Obama: You don’t have to talk tough to be tough

April 23, 2008

NEW ALBANY, Ind. – Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Wednesday brushed aside Hillary Clinton’s attempts to portray him as someone who lacked toughness and could not stand the heat of the media glare.obamatough.jpg

Clinton, who depicts herself as a fighter in her campaign speeches, has pounced on the Illinois senator’s critique of a television debate last week in which he was put on the defensive about issues such as whether he wears a flagpin and the fiery rhetoric of his pastor. She accused him of not being able to handle media scrutiny.

But Obama said it was the New York senator and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who have been thin-skinned about press questions.

“Nobody has complained more about the press about questions at debates, about being mistreated than Senator Clinton has or President Clinton. And so we have been pretty tame in terms of taking our shots and just rolling with them,” Obama told reporters while campaigning in Indiana, which holds its primary on May 6.

Clinton has tried to underline her message that she is the tougher candidate by running an ad featuring images of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The Republican National Committee has weighed in as well, suggesting Obama tries to dodge hard questions from the media.

“I know that people like to talk tough and use a lot of rhetoric about fighting and obliterating and all that stuff. You know that I have always believed that if you are tough, you don’t have to talk about it,” Obama said.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

– Photo credit: Reuters/John Gress (U.S. Democratic candidate Barack Obama speaks at his Pennsylvania primary election night rally in Evansville.)


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Democrats are doing good in destroying any advantage they had vs the republicans.

Keep up the good work.

Posted by Binafus | Report as abusive

True that. Bill Gates would never need to show off his wealth, and a boxing champ won’t need to prove anything by starting a bar fight.

If anytime someone plays dirty we defend it as being “tough”, then the same logic can be used to defend those who break the law. Hey you got robbed? Well if you ain’t tough enough to guard your store get out of the business!

Posted by foo | Report as abusive

GO Obama! Inject some sanity into this campaign!

Posted by Gene | Report as abusive

I agree with Obama on this one. This approach to showing that you are tough is exactly what Clinton and McCain do in order to scare people into voting for them. This kind of talk from a leader can really turn me off. It makes me wonder about their mental condition. Please no screaming, finger-pointing and threatening of violence from a presidential candidate. Let’s be more civil.

Posted by ann wisniewski | Report as abusive

One of the reasons Barack Obama gets my attention is his deportment.

Posted by ApostasyUSA | Report as abusive

Remember the old saying “talk quietly but carry a big stick”. This works with many situations, especially as President of the most powerful country in the world (are you listening Mr Bush), but in the case of the current primaries it may be time to expose more of the big stick to Clinton. An unfortunate fact of current political life is that mud sticks and in a soundbite world your message can be overtaken by manufactured issues.

Obama needs to make it clear that while he abhors this sort of character assasination he will respond in kind at the first sign of Clinton dirty tactics in the next primary and then DO IT! I mean shock and awe responses!

There are enough skeletons in the Clinton’s closet – NAFTA, pardons, sweet deals, Bosnia snipers etc., etc., to run ads for weeks. It also sends a message to McCain that Obama is no pushover when it come to digging in.

My $0.02.

Posted by Cataplasm | Report as abusive

what really confuses me is that over the last few days, every time Bill talked about how his S.C comments were a set up by the Obama campaign, Hillary would talk more and more about using nuclear force against Iran. So everytime Bill says something stupid is she going to talk blowing people up. Come on, I know Hillary is not a hawk and she is not unreasonable in terms of foreign relations, but this is Bush like foreign policy, what does it show us.

Posted by franklin | Report as abusive

Theodore Roosevelt once noted a favorite African proverb of his: “Walk softly and carry a big stick.”

I always laugh at those who talk about how tough they are. Imagine some guy walking up to you telling you how tough he was. Or a presidential candidate, for that matter. If you have to say it… it isn’t true.

Posted by DCA | Report as abusive

You do not have to do anything
for changing everything.
Count on me.
Count my words.

Posted by jy2008 | Report as abusive

There is no mathematical way for Hillary to win the nomination. The Election Process with it’s Constitutional Foundation and Identified by Federal Law and Party Rules and Regulations seems to be difficult for Hillary to accept. She wants to include Florida and Michigan into the Primary when they decided that they would not participate. The DNC has said as much. The Courts agree; G’d and His Angels only go with what is right and correct. Yet Hillary now over everyone’s agreement to sanction Florida and Michigan for breaking the Rules; wants to ignore the: Constitution, Federal Statutes, DNC Rules and the will of the People to follow the Law.

