    I'd advise people to tune into Rush limbaugh tomorrow morning on this. He
    knows more than anybody the lengths the Clintons would go to get back into
    the White House. She and her husband have an insatiable lust for power and
    would stop at nothing to win. Gender and race politics is just another tool
    for them. She and he stoop to conquer. How sad.

    January 20, 2008 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  2. Ally

    That what was I thought the election is all about. Say no to " HillyBilly "!

    January 20, 2008 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  3. RK

    You left out the media and sarrogates who are really there to destroy you and squeeze all hopes from you. Keep hope alive. Dr. king never gave up....

    January 20, 2008 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  4. brooklyn

    I liked Bill Clinton, but lately extremely disappointing and certainly unbecoming. Go Obama.

    January 20, 2008 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  5. John Adkisson

    Bill Clinton is squandering his hard earned status as an elder statesman when he attacks with obviously false facts. I say "obviously" because he often refers to comments by Obama which are shown on the news and clearly different than his characterization.

    For example, when Obama said that Democrats needed to become the party of new ideas again because they had ceded that role to Republicans for fifteen years - Clinton claimed that Obama said the Republicans had the "best ideas." This and so many other instances of dishonest spin are transparently false and far beneath his status in American politics. he also looks as though he is losing his temper and losing the campaign.

    Yes, Mr. Clinton seems desparate which, in turn, convinces me that he regards this as a election for his own third term. I am so relieved Obama is not just sitting back and absorbing this scorched earth strategy by the Clintons. The country needs him.

    January 20, 2008 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  6. Ex-Clinton Supporter

    Mr. Clinton, as a former president of the United States, has been an embarrassment.
    He ought to be able to campaign for his wife, Sen. Clinton, without bashing Sen. Obama.

    Mr. Clinton is doing a disservice to the office of the President. He also isn't helping the Democratic Party. We want a new way of doing business in Washington. We want a government that respects all of us as Americans. What Mr. Clinton is doing isn't helping. He is really sad...

    January 20, 2008 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  7. Gary Werner

    I have been following this extremely exciting presidential primary on the Democratic side – mostly – as well as I could. I am freshly invigorated with what appears to be a new spin on American politics – all under Obama's coined theme of "Change." I'm sure all of us have noticed how at least a couple of his contenders have "borrowed" that theme and made it a core part of their own campaigns. Even Hillary says she has been fighting for change for 35 years. OKaaaaay. Where is it?

    I too had high regard for Bill Clinton (can't say I did so much for his wife though – though I must admit that in the midst of his personal scandal, it must have taken a lot of BALLS for her to stand by the man – probably because she calculated her intent way ahead of time...), and even with all of his flaws combined with his uncanny methods for wiggling around and passed them, I thought he was a great president – and we all know – a very charming person. However, I now find myself viewing him and the campaign tactics he uses for his wife's benefits with a growing feeling of distasteful disdain. His charm is turning to harm. And now that Obama comes out with it (...feeling as if he is running against two Clintons), it has just confirmed in my own political heart that yes, the Clinton's are playing dirty pool in this great contest.

    You know what Obama? Keep playing. Put some more of that english on the ball and don't be afraid to go on the offensive and win! From what I feel and what I hear out there in my own run-of-the-mill life, you are a very classy, smart, and respectable man who still manages to hold onto idealisms that all too many find easy to discard in the face of old, entrenched, and outdated practices that currently define American government. You appear to have an "American Heart" that resounds with vigor from your transfromed perpsective – embracing the inspiring dynamism that will help us get out of the rut we have been finding ourselves in for far too long. Shout it from the rooftops!

    THE PEOPLE NEED THEIR VOICE AGAIN IN GOVERNMENT – not only to be listened to and understood, but I sense that we also need someone up there in the White House who we feel we can relate to as well as be related to. You are the first person I have seen in many years who radiates with that relate-ability. I saw it a long time ago when you ran for the Senate. Stand strong for what you believe in, and you will find the power of the people – which has been gruesomely absent for many, many years – will stand strong with you. Please know that the fight is for you – for the future of your family – for the future of all of us – for the future of America!

    I am SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO for you Obama. The best to you and yours.

    Gary Werner
    Chicago, IL

    January 20, 2008 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  8. Charles Good Springfield, Illinois

    It doesn't appear that Senator Obama can handle the rough and tumble of big league presidential politics. He should return to the Senate, continue to learn and grow, and leave the tough job of leading the country to Senator Clinton. She is tough, experienced, and ready to lead. His time will come. Her time is now. The country needs her.

    January 20, 2008 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  9. Oklahoma_Pol

    There are a number of truths here.

    Barrack Obama is running against Bill Clinton and Hillary will soon be a quilty bystander to the destruction of Obama's chances.

    She will then play GOOD COP and try to make nice and secure Obama's support in the general election.

    Bill will then over shadow who ever the the Vice Presidential candidate is and Hillary will soon be defending Bills actions in the White House instead of her own agenda.

