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.

β€œI 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. β€œAnd 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. Hot Rox

    Dumb. You have them back-pedaling. Explaining their comments. You got Billy on radio shows trying to explain himself. She gets a lukewarm reception at a MLK event. The you take the high ground. The Clintonistas have never found the high ground, and will never take it. They wanna win. Period. Dumb move.

    January 14, 2008 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  2. Marie

    May be the media will now twist it and say that Clinton call truce first. go Obama you are our man. Our next president

    January 14, 2008 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  3. Marissa

    Oh, come on, people. It was Obama in the first place who twisted Hillary's comments to incite black voters with the intention of turning them against her. That's a low blow. Hillary was just trying to defend herself from this distortion of her comment. I admit that Obama is a brilliant speaker, but he has no substance. The presidential race is a serious business. You don't judge a candidate based on his/her words but by their actions. Obama may one day be ready to become a great president. But for now, he still have to gain experience, wisdom, and tact. We already looked stupid in the eyes of the world for electing George Bush twice. We are paying steeply for it. We shouldn't make another mistake in choosing an inexperienced candidate who will learn on the job by trial and error process "at our expense".

    January 14, 2008 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  4. Bradley Schaubs, Greeley, CO

    The good guy always wins in the end.

    Obama 08

    January 14, 2008 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  5. Seam, Philly, Pa

    For those people that think Obama started this race thing is an absolute moron. You people are seriously out of touch with facts. You people need to examine the story from the very beginning before you run off at the mouth with foolish remarks. Most of you people are caught up in the hype, especially from the media giving you hand picked sound bites that are largely misleading.

    Pathetic People.

    January 14, 2008 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  6. Summerville, SC

    Has anybody thought that it MIGHT be a calculated move? He's far from stupid. Maybe he should worry about the fact that it also shows a potential tendency to back off a fight.

    Just MAYBE there's more to examine here than his perhaps premature title as the "character king!"

    January 14, 2008 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  7. Mark

    WOW CNN you always seem to come up with some sort of way to slight Obama. By not publishing his entire response you show you have no class and are a organization unworthy of the trust of the american people.You may as well be an communist press corp.

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

    WOW!... I didn't think that I could like this guy anymore, but he keeps on surprising me. Way to go, for being an awesome example of what a great statesman should be!

    You definitely have my vote, so long as you become the Democratic nominee.

    However, as much as I respect (and I am re-evaluating if the Clinton's are worthy of my respect) Hillary, I am definitely giving my support to Mike Huckabee is she becomes the Democrat's nominee.

    January 14, 2008 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  9. aware

    Hillary talked about this historic moment Sunday and in that context said she was proud of Obama, but that was quickly fanned into a negative.

    Obama's back-handed truce is a great pre-debate tactic/velvet dagger. Are Americans really that gullible?

    Let's all stick to the issues and stop all the phoney baloney! That includes the manipulative so called analysis by some pundits.

    My television is getting a rest, and I listen to the news on PBS radio. The Republicans are benefitting from this ridiculous Democratic nonsense. πŸ™

    January 14, 2008 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  10. Summerville, SC

    What I find funny is this: Hillary, a day ago, says she's proud of Obama, and she's ridiculed as calculated and insincere. Today, Obama does pretty much the same thing, a day later, and somehow, people claim he's the greatest thing in the world. Come on people. Are you kidding?

    January 14, 2008 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  11. Susan

    I agree with the New Haven Poster...True Class Always Shows....Obama 08

    January 14, 2008 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  12. Mia, Stafford, VA

    It is this kind of judgement and class why Mr. Obama would make a great President.

    Mrs. Clinton could have done this on "Meet the Press" yesterday, but chose not to, why.... You decide!

    January 14, 2008 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  13. Kyle G. Columbia SC

    I must honestly say that Barack is a man after my own heart. He could've went back and forth to defend his position and throw dirt back to the Clintons face but instead he took the road less traveled. And that is what made my decision to support him with every bone in my body that much easier.

    January 14, 2008 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  14. Dave

    I thank God for Obama and the man of honor that he continues to demonstrate. I appreciate the leadership he is showing by wanting to focus on the issues of this country. He is a genuine man that can and will bring people together while implementing change. Hillary Clinton seems to be as polarizing as everyone has said. It saddens me deeply to think that the Clinton's are doing to Obama the same old types tactics that the Republicans used many years ago against other Democrats...sort of a reverse "southern" strategy. While I have always admired and supported Bill Clinton, I am deeply offended by their resort to using dirty race-based politics. I find it unbelievable that the woman who actually worked for Goldwater during thesame time that LBJ was president, failed to acknowledge that Dr. King and others actually "pressured" LBJ to do what he absolutely had to do to address Civil Rights and African American concerns. I wonder what type of Civil Rights policies/laws this country would have had if Goldwater (w/ Hillary working for him) had been president. There were no distortions. The fact is that what Hillary said (and Bill) were both disappointing and insensitive. Hillary and Bill owe Obama and the country an apology once again for their "mistakes". If she is truly "in touch with her inner voice", she should show true leadership , be genuine and speak the truth with absolute sincerity. And, please...leave out the tears!

