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. Shawn Smith, Kansas City, MO

    If he his pouting over the Clinton's, how is this man going to stand the heat of the republicans? They are going to be throwing much more at him than President Clinton. Like his past Drug usage, his first middle and last name, his lack of experience… ect. I mean come on! Hillary has been getting socked left and right for the last sixteen years and she is still a leading figure for the Democratic party.

    Let’s get serious; Hillary is the only electible candidate for the Democratic Party.

    January 29, 2008 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  2. Michelle

    Obama that was totally uncalled for.

    January 29, 2008 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  3. Dem08

    So this is silly and a non-issue. Jessica Yellen claims its not a story. Funny, she didnt think that last week when she mislead the country with the "Bill Lashes Out" story, that was untrue.

    FACT. Obama is not perfect. If this would have been Hillary doing this, you guys would be all over her. Talk about a double standard.

    He needs to get off the pedistal. If this is his kind on new politics, he can keep it. Hillary Clinton has always been gracious to Obama. There fight is over policy and experiance, he has made it personel. Sad, I think Kennedy has went to his head.

    January 29, 2008 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  4. Rob Webb

    You people are amazing. Reading some these petty statements makes my head hurt.

    This kind of high school nonsense having the potential to changes votes is crazy. What does this have to do with the recession? The war? The foreclosure crisis? Education?

    So, you mean to tell me that a fake handshake/smile (Hillary) or someone not wishing to fake it (Barack) can sway your vote??!!! You cannot be serious. This nation is in trouble people. We have no time for this type of foolishness.

    I don't care about social interactions between candiates and neither should you. Let's stay on the issues. Our futures depend on it.

    Please wake up. This type of nonsense got us 8 years of the village idiot.


    January 29, 2008 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  5. get truth guy

    Obama is a sore winner who could not even reach out his winner hand to a loser. what a joke! this nation can not afford this kinda politician.

    January 29, 2008 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  6. Concerned American

    Will everyone stop all this rubbish and lets talk issues. Whatever he meant he said he didn't snub her. Hillary has also not come out to say she felt snubbed. Get over it guys and stop whining.
    To CNN, give us better news stories instead of making a storm out of a tea cup. Sometimes i wonder if the role of the media is to divide us.

    January 29, 2008 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  7. stan pitts pa

    HRC and her supporters will do anything to tramp on the candidate of the people obama, who will work on a bi-partisan ;level to get things done for our land, they are angry, disappointed, immature and irresponsible, we know obama is a good and decent man and would never snub anybody deliberately, he waved at her prior to her coming over to shake kennedy, and he was being asked a question when he turned HRC supporters stop trying to spin we the people know better!

    January 29, 2008 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  8. Tim, Seattle

    Dont listen to the desparate diatribes of the Hillary-elite. This is all they can come up with. They dont have an answer for Obama. They are losing, and they are scared. Insecurity, plain and simple.

    January 29, 2008 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  9. Emma

    I think that if he did snub her then what will he do if he comes across someone as president that he doesn't like, not speak to them either. Doesn't that remind you of someone else in Washington.

    People need to look at what is important here and that is getting America back to the country that it used to be. I am afraid that although he seems good at speeches Obama has nothing more to give America than empty words.

    I feel at this moment in time America and the world need to have someone with experience to make lasting change. Words are ok if you can back them up, but we need experience to create change and Obama hasn't got that at the moment.

    Hillary is the best candidate to change America and to give back respect.

    January 29, 2008 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  10. Commentator

    Not sure I'd shake hands with either of them if I had been there.

    January 29, 2008 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  11. Mike in Brooklyn

    So much for Obama reaching across the aisle.

    This time, it was Clinton who reached across the aisle, and all Obama could do was turn around and stare into space. ("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")

    January 29, 2008 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  12. AtlantaVoter

    By his on admission he turned away....he thought it might be "awkward".

    News flash Crybama: There will be lots of awkward moments for a President and we expect the grace and composure shown by Hillary Clinton. And we don't expect it to be reserved for those who either agree with you or suck up to you. You need to grow up. This episode is not about the Presidency, the campaigns or even polictics. It's about maturity and you failed....miserably.

    Hillary has GUP - Grace Under Pressure. You go, Hillary! Show him how it's done!

    Hillary Clinton 2008

    January 29, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  13. Chris PHX

    MONARCHY – an autocracy governed by a monarch who usually inherits the authority.... DOES THIS SOUND FAMILIAR???? Bush-Clinton-Bush-CLINTON???? Have we become a country of entitlment????

