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. Robert J Sutton

    I am really glad that Obama has decided to say something about this. I noticed this campaign tactic back in New Hampshire after Obama won the Iowa caucus. President Bill Clinton became increasingly agitated and began to make slanderous statements that were far from the truth. It's a widely used, and unfortunately, a widely successful campaign tactic. Attack your opponent. It doesn't have to be true, as long as it's distasteful. This tactic is particularly effective because of the impact it has on voters. By launching tactless attacks, you turn voters off, disenfranchising them from the process. This is not the first time we have seen this tactic. The Clinton campaign used it with overwhelming success when Bill was contending for the Democratic nomination in 91 – 92.

    The fact of the matter is, Obama is fighting a battle on multiple fronts. Bill campaigns in California while Hillary campaigns in Nevada, and then they switch. There's nothing wrong or illegal about that, but I think it speaks greatly to Obama's ability to run one hell of a campaign. Obama can't be in two places at once, he does not have a former President backing his campaign, nor does he have the entrenched party ties that Hillary has, yet he has put on a very competitive campaign.

    I have always been a big fan of Bill. There were some policies I did not agree with (NAFTA), but for the most part I think he did a good job. But I am tired of the Bush and Clinton dynasties. We live in America, not the UK. Just because someone belongs to a family does not entitle them to the "throne".

    Me, I'm supporting Obama this time around. Sorry Hillary.

    Obama '08

    January 20, 2008 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  2. Gordo

    Poor Obama-wama, wonder if he knows what it will be like when it is:

    1 Rove
    2 Buchanans
    3 Bushes
    4 Reagans
    5 Mcains
    and half a dozen Swift Boaters?

    January 20, 2008 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  3. wow

    Billary's tenacity is almost scary. By any means necessary...

    January 20, 2008 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  4. Jose Card - Independent

    It's not AS IF Obama is running against both Clintons.
    Obama is running against both Clintons.

    Bill Clinton knows exactly what not to do as a former president.
    He is very desperate to return to the White House.
    We just don't know why he is so desperate.
    I could not bear seeing his angry face in public.
    He is running this race as if it's life or death.
    This is getting creepy.

    January 20, 2008 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  5. Mark

    Dear Obama,
    At times you will face many challenges against many more people than just the Clintons. You have to be strong enough to handle this and not complain. This is a prime example of your inexperience. Stop whining and get off your high horse. You are yesterday's news.
    A Non-Obama Supporter

    January 20, 2008 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  6. Nicky, Phoenix, AZ

    Wah Wah Wah.....Obama needs to stop whining and blaming eveyone else for his losses.....

    He lost Nevada, own up to it – stop being an arrogant SOB.....Just say "I lost Nevada, but we're moving on to South CArolina...."....Geez...it's his arrogance and his "I'm owed it" approach that I can't stand...

    January 20, 2008 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  7. Steve b

    NAFTA, CAFTA are steps toward the North American Union and the elimination of the United States of America as a nation.

    The steps that have been taken regarding globalization and the yielding of the USA leadership position in manufacturing, technology, and “you name it” is appalling. Just look at the tragic status of the USA Dollar on the world scale.

    I believe that the USA as we know it is in jeopardy, and most presidential candidates are ducking the big issues.

    Surprisingly, it’s Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul who are actually representing the positions of the majority

    January 20, 2008 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  8. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    As all lawyers know, it's easy to impeach the credibility of a perjurer, and Bubba is no exception. I won't vote for Hillary, who simply hasn't yet been convicted of lying, and I'm unlikely to vote for Obama, but if he calls out the Clintons as the truthbenders they truly are, I might ignore his thin experience.

    January 20, 2008 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  9. Eddie

    Obama's speech at Ebenezer Baptist Church was brillant, inspiring!

    While the Clintons want divisions, Obama is talking about Unity!

    Clinton is not elecatable in the general election! Do you get it?!?

    Aren't we not tired of Clinton/Bush dynasties?!?!? Do you remember Clinton consolidation of the Media or NAFTA?!?

    Open your eyes please!

    Obama 2008!

