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. Payne, Athens, GA

    I feel that Obama and Clinton are making this election about them and not what's better for our country. Sure elections can get stuffy and everyone loves a good argument, but when does the argument end and the candidates start showing interest in things that matter...not who spoke to who and who can get the last word in. I mean for all we know Edwards might be the best democratic candidate, but we will never know because of the Obama-Clinton cat fight...get over it!!!!

    January 29, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  2. Anonymous


    January 29, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  3. sheriff Ali

    I think that is it self evident that "race" in America is still a problem and will continue to be a problem for quite some time to come, and it is totally unfair to "cast" the problems of race on former President Clinton and his wife, Senator Hillary Clinton.

    Cnn is a great News outlet not only for America but for the world. I felt you did yourself a great injustice when you took President Clinton's answer to a questions that was posed to him about Mr. Jesse Jackson and twisted it to create havoc. Perhaps, just perhaps, "havoc" is what gives the News Media a higher rating, but in the final analysis, your phantasmagoric rationales and interneciene policies, are taking America down the road of no return, even further that President Bush's policies.

    Both Clintons are not perfect, none of us are, we are all "fallible" and imperfect, but they are two people that has dedicated their lives for equality in America and you shouldn't sell them short.

    Sheriff Ali

    January 29, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  4. KK

    The guy is frigging pouting. Pathetic.

    January 29, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  5. jm in atl

    I wouldn't talk to someone insulting me and bandying about lies and half-truths about me unless I had to. Obama will meet with counterparties as necessary to bring the country together and make things happen. But at this juncture, he doesn't need to acknowledge Hillary's presence any more than she needs him.

    Here's an alternative interpretation: Hillary was trying to prove how bipartisan she is, but only superficially. When it comes to knowing how bipartisan Hillary is, go look at how she executed her old health care plan. Hillary's not even partisan. Hillary's party is a party of one: only her.

    January 29, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  6. Ryan

    Obama shook hands with President Bush, Hillary Clinton did not. Obama acknowledged the little green fairy in the room, Hillary Clinton did not. Who cares? If this makes you judge both candidates then please don't vote. In fact, if I could, I'd revoke your right to vote and give it to the disenfranchised people around the world. You people are pathetic.

    January 29, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  7. stan pitts pa

    CNN = CLINTON NEWS NETWORK, you guys are good at attempting to damage anyone who opposes HRC. Jessica yellin your reporting is distasteful, instead of focusing on the presidents speech, you focus on two campaign rivals! America is getting dumber by the day! thanks cnn!

    January 29, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  8. greg dawson

    Meow, meow, meow! Does not surprise me. Obama is a brilliant guy and phenomenal orator but has alway struck me as a cold fish. His achilles heel already is starting to show – hubris.

    January 29, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  9. Tony B

    Come on people! This is not even news worthy. This, in my opinion, was Obama showing respect for Sen. Kennedy's decison to support him, rather than a long time friend. I believe it was a polite way to give two friends a moment to check in to make sure it's no hard feelings. If he had done the opposite ( joined their convo) this story would be spun into, "Did Obama gloat to Clinton in House Chamber". Let's stop the immaturity of jumping to conclusions everytime we read/see someone's idea of an interesting story for the public.

    January 29, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  10. Steven

    Is this news?

    January 29, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  11. Go Obama

    Maybe it's just not newsworthy and not a big deal. And maybe Obama just doesn't find it necessary or proper to plaster on a big fake smile, bug out his eyes, and act happy to see the one person he probably loathes. If he had, he'd probably be ridiculed here for faking.

    I'm glad he's a real person who refuses to play the same games she and Bill do. She would smile and shake anyone's hand if it would help get her where she wants to be, I think we all know that. At least he's genuine.

    January 29, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  12. Austin for Hillary

    OBAMA 08:

    Would you still feel the same way if Gov. Sebelius had endorsed Sen. Clinton instead? I bet you wouldn't. What some to these politicians endorsing "their candidate" need to remember that their jobs are also at the mercy of the voter. Voters remember. Voters have the power to re-elect them or send them home. Then they can get jobs as political commentators on MSNBC or CNN since they "know so much."

