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. Inga

    I'm curious about Senator Clinton's cancellation with no explanation on Anderson Cooper's post State of the Union show. What was that about?

    January 29, 2008 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  2. park more, New Orleans

    Gentleman, where? Go Hillary and do not look back

    January 29, 2008 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  3. GreatStuff

    Hillary will not be taken off point by Ted Kennedy or anyone else, I can not wait for super Tuesday. It will be fun watching the media explain how she won, it will be just like NH, they were speechless then too!

    Go Hillary!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 29, 2008 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  4. Ken Martin,

    Is it just me, or is this article intended to make it appear that Barack Obama was wrong to shun Hillary Clinton. We're talking about the same woman who began to smear his name in the last months when she finally realized that there is a good chance that he could win the nomination. We're talking about the same woman who twists every statement that Obama says and turns it into a story of her own. Maybe he just didn't want to "pretend" to be "civil" on this particular night. Any other politician would've taken this moment to put on a fake show and give a fake handshake and smile to their opponent simply because the cameras were watching. That's what I like about Obama....he doesn't act like your normal politician. If I was there, I wouldn't have spoken to Hillary either. And why couldn't she speak to him first???

    January 29, 2008 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  5. myvote

    True Color or the so called UNITER!!!! He is really a divider.

    January 29, 2008 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  6. Steve

    I think they are sick of being around each other.

    January 29, 2008 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  7. leano

    Jessica Yellin, i think that you should not have blogged here. What you have written here no one needs to hear, and it is very irresponsible and even more it is silly. That you saw this kind of scenario does not mean what you obviously thought it meant. You probably were thinking, i am a going to observe if they would talk, and because they did not you made this conclusion. You act like these silly gossip bloggers!!!But this is an important time in AMERICA and any such blogging is uncalled for.

    January 29, 2008 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  8. Joe

    I agree with kevin.

    January 29, 2008 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  9. Kay, Stanford CA

    They love to use colons on the Ticker, dont they?

    January 29, 2008 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  10. A Picture Is Worth

    I think I will frame this. The caption at the bottom of the picture will read....'you took my lollipop, I don't like you anymore."

    January 29, 2008 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  11. Edd of LA

    HILLARY is confident that even without these politicians endorsements, she is still has the support of the American people. It is time for her to go and fight for the final run until Feb. 5th. She has the advantage since she leads the national polls.

    HILLARY will win it, no doubt and she will not fail the hopes of the American people who can bring a stable change in our country! A change based on experience and not rhetoric or play of words. GO HILLARY! 8 more days to go & you can campaign towards the White House. We will be with you all the way!

    January 29, 2008 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  12. dave

    If you think he's going to be any different as president, reboot and think again. A guy who can't ascend to being civil in a very small SC delegate fight and refers to people as Cousin Pookie and Uncle Jethro is not what we need in this country. I thought Senator Obama was about change; looks more same ole, same ole to me.

    January 29, 2008 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  13. joel samuel

    so thats how obama, the great uniter, behaves; me thinks he needs to learn a lessoN or to from HRC! How the heck does he think he is going to get the republicans roped in if he behaves in such a juvenile manner with a fellow dem. Go hillary 08!

    January 29, 2008 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  14. Rich In Seattle

    Let's hope that America follows and ignores Clinton too.

    January 29, 2008 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  15. Dan

    oh yah, yah, yah... I can see it clearly now.
    It is clear that what you are describing is racism.

    January 29, 2008 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  16. Ron

    I agree with Kevin – I think this silly.

    January 29, 2008 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  17. Ken

    Bringing people together is Obama's motto. While he can't get along with his own collegiate in the senate. This guy is fake. I don't like Hillary but I REALLY don't like this fake guy.

    January 29, 2008 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  18. Leah DiMarco, TX

    Pretty devious of Clinton to go and sit so close to Senator Obama.
    She seems to do just 'anything' to get attention and her name in the paper!

    And by the way – who on earth has been picking out her clothes lately? They are just like the Clintons – old news from the 90's.

    January 29, 2008 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  19. cai

    hahaha, Kevin. i'm sure if the situation was reversed, you would have slammed Hillary.

    January 29, 2008 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  20. joe

    lol – I have seen the same move used when the crazy drunk guy trys to engage people at a party.

    January 29, 2008 12:16 am at 12:16 am |

    i really hate this idiot

    January 29, 2008 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  22. Corey, Maryland

    They are both fighting for the same job, and it means a lot to them, how civil are they supposed to be. If I was either of the senators shoes, after the exchanges that have happened in the past few weeks, I wouldn't really want to acknowledge the opposite party either. It is very understandable. After this is all over and Obama is president everyone will be united and friendly within the democratic party.

    Obama 08!!!

    January 29, 2008 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  23. john m

    if it would have been the other way cnn would be calling her a racist by now

    January 29, 2008 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  24. David

    Obama same old politics...and quite frankly a bit childish. Obama could have taken the high road instead of acting like a spoiled child. Obama has repeatedly shown that he is not ready to be president he lacks the experience and please stop thinking that Barack can beat a McCain the republicans will rip him apart.. So its time the media stops pushing him down our throats. Sure he can give a good speach but being president is a lot more than giving a speach. Go Hillary Madame President.

    January 29, 2008 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  25. Garry

    How can Obama say that he will reach across party lines when He cann't reach out in front of him. He showed his age there, He should take his football and go home!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 29, 2008 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
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