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. Kim, Dallas, TX

    Jeff Spangler, I think you need to be honest with the bloggers. You are a Republican and never intended to vote Democratic anyway. I have been reading your posts for quite some time and they are very telling.

    In any case, I think Obama shows so much integrity through all of this. The Clintons are nothing but mudslingers and know they took it too far this time when it was obviously offending to the black population....not to mention anyone who believes in civil rights. Martin Luther King was extremely instrumental with the changes that our country has experienced. I have no tolerance for someone who states something that others feel is offensive and then blames it on Obama's campaign. She didn't even have proof that anything came from his campaign and couldn't explain exactly what her issue with Obama was with all of this. Anyone with any common sense can easily see that she was trying to get the blame shifted to him, instead of apologizing for her comment. There is no way I will ever vote for Hillary. I do agree with Jeff Spangler in that part anyway.

    January 14, 2008 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  2. nadeem

    When you are willing to judge a person on the content of their character, the character shines through.

    A class act all the way. Obama demonstrates why h is the bigger person. A rare politician indeed. What class.

    January 14, 2008 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  3. Lisa from TX

    Go Obama, he was my choice before he announced he was running for president. I respect his honesty and character and much more. I simply do not trust Clinton, either one. I feel that Barack will do what's best for our country. I trust him. I have never cared about politics and only voted once in my 43 years of life. Barack motivates me, he speaks to my heart.

    January 14, 2008 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  4. caywen

    Hillary issued a similar statement in reaction to Obama's statement. This is because she had the most to gain by continuing the rhetoric, but the most to lose by not following suit with the high road tactic. Obama was smart to pull the cord on this because he knows he can't mudsling like the Clintons.

    January 14, 2008 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  5. xtina -chicago, IL

    But none of the three have actually run anything by being executives in business or a city/state municipality. None are telling voters what they've done that qualifies them for President, as in solid accomplishments. Real leadership isn't sitting in hearings and deciding to just make the taxpayer foot the bill for Congress' raise or for some new social program to gain votes, but changing something such as Rudy Guiliani lowering crime by over 50 percent. Mitt Romney said he's good at economics, and he proved it by his incredible management of the Olympics. What have Obama, Hillary and Edw. done that can compare? What have they done that shows good money management on as large a scale as Rudy Guiliani successfully running the second largest budget to that of the United States? All three Democratic front-runners had ample time to make these changes they're talking about. All three could have stood for not letting Congress waste money, but they didn't. None of the three have done something that was as difficult a challenge as the candidates who were mayors and governors. All these three did was expand government/increase Congress' power and purse and waste/increase more of our taxes, so why is that admirable or desirable? I could do that- anyone could sit around and allocate money or say "let's tax the average guy more to pay for another new "program".

    January 14, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  6. Anthony

    Eric before you suggest Obama let it start, be very clear that he has done everything to ensure that race does not become the issue and the focus, but there are those who would like it to be a race and/or gender fight because it brings them both down. I think what we have here are some crabs in a barrel who are trying to keep it status quo and also I think that because this Presidential race has turned out to be a barn burner ( which was not expected by some), that emotions have gotten in the way of good judgement but the purdent think to do is what has been done. Level-set, refocus and get back to making America a better place to live...

    January 14, 2008 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  7. matt

    anyone who is praising obama for taking the high road is so wrong. He began all of this nonsense. I replayed and reread the clintons comments and not once did I think or see what people were complaining about. The clintons never did anything wrong it was the obama camp and the media blowing things out of proportions. Another example of how bias the media is towards obama!

    January 14, 2008 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  8. Thomas

    Clinton will just get dirtier. She blew it and she knows it.

    Edwards, however, is the best person for the job.

    January 14, 2008 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  9. Grace, Overland Park, Kansas

    "He has my vote hands down. He has experience. More years in elected office than HRC actually..but experience isnt wnat impresses me. What impresses me is his JUDGEMENT. He saw the party and campaign fraying. He takes the high ground to repair it. Hillary would find more sarrogates to do her dirty work but not Obama."

    Wayne is absolutely right on. Why aren't we doing our research? As Wayne said, Obama beats Hillary in experience regarding elected office. After listening to debates and going to her website, I have yet to hear how she has come up with the figure of "35 years". Let me reiterate this: BEING MARRIED TO A SOMEONE DOESN'T MAKE YOU QUALIFIED TO DO THEIR JOB. And I completely agree with his assessment regarding judgment trumping experience. If you think about our greatest President, Abraham Lincoln, you would see he didn't have too much experience yet he had the wisdom to make the right decisions. This is what George W. sorely lacked. And with the very fast rate that our world is changing, the President needs to be able to make quick judgments regarding issues that WERE NOT a factor in the past. Experience won't be able to help him when he/she is dealing with terrorism, or trying to make peace in the Middle East since the situation there has totally changed from when Hillary was in the White House.

    And lastly, I appreciate Obama's decision on this matter. Even though he didn't start it, he was wise enough to stop it. That shows character.

    January 14, 2008 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  10. Chevy

    Finally A runner who cares for his people! He took the high road and made sure race isnt the deciding factor here. Please i urge all of you as an American man a caucasion american male i urge vote for obama in any polls you see online and for the primaries and caucuses he participates within.

