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. Steph

    Once again Obama prove that he is higher than the rest. He will serve as the best president. A uniter, a president who will unite us and not devide us. He has prove himself worthy of the Americans vote. The Clinton campaign should apologise to the Obama campain. It is obvious that both the clintons and the Johnson comment were wrong. We should disgard these trashy comment and move on. Afterall America need a true and just president. That president will no doubt be Barack Obama.

    January 14, 2008 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  2. gohomebama

    Obama learned his lessons that he can't mess with the Clintons.
    Too little too late. More to come..

    January 14, 2008 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  3. Austin

    A truce? I don't know if that's the right word, considering all the nastiness and vitriol has been coming from only one of the two campaigns. (HINT: Not Obama's)

    January 14, 2008 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  4. Awake

    What is the difference b/n George and Hillary? They are from the same boat

    January 14, 2008 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |

    It takes a man of character to do what he just did, instead of Old Bill, going around and agitating matters...God Bless Obama.

    January 14, 2008 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  6. Fred

    Lester, this is not about winning petty arguments, this campaign is about the future of our country. Ad hominem attacks and distortion of voting records do nothing to help the American people and if you're focused on who can mouth back to personal attacks until the opposition is bludgeoned into submission, you're looking for a grim future.

    January 14, 2008 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  7. Madge

    Eric in Massachusetts – You obviously haven't been paying attention-IT WAS THE CLINTONS WHO STARTED THE RACIST COMMENTS AGAINST OBAMA. You don't have to believe me – listen to any of the news channels (probably except Fox)

    January 14, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  8. Annie

    YAY DEMOCRATS – maybe it's good that it came out in the open now rather than exploding later?

    January 14, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  9. s.positive

    Beware of the cynical bloggers, they remain the problem AMERICA has, dead weights. Which is best people? fighting amongst oueselves or working together?

    January 14, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  10. bdc, phila, pa

    "35 years of experience" but you still could only follow Obama on this one, when it required some morals/judgment that didn't come right out of a focus group or national poll. That 35 years just taught you petty politics and how to spin the truth.

    Obama seems to be a gentleman that's confident and smart enough to see when we've all crossed a line. In a racial issue, he obviously holds the upper hand, yet he stopped it because it wasn't right. You bet if it was the other way around, we'd NEVER stop hearing about it from a Clinton campaign if it was some sexist comment from Obama; they'd never let THAT rest. Instead, Obama is laying this to rest for the betterment of everyone (not himself!). A person that demonstrates his impeccable character and outstanding judgment in this way might be able to do things like....

    1) Cut through the partisan garbage that paralyzes Washington currently
    2) Start being honest and stop using fear tactics in Washington
    3) Use diplomacy and compromise to ease tensions in the middle east (ahem, Iran)
    4) Restore America's MORAL standing in the world.. (once upon a time, half the world didn't want to kill us!)

    January 14, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  11. s.positive

    UNITIED we stand divided we'll all fall. A wrod for the wish folks...

    January 14, 2008 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  12. George from Minneapolis

    I hope all of you Clinton supporters and those who are undecided see who the 1st person was to put a halt to the bickering. It was Obama of course. Obama's character is far superior to Hillary Clinton's. That is a big reason I am voting for him.

    January 14, 2008 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  13. McCormick, New Haven

    This headline is misleading, and is calculated to give the impression that both Clinton AND Obama have been slinging mud. ABSOLUTELY UNTRUE.

    FACT: The desperate Clintons have resorted to their usual dirty, win-at-any-cost mafia campaign style, with glaring falsehoods flung both by themselves and their surrogates. From the very beginning, Obama has personally ordered his campaign staff to stay focused and on message to the people, and not be distracted by the the cloak-and-dagger , slash-and-burn style of Billary.

    That is one of the many reasons he remains so fresh, attractive and electable to the electorate. True to form, his nobility and dignity shines through under pressure, and he comes out the better person. TRUE CLASS ALWAYS SHOWS.


    January 14, 2008 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  14. Chris

    Good luck Senator, the Clintons' love the politics of smear and it's the only way they can win this thing. Watch out for the dump truck.

    January 14, 2008 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  15. mike d

    truce? more like shut up a dirty campaign. this guy is a diplomat that shows grace along with leadership.

    January 14, 2008 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  16. Bonnie

    Let's get real here...Hillary Clinton brings so much baggage with her....what exactly is 35 years of experience...being a first lady? That's it...it's same old same old Clintons' up to dirty tricks, smearing decent individuals....business as usual, let's trash our opponents, just like they did when they left the whitehouse. She needs a reality check, there is NO WAY she can relate to the middle class hard working people......and the tears? Any intelligent person, man OR WOMAN should be able to see how false and phony that was.....I am certain she was told to "soften the voice and get some tears going..." and some very stupid people fell for it...oh and how much do you think her campaign spent to have a couple people hold signs that said "Iron my Shirt"...how clever, but evil is the Clinton Campaign...now she can plead, hurt, sad and sexist moves against her. :You got to admit, they are good....If the American people, as a whole cannot see through this charade, if they want the same back biting, nastiness that has gone on before, if the Democrats want to truly loose this election....will then I guess your gonna get what you deserve. I have been a democrat my whole life, and if that piece of garbage gets the Democratic nod, for the first time, I will vote Republican. Wake up people, we have to have a fresh start...no more Clinton's no more Bushes...what a great world this could be....wish I could get what I want if I could just get those tears to flow.

