January 14th, 2008
11:59 PM ET
14 years ago

Obama calls truce with Clinton

Obama is calling for an end to the heated back and forth between the two campaigns. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

RENO, Nevada (CNN) - Barack Obama is calling for a truce of sorts with rival Hillary Clinton following days of a heated back-and-forth between both the Democrats' presidential campaigns over Clinton's record on civil rights.

“I may disagree with Sen. Clinton or Sen. Edwards on how to get things done or how to get there, but we share the same goals, we're all Democrats, we all believe in civil rights, we all believe in equal rights," Obama said told reporters in Reno, Nevada.

The comments follow several days of heated rhetoric from both campaigns following Clinton's remarks to a reporter last week on the legacies of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. "Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It took a president to get it done," she said, in her continued argument that her experience shows she can get more done as president than Obama.

Some African-American leaders criticized the remarks as denigrating the civil rights movement and Dr. King. The criticisms were amplified by Obama's campaign and Clinton later said she was "personally offended" the campaign was "distorting her words."

Meanwhile, speaking at a Clinton campaign event Sunday, BET founder Bob Johnson lashed out at Obama's campaign over the criticism, and seemed to take a swipe at the Illinois senator's admitted drug use as a young man.

"As an African-American, I'm frankly insulted that the Obama campaign would imply that we are so stupid that we would think Bill and Hillary Clinton, who have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues when Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood that I won't say what he was doing, but he said it in his book," he said..

Johnson later claimed he was not referencing Obama's past drug use specifically, but was referring rather to his time as a community organizer.

Speaking Monday, Obama said he wanted to end the current "tit-for-tat" with Clinton.

"I don't want the campaign in this stage to degenerate into so much tit-for-tat back-and-forth that we lose sight why all of us are doing this," he said. "If I hear my own supporters engaging in talk that I think is ungenerous or misleading, or in some way is unfair, then I will speak out forcefully against them, and I hope the other campaigns take the same approach."

Shortly after Obama's comments, Clinton released a statement saying it's time to "reach common ground."

"We differ on a lot of things. And it is critical to have the right kind of discussion on where we stand. But when it comes to civil rights and our commitment to diversity, when it comes to our heroes – President John F. Kennedy and Dr. King – Senator Obama and I are on the same side," the New York Democrat said. “And in that spirit, let's come together, because I want more than anything else to ensure that our family stays together on the front lines of the struggle to expand rights for all Americans.”

- CNN's Alexander Mooney and Chris Welch

soundoff (390 Responses)
  1. oliver


    This is encouraging. Now if we could just get Bill out of the whole thing maybe we can focus on the "current" candidates. It would be nice if BIll did not say anything for at least a few weeks. He has been greatly distracting to the process. Here's to better days ahead!

    January 14, 2008 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  2. Lauren

    "When the Clintons were busy accomplishing things for the poor and minorities (esp. Blacks), where was Obama? Smoking POT or something like that?"

    Can you not do your own research and form an independent opinion? Or do you just repeat verbatim what someone has said on television?

    Barack Obama was a civil rights lawyer and a community organizer in poor, mostly-minority Chicago neighborhoods.

    Isn't it possible that Hillary and Barack have both "accomplished things" for poor people and minorities?

    And why is this Obama vs. The Clintons? Are you trying to elect Bill Clinton for President? What does his track record have to do with anything? Why can't Hillary stand on her own record?

    January 14, 2008 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  3. lw

    Common sense tells you that Obama stirred the pot to get the black votes in South Carolina.

    January 14, 2008 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  4. Doc

    I thought Obama camp wasn't involved with this fiasco.. so why call a truce?

    January 14, 2008 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  5. Della

    Who said the dog doesn't fight the hand that feeds it? President Clinton was deemed the first 'black' president for all that he did for African-Americans. I think it was stupid to call him that, but that's old news. It doesn't surprise me that the African-American community wants to jump ship because of what Bill and Hillary said. As an African-American, I expected to see this because this has been us for many years. Bill and Hillary chose the wrong words at the wrong time. It is unfortunate for them that it happened this way. I am glad that someone decided to be the bigger man and let this stuff go. It is the media that has blown this out proportion.

