Obama’s snub of Hillary Clinton at last night’s SOTU address is certainly making the rounds in news and the blogs today, as predicted, including USA Today’s On Politics quoting my headline from last night:
Pamela Leavey at the liberal blog The Democratic Daily headlined her report on all this “Mr. Unity turns his back on opponent and then shakes the the hand of the divider.”
On Politics goes on to report Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod was on MSNBC-TV’s Morning Joe today and had this to say:
“I don’t think he snubbed her at all. First of all, they acknowledged each other as they entered the chamber. But I think he knew that Sen. Kennedy and Sen. Clinton were friends. This was obviously an awkward day from that standpoint, and I don’t think he wanted to stand there while Sen. Kennedy was greeting Sen. Clinton. And I think that was an appropriate sentiment.
“Unfortunately, the camera caught it in a different way, and so it got interpreted that way. And that’s the kind of environment we’re in right now. It’s a very competitive race, so every little thing is going to be interpreted in that way. But it was really, I think, a matter of letting Sen. Kennedy have his own conversation, his own greeting with Sen. Clinton without him hovering over them. …
“I think it’s understandable that he would not want to stand there with Sen. Kennedy as if he were lording it over her.”
But here’s how the camera “caught it” in a sequence of photos provided by the N.Y. Times (click on screenshot image for full view):
It seems very clear from the photos that Obama turned his back as Ted Kennedy reached out to Hillary Clinton. Axelrod’s statements about “hovering over them” and “lording it over her” is well, in a word, egotistical.
Hillary Clinton knew full well that Barack Obama was standing there and evidently she felt confident enough with her campaign to reach out to Ted Kennedy with Obama standing next to him. Maybe he felt threatened by Clinton’s ability to rise above the Kennedy endorsement?
Carrie Budoff Brown reports on Politico that “Obama told the media Tuesday aboard his campaign plane” this morning that the “alleged State of the Union snub wasn’t the slight it seemed to be”:
Was it an attemptby Obama to give Clinton a semi-private moment with Kennedy (in front of 535 members of Congress and a carnivorous media)?
Or maybe, as Obama tried to convince the media today, it was an averted gaze at the exact second that Clinton sought to make peace with Kennedy.
“I was surprised by the reports this morning,” Obama said. “I was turning away because Claire asked me a question as Sen. Kennedy was reaching for her. Sen. Clinton and I have had very cordial relations on the floor and off the floor.”
Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who just so “happened to be traveling with him today as his campaign headed to Kansas and Missouri.” backed up Obama saying ““It was not a snub. It was one of those accidents.”
And then McCaskill went on to describe the “apparent media-generated kerfluffle as an example of the past versus the future (one of Obama’s favorite catchphrases).” Sorry, Claire, this is an example of the present. Nothing past about it, it’s just a vision of Obama unmasked. In fact, as Scan points out today on MYDD, this photo of Obama facing McCaskill as Kennedy and Clinton are conversing shows McCaskill with her eyes closed (click on photo for full size):
Carrie Budoff Brown also noted today that “it wasn’t the first time Obama left that impression,”of being “disrespectful or impolite” to Clinton regardless of the interjection from McCaskill that she wanted to “help correct the impression.”
Maybe it all is much ado about nothing, but I just don’t think these photos have a lot to say about Barack Obama’s “unity” notion. Why he could not have stood there politely as Kennedy and Clinton spoke, and then greeted Clinton is beyond me.
As a matter of protocol, it made sense that Clinton first greeted Kennedy, as he is after all the Sr. Senator among them. I think the whole episode shows Hillary Clinton as a confident candidate comfortable with her campaign and Obama as a candidate who may not be as confident with his own game.
UPDATE: H/T to New Republic for the videos below:
Whoppi Goldberg discusses the “snub” on The View:
And Inside Edition looks at the “snub”: