January 29th, 2008
10:30 AM ET
15 years ago

State of the Union: Awkward moment

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/01/28/art.clintonobama.ap.jpg caption="The presidential contenders meet on neutral terrain."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - It could have been a moment for Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to demonstrate the civility they say we need in our politics.

Oh, well.

Before the President entered the House Chamber for the State of the Union address, Clinton took a seat three chairs and an aisle away from Obama. While members of Congress were still greeting one another, Clinton crossed the aisle to speak with Democratic Rep. Jim Langvin of Rhode Island, a Clinton supporter. He was seated in front of Obama.

While Clinton was bent over talking to Langvin, who has been in a wheelchair since age 16, the senator sitting next to Barack Obama watched Clinton intently. It was Sen. Ted Kennedy, who had made a splash by endorsing Obama earlier in the day.

Here’s where it could have happened.

When Clinton straightened up, Kennedy quickly reached across Barack Obama to shake Clinton’s hand. She took it. As they spoke, Obama turned away. Then the senators seated to Obama’s right – Ben Nelson and Ken Salazar - both shook Senator Clinton’s hand and talked to her. Instead of doing the same, Obama turned to look at the back of the room. Sen. Claire McCaskill, who has also endorsed Obama and was seated next to Kennedy, reached across the Massachusetts senator - who was still talking to Clinton - and tapped Obama (still twisted toward the back of the room) on the shoulder. McCaskill engaged Obama in conversation until the moment passed.

It all lasted less than five minutes. Neither acknowledged the other all night.

UPDATE: Speaking about the moment Tuesday morning, Obama advisor David Axelrod said in an interview on MSNBC the Illinois senator was not trying to snub Clinton.

"I think he knew that Senator Kennedy and Senator Clinton were friends," he said. "This was obviously an awkward day from that standpoint, and I don't think he wanted to stand there while Senator Kennedy was greeting Senator Clinton. And I think that was an appropriate sentiment."

–CNN's Jessica Yellin

soundoff (2,013 Responses)
  1. Sue Butterfield

    You are starting to see the real Obama. Good luck !!!!

    January 28, 2008 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  2. Mike in Kentucky

    I look at the photo above and read your article and you have captured an awkward moment...so what...?

    January 28, 2008 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  3. Gerald

    They can't acknowledge each other? Are they still civil Democrats? I mean they might hate each other but they are still colleagues and should act accordingly. This actually upsets me a little. They both claim they will get things done and "reach across the aisle" but how can they do that when they cannot even look at people on their own side of the aisle.

    Kevin, obviousily there was a discomfort and awkward moment. Maybe the media is going to sensationalize it but it was definitely an awkward and contentious moment.

    Enemies can even look at each other and shake hands. This is crazy! I am reconsidering my support for Clinton and losing respect for Obama.

    January 28, 2008 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  4. Cameras

    Ummmm.... what was he thinking? This was very disrespectful and completely lacking in taste. Unfortunate for him that it was caught on camera.

    January 28, 2008 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  5. Ginny CA

    This is a real example of a picture being worth a million words. It shows a smiling Hillary, shaking hands with Sen. Kennedy, and Obama turning his back on her. Wow! What a guy!

    January 28, 2008 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  6. Chad

    If he doesn't have the courage to face his Democratic opponet, how could he possibly face Iran, North Korea, or Venezuela. Oh, I forgot, he was just going to call them up and play nice. Let's face it, Obama is out of his league. I'll vote for the first black candidate who is actually qualified for the job.

    January 28, 2008 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  7. Jay

    Word to what Kevin said.

    January 28, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  8. Tracy

    What ashame. Hillary should be beyond this type of behavior. Now she really scares me.

    Obama is talking about change and lets be honest, most of those senators don't want him around they want Hillary because she will cave into their policies.

    But this tension between these two were created by her because Obama has made more of an effort to be respectful to her and her husband than vice verser.

    January 28, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  9. Roland


    I wouldn't acknowledge someone who knowingly lies about me for their own gain. How would you like it if someone spread rumors about you that your a terrorist?

    January 28, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  10. wallopinwill

    Maybe Hillary reminds him of his mother.


    January 28, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  11. B.C. in Virginia

    What great leaders these two would make. Such "presidential" manners about them.

    You far-left liberals can't honestly believe either of these two are fit to run our nation, can you? They can't even act like adults with one another. This time next year, you guys will be wishing you had nominated John Edwards. I wonder how future president McCain would have handled the situation?

    January 28, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  12. Bingo Queen

    The Body language says it best in this picture.

    Hillary Clinton 08

    January 28, 2008 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  13. cai

    hahaha, Kevin. i'm sure if the situation was the other way around, you would slam Hillary. men...

    January 28, 2008 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  14. anonymous

    Who Cares

    January 28, 2008 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  15. Barbara Casas-California

    Does one shake hands with a cobra?

    January 29, 2008 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  16. Nice

    Kevin, I agree

    January 29, 2008 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  17. joe

    obama is arrogant. vote clinton.

    January 29, 2008 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  18. Frank, MO

    yeah ... that's nothing. How about that Billary canceled all post-speech interviews with the major networks ? I think she was not able to talk to Bill and did not know what to say. Maybe someone spotted him again with some cigars in his pocket ?

    Just to make it clear – I would like a woman in charge like in Chile or Germany to name two. But it has to be one of the many, many strong women who can fight their own fight without her husband holding the candle. Gender and race does not matter. So NOW should calm down and focus on what matters ...

    OBAMA'08 !

    January 29, 2008 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  19. Chrisi


    January 29, 2008 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  20. GiveMeABreakInTexas

    I really wish Hillary didn't bug her eyes out when she plasters that fake smile on her face.

    Plastic all the way.

    January 29, 2008 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  21. Odi

    Ditto Kevin

    January 29, 2008 12:02 am at 12:02 am |

    obama is an arrogant idiot and pathetic character. he would fall on kennedys face after super tuesday.

    January 29, 2008 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  23. Daisy

    Barak is a snob. Can't you tell? He needs to grow up. But then, most of the men do.

    January 29, 2008 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  24. Silly Article

    Wow. Scraping the bottom of the barrel for "news", huh?

    January 29, 2008 12:04 am at 12:04 am |

    i know obama being a doctor in illinois. he is two-faced and back-biter. i hope he loose the election nd be thr5own in jail with r5ezco

    January 29, 2008 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
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