    Hopefully the democrats will continue this primary fight til May

    January 20, 2008 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  10. DAVID


    If you cant deal with the criticism now, how can you deal it with when the republicans come after...
    your true colors are showing

    January 20, 2008 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  11. Tom

    I am not condoning any kind of negative campaigning on the part of the Obama or Clinton camps, but when you have the audacity to try and convince the country that the Clintons don't support the legacy or message of Martin Luther King Jr., I am not interested in hearing your condemnation of negative campaigning. End of story.

    May the best Democrat win (this one hopes it is Hillary), and may our party make it out in one piece.

    New York, NY

    January 20, 2008 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  12. Christina from TN

    No time for whining now Mr. Obama! No one ever said this would be easy.

    January 20, 2008 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  13. Jason

    Sounds like Obama is complaining again, seems that is all he has been doing lately.

    January 20, 2008 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  14. Donna

    Quit the whinning. I see his wife on the campaign trail all the time and what about Oprah.
    Give me a break.

    January 20, 2008 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  15. Gobama


    The Clintons defile the Oval Office to destroy their own White House legacy and their 'marriage'.

    The Clintons undermined the US Presidency, prevent the election of Al Gore, cause the election of bush, the destroyer, start an UNPROVOKED war, sacrifice thousands of American lives and limbs, emptied the National Treasury, weakened the dollar and destroy the US economy. . . . .

    Do Americans want another round of crass Clinton undermining of the US Presidency and defilement of the Oval Office?

    January 20, 2008 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  16. S.A.Alagarsamy

    This is unfair . Mr Clinton must save his Image as Past President of America.
    Let Honesty takes place
    My forecast is Obama will be a clear winner .

    January 20, 2008 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  17. Danny Campbell

    Obama is not ready to be President. First, he calls into question the Clinton's life-long support of human rights, then he praises Reagan over Clinton. And, he expects them (and voters) to not respond?

    I was highly impressed with him before he refused to denouce the Culinery Workers' Union's disgusting radio ad against Hillary (when he accused Edwards of the same thing in Iowa). He is coming across as a hypocrite and does not seem ready to be President. This primary season is "soft ball" compared to what the general election will throw at the Democratic nominee. Hillary is far more 'tested' and ready for that battle.

    Hillary 08 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 20, 2008 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  18. AJ

    This is because he IS running against both of them. But this could be an opportunity.
    If Obama can win a debate against the former president, and do it with more class and more "presidentially", he could elevate himself as looking ready to take all comers.
    This is his first test, if he can handle Bill, convincingly and in command, he is ready to be President. The odds are stacked against him, but then again, they have been all his life.
    At the very least, a STERN rebuke by Obama, will be a nice little reality check Bill needs.
    Until Al gore and Ted Kennedy come with endorsements, it really is 2 against 1. Unless Edwards comes in and takes some shots as well. As someone not being attacked, his rebuke would have alot of credibilty. Heck, even Republicans feel it's unfair for Obama to fight against 2 Clintons at once, so it's no illusion what's happening. It's sad that Hillary can't even run her own campaign or sell herself, Bill has do do everything for her.
    Independents and Republicans, your help at the ballot would be welcome.
    Obama/Edwards 08.

    January 20, 2008 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  19. Danny Campbell

    P.S. I would like to see him as VP with Clinton though

    January 20, 2008 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  20. marie

    we all know Bill Clinton's record. He doesn't care what he says or does as long as he gets what he wants. Who's running for president, Bill or Hillary? A vote for her is a vote for him. Bill is using Hillary so that he can be president again.

    January 20, 2008 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  21. abigi

    It looks like Obama is feeling the heat.A democrat who sees Reagan as his mentor is very disturbing.

    Obama is going to lose south carolina too.

    Some black people have already been disappointed with obama's comments.

    January 20, 2008 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  22. Maurice Ojow

    Bill Clinton's behavior is unbecoming. He should let Hillary campaign for herself. As things stand today, it looks like it is Bill Clinton who is going to rule America again. If Hillary cannot support her own campaign and get voters to vote, how is she going to run the White House? American should wake up and know that she does not have what it takes to lead. If a leader is supposed to be at the forefront, then she is not one. Her husband is the one calling the shots now.

    January 20, 2008 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  23. PJ, New York

    Boo hoo, poor Obama! If he can't take the pressure from Bill Clinton, I can't wait to see him when the Republican's get a hold of him, should he win the DEM nomination of course. The Republican's will not be as nice to him as Bill has been, they will eat him alive. Let's also not forget his free ride on the media train. The news media has been VERY good to him, only reporting positive stories about him.

    January 20, 2008 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  24. Mary, Iowa voter

    If one listens to the entire context of anything that has been said, the conclusion will be clear; Clintons have a passing familiarity with the truth, while Obama's honor for the former POTUS has previously restrained his comments.

    I can't understand why Iowans are accused of being "sexist" for not voting for Senator Clinton. Maybe it's just because we saw more of the two of them and how they interact with their campaign staff and voters, and we KNOW what will will be getting. I'm a feminist. Every other feminist I know has fallen away from Senator Clinton.

    January 20, 2008 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  25. BIG JIM , nashville, tn


    January 20, 2008 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
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