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. Robert M. Reidy N.Y.

    Phony, phony Hillary, at it again !

    All calculation and stony heart except when she has tears for her own plight
    and fall from democratic grace.

    Poor Hillary the victim again.

    As Barack Obama enters the room like the next president – she was just trying to latch onto his spotlight – it's really that simple.

    January 29, 2008 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  2. Parker

    Wow. Breaking news. Gripping stuff, really intresting.

    January 29, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  3. Nap time... Cookies later.

    "I didn't have snubbing relations with that woman"

    January 29, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  4. Bryant

    To "craig m" and "John in Ga" and everyone else with similar posts:

    If you are actually basing your decision on whom to vote for President of the United States–the most important decision of our lifetime thus far–on a photograph of Obama and Hillary not shaking hands, then it is YOU...not Obama nor Hillary...who are the true problem with our country.

    Your ignorance is exploited daily by the media who manipulate you and your emotions. The media loves to overplay events such as this for the same reason they follow Britney Spears around...sensationalism generates interest and subscribers and more ad revenue.

    Please, if you're going to judge others and expect "adult" behavior from the candidates, be an adult yourself and research the actual issues before making a knee-jerk reaction based on the media's manipulation of you.

    January 29, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  5. Mrs. America

    Of the posts to any one blog, who has the most? Jessica Yellin (this one), or Wolf Blitzer when he was asking for ideas for the Dem debate, or some other. Just curious.

    I don't care much which way Obama looks when Kennedy and Clinton are around. I just wish he would say something of substance instead of just making speeches that don't say anything concrete. All I hear is where we "should" be going but nothing about how he intends to get us there.

    January 29, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  6. Isabella


    January 29, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  7. Marc

    Whoa, now everybody needs to back up a bit. Did Senator Clinton offer her hand to Senator Obama? Did she say anything to him? Did she even look at him when she shook Senator Kennedy's hand? To lay all the blame on Sen. Obama is not fair and it is not just. Why was it incumbent on him to make the gesture first? If you think he was in the wrong, you have to admit she was wrong to. And for all of you questioning Senator Obama's maturity, I think the SC Primary before/during/and after showed which campaign handled themselves more maturely. Remember this: no one from Obama's campaign has ever, and if they're smart will never, say anything that even remotely implies that Sen. Clinton isn't fit for the Presidential seat because she's a woman. So take it down a notch.

    January 29, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  8. sebastian

    I am certain with someone who lacks personality to stand up above difficult situations like Obama in your presidency, is just as bad for international relations as it is having a naive daddys kid like Bush. Remember the way things are heading, you are more and more dependant on the rest of the world.

    January 29, 2008 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  9. N Vik

    Ummmm, Why does this smugness remind of our current president?

    January 29, 2008 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  10. Justin

    Obama is acting like "Angry Black Man" if want to be a leader then he need to act accordingly.

    January 29, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  11. Georgette Becker, Imperial Beach, CA

    People, People, People!!! It's NOT a slow news day yet CNN is "reporting" this gossipy tidbit as "news"!! And way too many of you are buying into the spin. Get a grip and aim your outrage at climate change, the pending recession, getting our boys and girls home from IRAQ. You know, something productive.

    January 29, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  12. Tickled To Death

    Now I am really tickled. CNN posted a picture that accurately displayed what was going on at the time of the supposed snub by Obama. HE WAS TALKING TO SOMEONE ELSE PEOPLE!!! All of you idiots that jumped on the bandwagon owe this fellow an apology. Sheesh...stop being so quick to judge and actually research before you let stupid comments roll from your fingers.....


    January 29, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  13. Tevin, Raleigh NC

    Whatever people! Leave the manufacturing of drama to Hollywood!

    January 29, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  14. Karen

    Please give me a break. Childish bunch. Making a whole lot of noise about nothing. Guys focus on the issues that affect America.

    Obama, you are great and continue on your vision of uniting America.

    January 29, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  15. Larry, CA

    For those who mock Obama's ability to Unite. Let me ask you what in the World has Hillary done to Unite us Americans? Going by the polls and the results of the voting. Barrack HAS UNITED us and Hillary has as well (IF YOU A MIDDLE AGED WOMAN) . By the way she can't even gain the African-American woman vote. 80% Obama.

    I think it's VERY telling that a "Good Friend " of the Clinton's would support Barrack over a "Good Friend" citing polarizing politics as the reason yet Obama is the one not uniting. Very Interesting Logic on this board Ladies. Oh and it's no coincidence that the author of this article in also a "WOMAN" purposly making Barrack to look bad and the very day after the Hillary camp was dealt a "Big Blow" on top of the "Huge Blow" she took over the weekend. Hillary is done and when Edwards announces he will be Obama's VP who is she going to get as her 3rd leg VP?