    Same goes for socialized healthcare, wellfare, social security, and all the other social programs that most Americans think they are ENTITLED to! We as americans need to earn what we get! That traditional way of american thinking has seemed to disappear, within our community and within the way we vote...

    Please look at the big picture before voting. Dont vote because he is half black, dont vote because she is a woman, dont vote because he is a white man, vote on who will push this country in the right direction!!! Think outside the box, not inside...

    January 29, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  14. MichaelM

    Haha this article is one of the most amusing articles I've ever read! It's like CNN turning into The Onion. Oh, by the way, they're news partners. Check out The Onion's website, and you'll realize why these two media outlets are basically the same, like Abercrombie and Hollister.

    January 29, 2008 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  15. Chris

    That's it! I'm not voting for Hillary or Obama.

    I am voting for McCain.

    Battle tested. Above politics. Ready to lead.

    January 29, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  16. Darell

    When did CNN become TMZ? This is News? It just tells you how words and actions from both campaigns have been misconstrued over the past weeks. I hold you guys to higher standards; You are CNN for pete's sake.

    January 29, 2008 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  17. Jeffery, New Orleans

    That's it you big, bad, mean foriegn leader. I'm not talking to you anymore. And oh, Congress, if I don't get my way, you can forget your Christmas cards. That'll show you.

    January 29, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  18. Graham

    Battle tested?

    Ok, Anti-Obama people want to know why he keeps calling for change and what change really means. It's exactly the mentality that candidates for President have to be battle tested in order to win. Obama is stating that you do not have to attack other candidates using distortions and you do not have to tear the other party down in order to win an election. It's a fundamental change in the way we see politics and that is what is inspiring countless people around the nation. I hope I'm right in the notion that young people will carry this nomination and when it happens and Barack Obama becomes our president, I hope that we all learn from our dated views and mistakes...

    January 29, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  19. dee



    NOW is being ati-Male, although if he is the better choice

    This is silly

    You mean Bill the race issue watch-dog is not correcting the NOW agenda of a women or no one else.

    NOW should have pick a candidate that would not use the race card to get nominated and loose in NOV.

    Special Interest – American Interest

    Obama 08

    or another 4 years of

    GOP 08

    January 29, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  20. carol

    It proves that Hillary will not take negative negotiations with world leaders personally, and she will do what it takes to fix the problems in America.

    You go Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton!

    We love you. '08 and '12

    January 29, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  21. Rev. E. Powell M.D.

    When MLK first took the national stage, there were those that said he had to deal
    with all type of people. What did he do, ingored!!!. Went about his duty. Just stop and think that if he responded to the call of the Black Panthers, J. Edgar or LBJor the so call democratic party line. Just think were this country would be. Billary is a part of the old, and from what I have read, experience and seen so far is the same
    old lines that got us into this mess in the first place.
    What I find most interesting is that everybody got a comment on Obama's change (hope). The only comment I will offer the world – "Whether you believe in God or believe only in yourself, I know, and I know that God wants me to know,
    without hope, there can be no Faith and no Love".
    For all of those that don't understand what I am trying to say, take "HOPE" out
    of your equation of life and then you are at the level of Mr. Obama's thinking.
    I would give those that stop and read these a little more,but, I realy don't think
    that it will be necessary once one stops and think about it.

    January 29, 2008 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  22. Friendly

    Hillary Clinton's supporters and everyone who enjoys making a big deal out of nothing – chill down and be patient – see CNN democratic debate in CA on Jan 31 – Barack Obama will shake her hand as he always does at the debates – don't worry about it – go to her blog (http://www.hillaryclinton.com/blog/) for a boost of some cheerful and happy thoughts :).

    People who've made their decision to vote for Hillary based on this picture – I'm sure she'll be happy to have a support from serious and thoughtful people like you ;).

    January 29, 2008 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  23. SyF the Giver, Chicago, IL

    I love the 1827 comments about this, really makes you think.

    January 29, 2008 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  24. Definitely Hillary

    Thank you so much Jessica Yellin for capturing the "moment of truth". It's truly PRICELESS.

    I enjoy this thread because it shows how strong Hillary Supporters are. What a CHANGE after being bombarded by Obama's news.

    Definitely Hillary!

    January 29, 2008 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  25. stan pitts pa

    On the Senate Floor all last year Hillary Avoided Obama, i didnt see the out cry then, she treated him, like he was nothing, and she carried herself like the frontrunner, almost dismissing him as the competition!

    January 29, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
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