Posted by Fareed | Report as abusive

Obama is making the smart move here. I know I want to respond in kind to Clinton, but I also know it’s worthless to do so and just, truly, lowers the whole debate. She throws tantrums and cries fowl and frankly denegrates my feelings toward her more and more as the contest rolls on. She is disingenuous and comes of as trying to be “Republican-lite.” I am an Oregonian, white and a woman. I am in my 40’s and my vote will be for OBAMA as I think he is the candidate I am willing to throw my voice, my confidence and my work behind. I am willing to stand for hope — you can knock it, say it’s cliche or whatever, but great things are accomplished by people who can unite and believe. We have seen what the whole campaign of “fear” can do and does do. It’s what has come to complete fruition this past almost eight years. No thank you. Hillary, up to know, is simply offering more of the same type of political infighting that gets nothing done and drives further wedges between our country’s populace. If I want that, I’ll vote for McCain. Instead, I will go with Obama who can unite, uses reason and will truly do what’s best for this country. I love when he says he is not perfect, he will not be a perfect president and we will not all agree with him all the time but he will work constantly to do what is best for our country and all Americans. You know what, that’s all I can ask for. I don’t expect perfection. I DO expect reason, strength, compassion and a genuine desire to unite and uplift our country (and not only those in the country who support your thoughts or whose pockets you can line. 8 years of that and 20+ years of neo-con Republicanism has show me their kind of politics is something I hope to NEVER SEE AGAIN IN MY LIFE!). GO OBAMA. Let’s hope that Indiana, NC, Oregon and the rest of the “states in waiting” give Obama a sweep and we can end it and unite behind a great candidate.

Posted by Jennifer | Report as abusive

In Obama’s words, words matter. When he falls short, they do not matter. He is just your typical politician no different from the rest.

Posted by ac | Report as abusive

Obama isn’t perfect, but he is so far above the rest in this campaign that it is truly unbelievable to me that anyone could vote for Hillary Clinton. Obama has some loud mouth friends, but Hill has some dead ones. Obama has a real estate deal with no evidence of favor Hill has Whitewater. Obama voted to fund the war, the war that he opposed before it started, Hill wants to obliterate Iran.

Posted by Sara | Report as abusive

If you like your leaders to show toughness, maybe I should have ran. I’m tough.
I will Nuke the whole middle east; then Africa, then Asia.
After a rest and a can of diet coke, I will nuke russia; then Europe; then south America.
Finally, I will wait for further Instructions from God and Israel.
P.S. I will leave Canada alone. Nuking them would affect our NAFTA deal.

Posted by Klark | Report as abusive

for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction… in this case, we have such a positive ’uniting’ force coming out of the Obama movement AND ON THE OTHER HAND we have a dividing ’fear invoking’ negative force coming out of the Clinton camp.

which would you like for leading the country… a proven liar that uses fear tactics to scare you into voting for her who can’t write her own speeches nor even appear to be a compassionate human being much less a WOMAN… yes, i want her as president too!!!! thank you for voting for hillary clinton i think we need another person like her representing all of american people…. because we are all a bunch of uneducated workers that thinks the world revolves around ourselves and can’t see any farther than our own dismal view of reality…. or maybe not, maybe we are better…. I have faith that we can break the cycle…

The American people remind me of girls I know that date guys who abuse them either physically or mentally…. these poor girls always end up being the ’victim’ but then they just go back out there and attract another abusive guy into their life. In this case, Hillary is that crooked politician we just can’t seem to get away from… and then in four years we’ll all be the victims again! great fun living the illusion

Posted by Asmallperspective | Report as abusive

History matters especially with regard to future action and YES actions do speak louder than words.

Posted by linda in cincinnati | Report as abusive

BULLIES threaten to fight/ pound their fists/ shake their fingers/ turn red in the face—but it is always about them –never about anyone else. They have a tendency to whine when faced with a counter punch- verbal or otherwise.
The clinton’s are the Bullies in the schoolyard but they have fewer and fewer real fighters to back them up now. Hollow to the core.
Obama’s big stick is his character and honesty–and the faith people see in him. His decency is what has kept him from hitting where it would be most effective but there are those out there that a willing to go the distance to put the clintons under …Watch and see. Richardson began on Carville last night on LKing…he did not let him get away with repeating his clinton spin….Casey was too reserved when battling the street fighter Rendell but their are others coming that are less than shy and disgusted with the clintons.

Posted by Docb | Report as abusive

Obama should definitely continue to hammer Clinton on her frightening statement that she would obliterate Iran. Obama stands for peace, I voted for him in PA (I’m a 57 year old woman).