    January 29, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  13. Nap time... Cookies later

    wow, for a "non issue", it sure is getting more comments than any other ticker article! More than I've ever seen actually! It's currently at 1115 and counting. Probably a lot more that haven't been approved yet!

    Let's see if we can get it up to 3000. Who's going to be... the next... Amreican Idol?

    January 29, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  14. john17

    A story against Obama, never thought it would happen. Obama's true colors are coming out, very immature on his part. Uniter? LOL

    January 29, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  15. American Woman

    CNN with regard to that story entitled ‘State of the Union: Awkward Moment’ on the Ticker, you guys are rather ridiculous and transparent. I am certain that you were aware that Sen Obama and Sen Clinton had in fact greeted each other prior to the moment in question. Consequently, as Sen Kennedy and Clinton were exchanging pleasantries (and in light of Sen Kennedy’s rousing endorsement of Sen Obama hours earlier) Mr Obama chose to grant the senators space as opposed to hovering over their conversation. Ms. Yellin successfully took a courteous gesture by Sen Obama and metamorphosed it into a tasteless snub.

    As many less than prudent people seemingly act on emotions rather than logic (the infamous near cry effect readily comes to mind) you are aware of the potential repercussions of such gross misrepresentation.

    I am most thoroughly disappointed.

    D. Grant, FL

    January 29, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  16. C.E., Minnesota

    Thanks CNN. The clinton supporters really needed a boost of moral after the great day Obama had yesturday. They love to feed in to this type of loser mentality. When things arn't going well for Hilary they need nonsense like this to make them feel good about themselves and to somehow justify their support of such a worthless candidate in Clinton.

    Also Im still waiting for my comment to be posted for Saturday night. I see multiple postings from people on here they say nothing everytime they post. I dont know maybe you only want to here bad things being said about Barak Obama

    January 29, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  17. NevadansforHillary

    Wow...baby Obama – "the uniter" – now am really laughing! His true colors are shining through! This is the same attitude that those 'young voters' have – they don't respect their elders and most not even their parents. Thats why they support a candidate of his kind – no mannerisms and a true lack of professionalism. Had he had a proper upbringing I am sure his mama would have said 'son, be a gentleman and acknowledge the lady'. Wonder what he teaching his kids...

    January 29, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  18. Joseph


    Who the hell cares?

    I think that there are far more important issues at stake besides, who likes who? And who did or didn't shake who's hand?

    They don't have to like eachother, all they have to do is work together. That is the issue. This isn't a trashy reality TV show.

    January 29, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  19. free thinker


    GO HILARY 08

    January 29, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  20. obama...not 4 me.

    What a loser, he couldn't shake her hand and we want him to run our country....I THINK NOT! He won't unite anyone, there is no way. This is the easiest it gets and he can't handle this. He better just sit down and get his diaper changed now!

    January 29, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  21. Adam

    Once again, Obama shows in any moment of awkward or uneasiness, he can't perform. Whether voting on tough issues or greeting less than amicable colleagues, he backs down or evade it all together. This is who want leading our country? Things will be a whole lot more difficult as commander in chief. He needs to grow up and toughen up before he tries for that role.

    January 29, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  22. John A

    As a life long Demorat I am appalled at Obama's behavior, he is rude and obviously Kennedys little puppet. He has demonstrated time and again that he isn't Presidential material. If it comes down to Obama or Mcain John has my vote

    January 29, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  23. Judith, Ridgewood, NJ

    Talk about speculation!!!! Imagination run amok. The only way we know what is in the mind of another is to ask, and to first have the kind of relationship, where we can believe the answer.

    January 29, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  24. marcus


    January 29, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  25. Clintonhater

    I can't believe the bullcrap I'm reading...Clinton's team already said that she shook his hand earlier and Obama's camp replied that the only reason he turned away was cause he wanted them to have there moment seeing as he had just annouced that he would be support him instead of her....where are you guys getting the rest of this "oh Obama is immature"...swear you Clinton supporters will say anythng to try and drum up drama

    January 29, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
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