    By the way Obama he an endorsment from a well resected Republican Colin Powell as well.

    January 29, 2008 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  16. respect

    Cheerful HRC supporters – I see you are very angry today – what happened?! Blog on HRC website today is as always cheerful and happy – no angry HRC supporters there. OK, if you are so angry, listen to your leader – HRC – "take a deep breath". Now think about the following – if someone you've worked with for several years would start recklessly trashing you down and show no respect – would you shake their hand and give them a fake smile even just for cameras and TV?! Give me a break – where is your sense of self respect?! I used to be Bill's and HRC supporter for 15 years, but after seeing how low Bill and HRC have fallen to fulfill HRC's life-long dream of becoming the first woman president, I lost all respect for her and Bill.

    January 29, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  17. James B.

    Hillary and Bill Clinton supporters sound really frantic. If you are so convinced that they are the only viable candidate, than what are you worried about? Why not just educate others on why you think they should be president? Why the need to knock somebody else down? If you are supporting the best candidate, tell us why? (and please don't bother repeating what they or the media keeps repeating). Like her 35 years experience! Really, cause 15 of those years all she was was first lady (of Arkansas and the U.S.), By those standards Laura Bush should be ready to be president on Day one. By repeating rumors and untruths about somebody else, you give others plenty to wonder about. And the idea that somebody could take one single situation with somebody else's interpretation and say this one reason proves that this person doesn't have the right to become president makes me wonder if these comments were written by people who actually are making decisions on who to vote for or by 12 year olds trying to stir things up. It is truly scary to think about how little many voters actually know and continue to be manipulated by the press and the polititians.

    January 29, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  18. Washington Democrat

    This picture reveals so much! Honestly everyone- the headlines today state that Romney and McCain accuse each other of being liberal- that is the worst label in their minds and the best way to unite their Republican base. So why oh why does anyone believe that a Republican would ever vote for Obama in the general?!!!
    Obama, Clinton, Edwards- they all share the same Democratic/liberal
    platform. The day that I heard Bill Bennett and Brit Hume compliment Obama
    is the day that I realized that an Obama ticket is the Republican's best
    chance for the White House. Everyone really needs to step away from the
    rhetoric and THINK.

    January 29, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  19. The South

    You know what happens when those people get a little money.

    January 29, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  20. adriane

    This is what happened: She approached Ted Kennedy directly, ignoring Obama so he ignored her also. Is that a big deal?
    Go and try to think about ideas on how to solve the problems of this country instead of speculating and gossiping!

    January 29, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  21. Linda Smith

    I have intentionally watched the endings of the debates and Obama is the FIRST one to start shaking hands with everyone, even after Hillary has spewed out the lies and distortions and elevated her "35 years" of experience. I don't know what happened right before that, but in view of what I have seen all these months, Obama has many more points in the manners game than Hillary has. Hopefully, it will be addressed in the debate or in a news release.

    January 29, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  22. Carrie

    Hillary is always the victim. Poor Hillary! If people are not going to vote for Obama because of this story, you shouldn't be voting! Its so stupid. I am still waiting to hear about Hillarys 35 years of experience.

    January 29, 2008 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  23. John L

    There simply is no story here, so everyone is filling in details that suit themselves.

    January 29, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  24. Vicki

    Same ole Obama, he cannot take responsibility for his actions–he just rationalizes them away...Hummm sounds like a man without a lot of integrity, just like his voting present on so many bills. Hillary was right. Actually in a way I feel sorry for him–hes intelligent enough to know that the real reason Ted Kennedy backed him is to use him like a pawn for his own political aspirations. Did anyone notice his body language while he was being endorsed by Ted–his arms were closed and his facial expressions were that of sheer intimidation. Just wait, he has no idea how much a Kennedy endorsement can hurt him, equally as much as an Oprah endorsement. He also walks like a street person, with that dippy walk, he definately has some growing to do. Poor guy–Oprah already robbed him of ever knowing weather he could have succeeded in this race alone–and now Kennedy.....He did turn away from Hillary because he cannot face her for inside he knows what he has done behind the scenes–and hes still not sure what this Kennedy deal means–and it is a deal. Actually Hillary and Ted Kennedy forgot more than Obama knows. The truth always shows itself. Its disgusting how the media portrayed the Clintons as racial (Obama's behind it all) they are in no way racially motivated, listen to Kendrick Meek–he was there...........

    January 29, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  25. PSK

    Duh – hello? He was talking to Senator Clair McGaskill standing just out of frame.

    January 29, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
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