    Thank God for the true man w/ experience to bring people together to make the change this country needs!

    January 14, 2008 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  15. Teresa

    Thank you Obama. That tit for tat is petty and ridiculous when we have so much at stake. Don't let the media suck you in to that garbage.

    January 14, 2008 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  16. C.Lo

    Unfortunately , the fight is not over. The clitons are so obsessed with POWER that they would do anything if they feel a threat.
    I will for for Obama and if he is not nominated, then I will go for McCain. As for Bill, I think he should wise up and assume the role of a former Commander in Chief. He can certainly support his wife but he is acting as if was the candidate.
    Let Hillary stand up for herself Bill.

    January 14, 2008 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  17. PW Va

    Senator Obama...I applaud you. I've always planned to vote for you in the general election, as you have inspired this "baby-boomer" in a way I haven't been inspired since the days of Dr. King and President Kennedy...two great statesmen...and now you, sir, are carrying the torch that they lit so many years ago...towards your own statesmanship. I salute you!!!!

    January 14, 2008 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  18. Ayyub, Richmond, Va

    Lester Aponte January 14, 2008 7:47 pm ET

    Clearly Obama could not stand the heat that his own campaign people unleash. Hillary is not John Kerry. If you attack her she will come back at you twofold. Obama called a truce because he knows he was taking the worst hits and he can't afford to have his pristine image damaged.

    No Lester, It's because Obama has a heart and this shows he is reponsible and the bigger person eventhough he did nothing wrong.

    January 14, 2008 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  19. stan pitts pa

    obama shows a lot of class, he has my vote! (i used to be a republican)

    January 14, 2008 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  20. Dorian, Ca

    The one who started the whole thing was Obama. He attacked, distorting her words and meaning and has even intimated that she is a racist. Naturally she defended herself. He has been openly rude to her during debates (Example: "You're likeable enough, Hillary," while looking down, writing notes, and never looking in her direction.) I have never heard a word from her about Obama that wasn't true. (Example: "His campaign chair for New Hampshire is a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry.") She never hints or makes innuendos that would denigrate him. She's been too busy trying to get her message of change out to the voters and expressing how her positions and Obama's differ. Now, when he suggests they call a truce, everyone is hailing him as classy, taking the high road, etc. Since he is the one who has been on the attack, it's fitting that he calls for a truce. Every time someone who even knows Hillary says something bad about him (most recently Bob Johnson), Obama's campaign issues statements denouncing Hillary as a racist and worse, as if she is the one responsible. Obama has never "spoken out forcefully against them". All this being said, I will gain some measure of respect for Obama if he stands by his word, nails his surrogates when they engage in lies and distortions against Senator Clinton, and begins to run an honest campaign, telling us exactly what and how he will make the changes our country so badly needs. Just as Hillary has been trying to do.

    January 14, 2008 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  21. Anonymous

    Of course Obama wants to call a truce. He realizes that making this a race issue by auguring who helped black people how much he may be solidifying his black base but he is losing many more white votes. And he will never win without those votes.

    January 14, 2008 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  22. Stephanie H.

    Has it occured to anybody that he may just be doing this to try and make Hillary his running mate if he wins so that he can get her supporters on his side?

    January 14, 2008 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  23. sailersun23

    "Now if the media would just stop shoving meaningless news down our throats and actually cover the real things that the candidates stand for we might elect the person that best fits the Presidency"... well stated Mr RIggs

    Im glad to hear that HE has taken a higher ground on the cat-calling, Im also dissapointed in BJ's remarks. The media seems to print quotes out of context so i saw the clip myself. I concluded that at the expense of some kinda "joke" he did make a nasty jab at someones triumph over the temptations of youth. Im voting for someone who can unite the country as well as attack the issues. I really dislike the negative campaigning. THEY SHOULD ALL TALK TO EACH OF US (citizens) NOT EACH OTHER, TELL ME WHAT CAN YOU DO FOR THE COUNTRY THE REST IS JUST GARBAGE!

    January 14, 2008 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  24. A Democrat

    What a fraud Obama is.

    HIS CAMPAIGN stirred up all of the racist B.S. because HE WAS ONLY 5 POINTS AHEAD IN SOUTH CAROLINA!!!

    This is the most obvious case of media manipulation I've ever seen and it's disgusting. The Obama campaign is sifting through every word the Clintons and anyone else says and looking for the opportunity, just as his lawyers sifted through every voter's signature in 1996 so he could exclude all his Democratic rivals from the ballot.


    January 14, 2008 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  25. Adam, Los Angeles

    Obama has demonstrated that he is both able to play hardball and then bring peace and unity to an intense situation. If Clinton, with her unique and intimate experience with Washington, did not have the insight and judgment to end this scrimmage within her own party quickly and professionally, then she hasn't learned much. Don't get me wrong, I think Hillary would make a great president. However, I think Obama will be an amazing and totally different kind of president.

    January 14, 2008 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
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