    January 14, 2008 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  17. Marsha, Portland, OR

    I would like to point out that it was Senator Clinton that has endeavored to take the high road throughout the majority of the campaign who said repeatedly that it was the democrats that should unite against Bush and the Republican machine. It was not until she was attacked as the "status quo" and repeatedly told that she was not a candidate for "change" that Senator Clinton began to respond to the attacks of Senator Obama's campaign – after MONTHS of running a positive candidacy where she stayed positive.

    I do applaud Obama for trying to stop this ridiculous media circus that has surrounded both he and Clinton, as the media tries to turn this primary into a war of the race and the sexes, which is NOT what this campaign is about. It's about changing what Bush has done to this country.

    "I don't think it was in any way a racial comment," Obama told ABC News. "That's something that has played out in the press. That's not my view."

    Having said that – as a woman, I do believe that race has been unfairly played to more that sex in this race. If we aer going to make this an issue I would like to know why no one is bringing up the blatant sexism in the race? I think it's funny that after Iowa no one in the media cried "sexism," (because no sexism was at play!) but after New Hampshire everyone cried "racism". That every remark Clinton makes is now going to be construed as racist – yes, and her husband's too. That she is being held accountable for every words she says, every word every single one of her supporters says, and every dollar contributed to her campaign, and that she is scrutinized more than any other candidate? Yes, yes, yes – I am SEVERELY disappointed by all these things.

    And I have to LAUGH, because when Obama finally gets up and says "Oh, let's stop, playing dirty," all of you get on here and says yes, yes "yes we can" Obama the uniter – when he has once again only said what Clinton has said all along, but I guess that the ignorant are easily persuaded. I think Senator's Obama's ideals are nice, but I think he is naive. Senator Clinton knows how to walk the walk, talk the talk and play the game with the Republicans and you may want a "real" person like Obama, but the rest of the politicans in Washington are not real. Therefore, he will not be a successful president. Remember that we are not a monarchy. It takes a President to work with congress. If you think Republicans will work with Obama you are laughable.

    January 14, 2008 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  18. E, Layton UT, Freiburg Germany

    Nicely done. Exactly what a leader does. Call an end to a fight and call to unite. Sure, Clinton chimed in afterwards, but Obama was the one to offer the truce.

    This coming from another former Repub voting for Obama!


    January 14, 2008 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  19. Chris, Orlando FL

    Obama takes the high road, only after weeks of wading through politcal mud. He calls this truce because he knows Hillary's right and he's misconstrued her comments and those of her supporters to gain politcal clout among blacks. And anyone who can PROVE me wrong, with FACTS, can go ahead.

    HRC in '08 !!!!!!

    January 14, 2008 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  20. NewChicagoan

    I recently heard on Chicago radio that Obama voted 100 times "present" - not "yes" or "no" - while in the Illinois Senate. If true, it's a compelling fact and speaks volumes of his performance (or, lack thereof) while a state legislator. Can anyone verify this?!

    January 14, 2008 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  21. Ray

    CNN has it Backwards. Hillary released her statement earlier today then Obama released hi. So it was Hillary who called for peace first. But, I guess CNN is want's to stay on the Obama side like always.

    January 14, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  22. sly

    "Blessed are the peacemakers, for their's is the Kingdom of Heaven. "

    Obama has once again proved his maturity and potential greatness by being the first to seek to rise above this dirty politics. America would be wise to elect this man.

    January 14, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  23. Seam, Philly, Pa

    J, CA January 14, 2008 7:32 pm ET

    Clearly Obama camp is shaken by this. They are worried about Johnson's comments as a passionate anger among African Americans devolping agianst Obama camp for taking cheap shots at Clintons they love.
    Everyone's comments I read were right on except this crap above posted by J, CA. Where have you been? You are so out of touch with facts, that you make yourself sound silly. Obama never took cheap shots, and Clinton is the one that started this b.s. in the first place.

    January 14, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  24. Summerville, SC

    Please don't be fooled. Hillary Clinton has not been in the mud by herself. It takes two to tango, and Obama has been right there too. Both sides have been doing the same thing, so please don't imply that Obama is on some imaginary "high" road in this.

    Don't forget that he shot WAY early in this fight–saying that Clinton was in some way indirectly or directly responsible for the situation in Pakistan and the assassination of Bhutto. Let's remember that both sides have thrown mud. There is no "higher" ground here, people. They are both doing what people do in elections–trying to get elected.

    What we have to remember that is, no matter what, in a short while, we'll all be on the same side, gearing up to take on the Republicans, who, despite what you think about the Clinton machine, are the nastiest campaign robot on Earth. There is no race as nasty as those run by Republicans. The Clintons have both been seasoned against that, and they are tenacious fighters. I kind of like it. Go Hillary.

    January 14, 2008 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  25. cj

    Well, I don’t blame Billery for raising the white flag for a truce; when you are losing, start boo hooing (crying). Sorry Billery you don’t have enough tears to Go-ALL-THE-WAY to the White House.

    January 14, 2008 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
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