    January 20, 2008 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  10. joe

    unfortunately for senator obama, he has crossed the kill zone of the clintons. like them or not, the clintons are effective politicians willing to use every opening and seemingly not squemish about the tactics they must use. the clintons are determined to win the democratic nomination, and it seems to the exlcusion of all things.

    mr. obama needs to continue with his progressive and positive message, but not hold back to correct the clintons with their misrepresentations, misquoting, and outright fabrication of facts. it would serve him well to simply repeat his statements, even if he has to replay an actual video clip so that people can judge for themselves. if he chooses to brawl with this team, mr. obama will be left bruised, bloody and possibly beaten. he needs to recognize the clintons' achilles heel, their almost single mindedness in acccomplishing a goal and their seeming inability to ever consider the possiblity that they could be in the wrong. if he remains above the fray, he can hope that the voters will begin to see the clintons for all their strenghts and faults, and possibly turn away from them.

    for democarts the choice they have is to back a candidate who can actually create the counterpoint of the regan democrat and activate the growingly large independent block vs. a candidate who can mobilize the opposition to mount a full on counter attack and dishearten those already sick of the political process. democrats cannot be lulled into a false sense that the white house is for them to win, despite any and all attempts by the republicans to hold on to it. democrats have the opportunity to easily win, but this is unlikely or will be a hard fought battle unless they can energize all parts of their electorate and entice independents and moderate republicans to join them.

    mr. obama will need some courage to emulate dr. king or any other number of leaders who advocated a non-violent response towards those who are willing to inflict injury upon them. he needs to continue to hold onto hope that democrats and americans in general are ready to vote based on hope, rather than driven by their fears. he needs to continue to believe that americans are capable of giving themselves that which they sacrifice so dearly to provide for others, a real sense that things can get better if people can come together.

    January 20, 2008 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  11. ray in vegas

    Anyone paying attention knows Obama’s always advised his supporters to lay off the race card and focus on issues. they attack him, using prominent black figures, and when he clarifies his positions, or if others get outraged at the dirty tricks, he gets accused of race-baiting. Hillary suggested "you may think you're a dreamer and inspirational, but i'm presidential (LBJ) and you're not". His response? "that was ill-advised and unfortunate". Yet he gets accused of race-baiting!

    When the unions endorsed Obama, the Clinton supporters tried to shut down the casino precincts in Vegas 2 days later. When the judge laughed them out of court, Bill interferes with our vote in Vegas by showing up at several precincts on the strip, demanding entrance, and dragging along his massive security detail, creating a HUGE disruption. Many caucusers were so star struck that they either didn't bother to caucus, or decided to caucus for Hillary.

    At my precinct voter cards suddenly disappeared. We discovered Hillary people had taken them! When we asked for some back, they’d been all marked for Clinton. We demanded they disregard the cards, insisting on a hand count. Our chair was a known Hillary fan – she saw the dirty tricks and almost called the cops because some Hillary supporters were rude and aggressive – she got scared. She said – i volunteered many hours and was here for Clinton but i’m so disgusted i'm raising my hand for Obama!

    If Hillary is so loved and respected, why does she play dirty? Why does she need to recruit slime like Bob Johnson to take out a hit on him? How hypocritical! The crap on BET is degrading to women and glorifies thug culture, including drug use and crime. Bob Johnson has become a billionaire by exploiting black people, pushing filth to vulnerable youth while Obama was working in troubled communities of Chicago.

    The Clintons are dirty. They'll stop at nothing to get back into the White House. They don’t care about anybody or anything except power. You think Bill Clinton is doing this because he actually loves his wife? Wake up, America!

    January 20, 2008 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  12. tony

    Hillary trash-talked "oil companies" and "drug companies" in New Hampshire. But guess whose campaign raises the most cash from them?

    January 20, 2008 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  13. David

    Is there a bigger phony in politics? How about Clintons?

    January 20, 2008 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  14. Laura

    I don't want a cry baby for a president.

    January 20, 2008 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  15. Brian

    January 20, 2008 10:13 pm

    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.”

    Oh that's just wonderful! LOL . They are now taking headlines from CNN. I just love it! I'm laughing so much that my stomach hurts.

    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.

    What record???The fact that you didn't vote 113/383 times? In 2 years? We already know that.
    Yeah, I opposed the war too. Guess what, I didn't get to hear what was said in the Senate to be able to decide one way or the other and neither did you. You didn't have a vote on the war. You were not in the Senate yet. With your record it would probably have been "Present".

    Your getting worse everyday.

    Sen. Obama this is no way to win an election. You sound childish and whiny...She won and Bill saying bad things about me. Oh give me a break.

    January 20, 2008 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  16. LA

    Obama seems to be whining again and his team didn't put negitive ads on the radio stations in Nevada. Just a reminder...it's poitics big boy and they didn't pull the race card.

    January 20, 2008 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  17. Michigan

    Sen. Obama is running against both the Clintons. Both their mugs are on the air constantly and getting much more air time than any of the other candidates. Their whining, crying and accusations are incessant. I think Sen. Obama is courageous for withstand ing the Clinton sleaze machine.