    I also want to comment on Bob Johnson, who is not the most articulate person on the planet. How he became a billionaire? Somebody else had to do the talking. He was on Michael Baisden's show this afternoon clarifying his comments on Barack Obama and his defense of Hillary Clinton. With all due respect Mr. Johnson, it was you who came out slinging the mud with Obama's history, when both of these candidates are trying to run a 'clean' campaign. You talk of the 'lack' of work that Senator Obama has done for the African-American community, when it was the demise of BET when you sold it to MTV (CBS, Viacom, they are all the same), not only selling the network, but the souls of African-American women, men, and children. Mr. Johnson, I think you need to take a backseat to politics. You have wounded too many souls of your fellow brothers and sisters to tell us who to vote for!

    Go Obama!!!!!

    January 14, 2008 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  6. Jones

    -I really don't understand how Hillary can promise change when she is such a part of the institution. The only thing I can forsee being different between her presidency and her husband's would be who sits behind the big desk.

    January 14, 2008 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  7. sifta

    Again, Obama shows his leadership and class. Glad that Hillary fell in line on this one - I won't hold my breath, though. The Clintons seem to just love a fight.

    January 14, 2008 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  8. GaryO Virginia Beach

    I don't understand how Obama supporters can take exception to to Hillary's claim that "Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964." He did exactly that.

    And that is what initiated the departure of many southern Democrats from the Democratic party. White racists changed parties in droves. They became Republicans.

    Hillary was right. It took a president to get it done, and Johnson, a Democratic president, had the courage to do what he knew was right.

    January 14, 2008 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  9. AJ, IL

    Thank you Mr. Obama! For being the bigger and more mature person. This race baiting by the media and Clinton campaign is a major distraction to major issues that the candidates need to be addressing. Hopefully, your call for "truce" will be heeded by the Clinton camp and its supporters.

    January 14, 2008 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  10. Kate

    After reading articles from many news sources and then the comments left on this topic, I find myself very discouraged. It makes me wonder if there is any hope of positive change in this country. Partisan politics and mudslinging are not limited to the candidates. The media want all of us to believe that America has become a place where people divide into camps and hate anyone who thinks differently than them, unfortunately many of the comments posted on this topic seem to only further that point of view. In my opinion, both Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama have been the victims of the media's desire to stir up trouble, whether it exists or not, just to keep people tuned in to their networks. Both CNN and Fox have their own agenda, and it certainly isn't to inform, but to incite. I no longer believe what either side has to say, knowing that they will spin everything to serve their own agendas.

    The only hope this country has is for all it's people to come together, respecting our differences, for the good of the country as a whole.

    January 14, 2008 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  11. Lance in Monrovia

    This is exactly the kind of President Obama will be. Forthright, showing massive integrity and the ability to lead the conversation and to think about both sides.

    His statement had real weight. Hillary's sounds like she's just following step as she usually does after she studies polls and pundits and maybe the way the stars are aligned before she takes a position.

    January 14, 2008 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  12. Tom Davie

    CNN now crops 90% of the comments so that they are mostly Obama comments are heard. I have checked this out with other Hillary supporters whom come here to write.

    They are specifically CENSORING obama posts in very LOPSIDED fashion.

    All clinton has to do is get plants to start a race war and he will be REJECTED by whites due to the reverse racism backlash.

    If cnn thinks it can manipulate the media to get Obama elected, I guess NH proved that wrong .

