Newsweek reporter Richard Wolffe writes in "Renegade: The Making of a President" that Barack Obama's campaign struggled with figuring out how to respond to former President Clinton's attacks.
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
President Obama accused Bill Clinton of peddling "bald-faced lies" during the presidential campaign, according to a new book on the 2008 race.
Newsweek reporter Richard Wolffe writes in "Renegade: The Making of a President" that Obama's campaign struggled to figure out how to respond to former President Clinton, who during the early primaries was a fierce defender of his wife Hillary Clinton's bid for the Democratic nomination.
"We had to figure out how to deal with a former president who was just lying, engaging in bald-faced lies," Obama told Wolffe. He also boasted about his campaign's ultimate ability to take on the former president.
Asked about the claim that Bill Clinton got into Obama's head, Obama replied: "Yes, but I got into his."
Tensions between Obama and the former president began to rise in late January 2008, with the Nevada caucuses and then the racially charged South Carolina primary. Clinton appeared to take a hard shot at Obama when he compared his South Carolina victory to the Rev. Jesse Jackson's -- a failed presidential candidate with limited appeal outside black constituencies.
But Obama's tough comments to Wolffe apparently referred to the back-and-forth between the two Democratic campaigns over Obama's remarks to a Nevada newspaper about the influence of former President Ronald Reagan. In the interview, Obama said Reagan changed the "trajectory" of America, while appearing to dismiss Clinton's presidency as one of less historical import.
In response, Bill Clinton and the rest of Hillary Clinton's campaign accused Obama of praising the Republican Party.
Wolffe quoted Obama adviser David Axelrod as saying the former president was becoming "increasingly intemperate" and spreading "flat-out distortions."
Wolffe also wrote that Obama later told his senior aides that he was willing to consider Hillary Clinton, who is now secretary of state, as his running mate "if she helps us politically." Obama was reportedly unhappy that his short list was so short -- it included only Sen. Joe Biden and Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who are now vice president and health and human services secretary, as well as Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine.
But Obama told his aides he was worried Clinton's husband would be too much of a "loose cannon."