Posted by chris | Report as abusive

At this point both candidates (Clinton and Obama) are too polarized to succeed in winning the 2008 Presidential race. This race should have been an easy win and the Democrats have chosen to destroy themselves before the race even begins. Yes, I am a Democrat and this really irritates me.

I would like to see the super delegates take a long hard look at who can win this election and choose a third party other then either Clinton or Obama. I think the best chance the Democrats have at securing the election at this stage would be to bring back John Edwards. So far the only negative about him is that his staff hired an image team to spruce him up and the cost of the haircuts made it into the press.

I could care less how much he pays for a hair cut as long as he can do the job and do it well.

Posted by S Scott | Report as abusive

I just can’t stand the sound of her voice anymore! It doesn’t matter what she says — even if it’s “I just love you so much.” There is a real fakiness to her, and I know I’m not the only one picking up on that.

It’s really true — the way they run their campaign is the way they will run their presidency. Can you imagine President Hillary Clinton talking tough, shaking her fists … and in her shrill, pushy manner being able to make ANY headway in foreign relations? The few allies we have left would drop like flies.

Keep it up, Obama. You’re the only one showing any good sense. But don’t let them walk all over you either!

Posted by Jean in Alaska | Report as abusive

Obama is the class of the presidential campaign. He has defended himself but it must be tough to do so against such inane accusations. We should be discussing issues not what his pastor said, not who he was on a charity board with, not whether he is muslim, not whether he is black but whether he has the ability to be president. I personally think he is the best candidate we have had since the Kennedys. He has proven he is a leader by just the way he has run his campaign. One doesn’t need experience in many of the things a president faces as a good leader will have good advisors and will make good decisions. He deserves to be the democratic nominee and if he is, I believe he will win against John McCain.

Posted by Cliff | Report as abusive

Yes, exactly right, Sen. Obama!

As it stands, the US is viewed as a bully who doesn’t listen. Why make it harder on ourselves by proving many right?

Poor judgment from Clinton with regard to foreign and military policy:

She’s the one who voted to authorize the Iraq war without reading the NIE report.

She’s the one who’s been engaging in economic saber-rattling of sorts with regard to China, to the extent that her campaign’s China policy adviser finally resigned in protest. Richard Baum resigned in light of what he called “grossly misguided accusations” made by Clinton about China. “As a lifelong Democrat, it saddens me that Sen. Clinton has chosen to take the low road in her effort to gain our party’s presidential nomination.”

She’s now said this: “I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran….In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them.”

Whatever happened to speaking softly and carrying a big stick?

Finally, just a gaffe, but considering she claims to be so ready for Day 1: Clinton recently referred to Helen Clark as the “former” Prime Minister of New Zealand. She’s the current PM.

And then in a Newsweek interview, Clinton recounts a rather lame joke political opponents tell about about Clark. She says that, “in the event of a nuclear war, they say the two things that would emerge from the rubble are the cockroaches…and Helen Clark.”

Great–make fun of other world leaders….
C’mon, people, Obama needs our help–donate or volunteer or speak the truth when you see or hear lies. Let’s do our part!

Posted by Boomerang | Report as abusive

There is no no need for Barack to go negative. He can counter any charge, but he must not be Clintonian. If he gets angry he is done. Ask Harold Ford, Jr. about the “Memphis Meltdown”.

He must inspire with specific economic plans and a vision for the nation and its middle class. Obama must come out and say to middle America, “I have what it takes to make Washington work for middle America”.

He must redefine patriotism as loving this nation enough to change it for the better. How patriotic is it for people to wage political war against the hope of change?

Posted by Sean | Report as abusive

Right on Barack! I would so much rather have a reasoned statesman for my president then a junk yard fighter. Hillary has failed to bring home the bacon a lot of times–think 90’s+healthcare+presidential husband+democratic House and Senate+alienated EVERYBODY—and almost always it’s been because she doesn’t know when to stop fighting and start negotiating. She used the word fight continually. It just makes me worry about what she might do to the world. You know, like likening the Prime Minister of New Zealand to a cockroach and threatening to obliterate the men, women and children of another country with a nuclear bomb if they bother any country at all. When she tried to explain, it just got worse. She’s suggesting that America dole out punishment to everybody for everybody. I didn’t sign on to be the guy that wields the whip for other countries. We take too much on ourselves. Ron Paul has that right when he says we ought to mind our own business and butt out of the business of others.

Posted by karela | Report as abusive