    January 14, 2008 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  13. Marisol

    To Senator Obama:

    Why did you wait one week to condemn accusations against Hillary that her remarks (and her husband’s) were racist in nature? Moreover, upon condemning these accusations, he then proceeds to say in the same breadth to ABC News that "I do think it was indicative of the perspective that she brings, which is that what happens in Washington is more important than what happens outside of Washington." He said he believes the quote betrays a belief on her part, "that the intricacies of the legislative process were somehow more significant than when ordinary people rise up and march and go to jail and fight for justice." He called that a "fundamental difference" between them (Source: ABC News Political Radar: “Obama Damps Down Racial Controversy” 01-14-08). Is there not a hypocrisy in your statement? Didn't Hillary already explicitly acknowledge Dr. King's contributions in all the aspects you outlined (See MTP 01-13-08)? What is this "fundamental difference" you refer to?

    Sounds like he's blowing off another whistle while simultaneously denouncing another one. This is absolutely shameful and disrespectful. To use his own peoples' suffrage as some platform to pounce his political ambitions upon.

    Moreover, Johnson from BET specifically said, "in the NEIGHBORHOOD," which clearly indicates that what he meant was his small community organizations.

    January 14, 2008 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  14. Jim, S.C


    "Senator Hillary Clinton for President of the United States"
    "She the One that Will Get Thiungs Done!"

    January 14, 2008 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  15. shanna

    I dont want a president ,who, as senator voted absent 130 times. not yes or no but absent.who with my own ears heard him make remarks about what he would do as president, the only thing is ,its what the other candidates had said at the debate the night before. I'm tired of cnn and there clinton bashing.I'm tuning in to fox.BILL OREILLY at least tells it like it is ,and doesnt play favorites.

    January 14, 2008 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  16. Bridget

    Well Mr. Obama maybe if you had tried this tactic before your other ones had failed we may actually have believed you. Perhaps rather than talking about change you may actually want to try it. Perhaps you should look to those who actually have some expereince in this area rather than trying to be an island unto yourself. But I'm just a voter who believes in my candidate John Edwards even if he did get a 400 dollar haircut. And I even respect Hillary for sticking by her vote for the war, she didn't believe that anyone was telling her a mistruth or even showing her documents that weren' t on the up and up. I applaud her for being woman enough to stand by her decision.

    January 14, 2008 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  17. charlieblaze24k

    It is rather sad that some people are so partisan and blinded by their prejudices that they can not see when plain facts are present. If you look at every major news outlet, MSNBC, CNN, even bloody FOX news, Obama is stated as the first to call a truce. Obama is not a messiah or perfect, but it is clear that he did not directly refer to Hillary as racist. For those who say that he "insinuated" or "planted to the media", please comment about Bill Clinton's "list of 80 negative Obama-related quotes.' You have to admit that Obama has not come up with anything like that.

    I think that Obama has shown his good character compared to Hillary, and some people are so silly that they probably would still denigrate him if he gave Hillary a bronze plaque. I would vote for Hillary if she is the Dem. nominee, because I do not like any of the Republican candidates, but I pray that Obama wins the nomination because he has shown that he is the "Change" from the "Experienced" mud-slinging, divisive politics that wounds our country.

    January 14, 2008 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  18. Alex

    Clinton supporters confuse me sometimes. It is almost like they want these wars and battles. They keep saying things like Obama can't handle the Clintons, he can't handle getting scrutinized. But why? Because he won't fight back and play dirty politics? No, he knows that the we, the American people, expect MORE from those who we elect to lead us. He doesn't want to get involved Clinton supporters because those kind of politics are not him. This is a man who has not taken a dime from the lobbyists for his campaign, this is a man who tries to stand for hope and change, and this is a man who has promised to avoid the mudslinging politics and so far I think he has done a pretty good job. If Clinton really wanted to win this election she would leave Obama alone and pretend he did not exist because he is way out of her league.

    January 14, 2008 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  19. Nick / Minneapolis, MN

    Wow... all the Clinton supporters sure echo the woman herself. They all want to _scold_ all of us into voting for her.

    It seems like every time someone says something nice about Obama online, there's a jealous Clintonite right behind it with a snippy lecture.