    I'm not a fan of George Bush but at least he didn't have his dad out there on the constant attach against GW's competitors.

    I heard Clinton praising Sen. Obama at her endorsement speech from Rev. Butts and her credibility is so shot with me I didn't believe anything she said was sincere.

    The Clintons are nauseating and I'm a Democrat. If Hillary wins the nomination this Democrat who will vote Republican. The Clinton's in the White House again – I pray not.

    January 20, 2008 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  18. Magliovelli, Menlo Park CA

    Obama is correct. Bill Clinton has become a wannabe attack dog a la Dick Cheney.

    January 20, 2008 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  19. Seth(Kentucky)

    I think Edwards and Obama are in race against two Clintons . This is rather unfortunate moment in Politics. I would say Clintons are running dictatorship in democratic party. When the Nevada caucus debate was going on, Bill Clinton was in LA at the same time speaking to group of people. How can anyone compete against them in fair and justified manner?

    January 20, 2008 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  20. Mirta

    "Oh, I feel like the whole world is picking on me..."

    If this BHO can't handle criticism from the opposition, if elected President, how does he expect to sit down with Iran, N. Korea and Syria and solve issues?

    I think he is whiney, inexperienced as a politician and getting scared *wink*

    January 20, 2008 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  21. john

    The amount of money Clinton’s campaign has raised from pharmaceutical (drug) companies, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. This is more than any other candidate (including Republicans) has raised.

    January 20, 2008 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  22. natouche

    CNN, I'm really disappointed that you didn't post my earlier message.

    When Bill Clinton was a presidentiel candidate, Oprah was campaigning for him and he was always on her shows. Now that Oprah is backing OBAMA, it become's a race issue and she is portrayed as the devil.

    Oprah gave lots of money like many other americans for Clinton's campaigns but don't blame people for not backing Hillary this time around. The Clintons had their time, now you guys need change, a person capable of changing the image of America on the international scene.

    Whenever CNN posts an article about a celebrity backing OBAMA, the lashing starts. So all the black people who helped Bill Clinton get elected are now evils because they are not backing his wife? Are they racists because they are backing OBAMA who is half white, half black. What about the blacks who back John Edwards???

    If the race was between John Edwards and Hillary, it wouldn't be the same, IT JUST HAPPENED THAT SHE IS UP AGAINST A CANDIDATE WHOM SHE DIDN'T EXPECT TO DO SO WELL.

    Hillay Clinton is NOT Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton is NOT Bill Clinton.

    Vote for the best candidate.

    Vote for Hillary if you think that she will do a good Job for the American people not because she is Bill Clinton's wife.

    Vote for OBAMA because you believe and feel that he can change the state of the Systeme, bring the Americans together.

    Vote for John Edwards because you think that he can do something.

    GET YOUR FACTS RIGHT, inform yourself, read, read, read, because an informed person is a free person. Read about what OBAMA has done and is offering. Because if you don't know him, educate yourself and find out about him. You all already know John Edwards and Hillary Clinton so educate yourself and be a free individual.

    You are all democrates so how can you hate OBAMA so much?

    You guys are not very United at the Moment.

    January 20, 2008 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  23. David, SC

    CNN, congrats on being the new fox news. This photograph of Obama, with his hands in the air, as if he is being arrested by the police, I'm sure is purely by accident. The caption under the photograph says "Obama strikes back at Bill Clinton." Such a strong phrase used there: He strikes back.

    Well if the caption says he's striking back, why do you show him with his hands in the air, as if he has a gun pointed at him? What are you trying to suggest by juxtapositioning that strong caption, with that particular image.

    You already know what it is, even if the general public isn't slick enough to get it at a concious level.

    Guilty as sin CCN. Actually, that should be your new slogan. CNN: The guiltiest political team on television. CNN: The most biased team on television.Do any of you journalist have any morals anymore. lol. And what;s even more hilarious, is that some people actually beleive that you are for Obama. LOL. Good job, Fox 2.

    Oh, lord, save us all.

    Now let's see if you guys have enough nerve to post this.

    January 20, 2008 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  24. John K

    It's about time Obama. Bill had his runs for president and he should now get lost. If his wife can't fight for herself, then she doesn't deserve the nomination.

    Whenever there is a crucial event on the horizon, you will see Bill come out with some piece of crap to throw out there. He knows that it will be reported whether its true or not – see the culinary worker story. If he claims that he is not making it up, thats the clue.

    Don't take anything lying down from these people. If they are nice you play nice, if not a sharp kick to the groin and then back to your message.

    January 20, 2008 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  25. bob

    sounds like Obama is beginning to get desparate

    January 20, 2008 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
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