    January 14, 2008 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  11. Ron, TX

    People say that Obama is all talk and no action?

    How's this for a great example about how talk can bring change? In a single statement, Obama is able to end the silly back-and-forth that is typical of '90s politics.

    January 14, 2008 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  12. Andy

    I'm with you Eric (from MA).

    This country is wearing rose-colored glasses when it comes to Sen. Obama.
    Let him be scrutinized just like everyone else.

    Are we scared of what we might find?

    The simple truth is that Obama's the one who started playing the race card on this, and now he's being praised for taking the "high road"?!?!


    Americans, take off those rose-colored shades and let's put this guy under the same microscope the Clintons have been under for almost 20 years (and even after 2 decades, Hillary's well ahead!).

    January 14, 2008 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  13. Marie

    People! You have another choice!

    Tired of the bickering between Obama and Clinton? Don't think either of them has the experience?

    Why not abandon both of them and vote for the real best candidate, who keeps getting insufficient coverage compared to both of these people - YES - vote for John Edwards before it's too late!

    January 14, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  14. Tina

    I am a political junkie who watches all I can on television and the internet especially during election year. I am so tired of the media showing only a portion of a candidate's speech or comment and then inviting one-sided guests on their show to give their subjected analysis. I can see where it can be damaging to an undecided voter who lives in a fast-food world and only watches their favorite media outlet's highlighted version of what really took place. People need to take the time to do their own research on the candidates and then vote appropriately.

    Hillary has received the most unfair criticism by the media. They keep asking her to explain her 35 years of experience, but they don't ask Barack about his what–10 years of experience? I'm waiting for the media to slip and call him Osama one day.

    I want to learn more about the candidates during the debates. I don't want to waste my time listening to the candidates trying to clean up the stuff the media has twisted into what they want us to hear.

    Note: T.O. cried after the Cowboys loss on Sunday. Hillary teared-up at best.

    January 14, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  15. Jose Card - Independent

    Obama just dwarfed Hillary and Bill Clinton with his character and courage.
    Obama is running for the country, while Hillary is running home – the White House.

    January 14, 2008 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  16. Raymond

    Why did he not say this when he first heard what she said and the press and his campain ran with it? He knows that she meant no harm. So, its about time he said something. I still don't trust Obama for anything he say's.

    January 14, 2008 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  17. Amy

    This is why John F. Kennedy's advisor Sorensen endorsed Senator Obama. He said that Obama exemplifies the type of leadership that this country needs right now.

    January 14, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  18. DMO

    I heard Rush Limbaugh say a very wise thing today (and he does so pretty regularly), and that is, if Billary Clinton really loved America and the Dhimmicrat Party, he/she/it would quit the campaign and stop splitting their vote. If Billary wins the nomination, does anyone honestly think African-Americans will vote for him/her/it? Billary has exposed the cold, hard truth about the Dhimmicrats, and that is that the Political Group that claims to stand for everybody, only stands for the venal gaining and brutal exercise of power. Billary and the lily-white DNC are telling the African-Americans who have supported them for decades to let Whitey rule! Only too common with White-skinned "progressives"...

    January 14, 2008 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  19. Mama R

    I see Barack Obama as being a wise, self-controlled candidate; A man with a vision for a better world for All Americans.

    As for the racials slurs, that has overshadowed the real purpose for the upcoming election. In my opinion, this is put a damper on the Obama movement. I see it as a mud crawl to the White House, by the Clinton's, by calling in their "I owe you's" from the Negroes.

    I respect the Clinton's, and a long time fan and supporter of Bill Clinton's, but I support Obama, because he is a breath of fresh air.

    January 14, 2008 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  20. Jack

    Yet another way of Obama "sidestepping" the issue. I love how he may "disagree with Sen. Clinton or Sen. Edwards." If he had any respect for the other candidates, he would be truthful and honest.

    I have had enough of Obama and his lies. He needs to tell America the truth on all of the issues; not just the ones that make him look good to whichever focus group he is speaking with.

    January 14, 2008 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  21. Anonymous

    what is the difference b/n George and Hillary? All are from the same boat, NO change.

    January 14, 2008 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  22. pedro

    den clinton is correct by pres johnson signing the voting rights act that enabled Dr King and others to have hope and a DREAM that impacted all americans Dr King is still my MAN today Sen Clinton has demostrated leadership that the nation needs.

    January 14, 2008 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  23. Connie

    Thank you Senator Obama for your courage. Now maybe we can get down to debating the real issues, concerning all Americans. Thank again and God Bless.

    January 14, 2008 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  24. Raymond

    Remember this is a campaign and they WILL need to attack each other, they will need to force each other to explain where they stand and Obama can't cry and say Hillary is going negative. This is a campaign for President Of The United States Of America!!!! So if Obama can't take it now, he will never make it as President.

    January 14, 2008 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  25. Mati

    As far as I noticed, they both agreed to stop. Why do you AGAIN view this as Obama's scoring and you push him even upper on the pedestal? If Hillary did it first, you would say she must have something to hide. Just to balance the posts above that gets again into worship.

    I am happy someone gave Obama a good advice to come forward.

    Hillary '08!!

    January 14, 2008 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
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