    It doesn't stop there – several of the more famous supporters and officials who come out in support, including every time Bill himself upstages her, are either scolding Obama himself or indirectly trying to make his supporters feel stupid for believing in either his ability to be President or just what he's saying.

    The collective "frown" on the face of the Clinton campaign and its supporters, combined with this attitude of theirs that she is somehow entitled to the nomination, has already been a gigantic turnoff to many democrats.

    Without someone like Obama to lead us, we're going to be stuck with a nominee that more than half of the country doesn't want. We've been dealing with that for eight years and it's dragging us all to depths we never could have imagined.

    The country, as a whole, is sick and tired of being so polarized. She has got to be stopped.

    January 15, 2008 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  20. Mike Brown

    I feel like this part of the story should be getting more publicity, but I am not surprised that it is added in as something of a foot note. I feel like this whole "tit-for-tat" incident was engineered by Obama detractors to show that he is just as vulnerable to the political squabbling as anyone else. I am dissapointed this is getting this much play. Senator Obama's message of hope and conciliation is legitimate, and his campaign really speaks to me an many others. I hope that this is the end of the pettiness, though I am sure it is only the beggining. I wish we could pick our next president on merit and not on who can be nastiest. I guess I am just naive.

    January 15, 2008 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  21. Tim Calhoun '08, Moreno Valley, CA

    Someone above mentioned Bill Clinton's supposed list of 80 attacks levelled against Hillary from Obama. Sure, I'll believe that when I see it. Why should I take the words of the man who perjured himself before Congress at face value?

    Also, I keep hearing how much the Clintons have done for the advancement of civil rights. Can anyone actually cite some SPECIFIC EXAMPLES of ways they have helped the African American community, other than strategically appearing with black leaders for photo ops and copping stereotypical black accents when addressing them? (Take a look around YouTube to see what I'm talking about.)

    And thanks to *Light* for the compliment.

    January 15, 2008 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  22. Interested Canadian

    Well, there's no time on the press release at all on Hillary's site re the truce (although it is more recent than the slams against Obama in the "Fact Hub" posted all afternoon, latest after 5 pm), but it's been posted on Barack's since 10:30 am 01/14/08 EST.

    Proof is in the pudding, no?

    January 15, 2008 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  23. Bethy

    I am voting McCain but if I were voting Dem. (or if Mitt wins the GOP nom-God help us all then) I would have to support Obama. Hillary had her chance (does anyone remember her botched health care committee???). If she could not get anything done back in the 90's, nobody is going to like her any better now. She is too divisive, she has too many enemies, she does not have experience "organizing" people from different sides in order to compromise on issues. Obama does. I think the smart vote for Democrats who want to get something done (like Universal Health Care) is Obama (fact–he's likable, I would love to have coffee with the guy). But...vote for Hillary and you will probably get the first woman president with nothing accomplished because too many people can't stand to be in the same room as her. I think McCain is also likable and he can get more accomplished. So if you don't want to vote for Obama, but you want to get a few things accomplished-vote McCain!

    January 15, 2008 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  24. Anonymous

    Al Sharpton (civil rights leader) today on FOX also acknowledged that Obama is guilty of playing the race card. This makes it three African American leaders who speak out AGAINST Obama's shameful tactics. Obama has NO EXPERIENCE AND THIS IS A WAY TO DIVERT ATTENTION ELSEWHERE OTHER THAN THE ISSUES. That is why he waited a week to denounce racist accusations against Hillary. Why did he wait 2 days to release his economic stimulus plan? To wait and see how people responded to Hillary's first. Then he comes out with the exact same plan; only difference +$5 Billion dollars and injected the word "immediately".


    January 15, 2008 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  25. AL of Texas

    Thank you Senator Obama for being so wise in recognizing this tit for tat thing has the potential of killing the Democrats chances of regaing the White House in '09. I applaud you. I am saddened that the Clinton camp sent Congressman Rangel out to pile on 3 hours after you made your statement.You have my vote for sure.

    January 15, 2008 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
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