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. Once again...

    I admire Obama for finally reaching out and saying something positive about Hillary Clinton, but once again CNN is playing favorites. This article should be titled: Obama and Clinton call truce. Obama wasn't the only one who called the truce. He may have called it first, but he wasn't the only one.
    Before Obama supporters throw more rocks at Hillary, please stop and think about how you would react if Hillary had initiated the truce-calling. There would be all kinds of comments like, "She's only doing that because she's losing!" "Slick Hillary", etc...How do I know? Because that was your reactions when Hillary said she was proud of Obama, a perfectly legitimate comment that was taken out of context.
    It's time you stop your own discrimination, Obama supporters. Listen to your leader, or he will "speak out forcefully against" you. And you don't want the force of His Highness's eloquence on you, do you?

    January 14, 2008 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  2. Patrick, Bethlehem,PA

    Robb, New York; You are the best. I totally agree with you. In all honesty, i would rather vote for Giuliani whom i loath than vote for Hillary, with the way she and her husband have been going on.

    January 14, 2008 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  3. Jaime Scottsdale,AZ

    I am trying to weed the garbage from the trash. From what I have read so far, it is difficult. If you really want truth, change, reality, watch "Meet The Press" again or for the first time if you haven't. Secondly, Obama called off his "agents of change" and had a conference call that was posted at 7 pm eastern time....saying that WE AGREE TO DISAGREE. For all you diggers of dirt and smear...Hillary wanted a change in this course 48 hours ago. Change? Yes, change. Hillary is the agent of setting the tone and reconciliation. This is real history in the making. Common Ground is HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON '08.

    January 14, 2008 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  4. Andrea, California

    Marsha from Portland,

    There is a simple reason that Senator Clinton played "nice" for so long. It's too bad some of us refuse to see it. She was ahead so she tried to be Presidential.

    People's true colors are revealed when their backs are up against the wall. We all know this to be true. The past 10 days were the first time in the entire campaign that Senator Clinton thought she was going to lose. I judge her on the past 10 days, not on the 10 months in which she was enjoying a coronation party. Anyone can make nice when the band is playing and the compliments are raining down.

    January 14, 2008 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  5. Patrick, Bethlehem,PA

    Obama realised that when you lie down with dogs you catch flees.

    January 14, 2008 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  6. IJ Arne

    Obama is in a class by himself! He is proving everyday that he is a leader and wants to make changes, that also means changing politics as usual. The Clinton's keep resorting to the politcs of old: Fear & Division! Thank you Senator Obama for taking the high-road everytime! The time is now for real change!

    January 14, 2008 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  7. John, NC

    These Obama supporters are beginning to rile me.

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

    How dare Obama even suggest that Hillary's comment about Lyndon Johnson's essentially clinching the deal with the signing of the Civil Right Act in anyway diminishes Dr. M.L.King's legacy or leadership of the Civil Rights movement.

    What Hillary said is the truth, and it shows that she understands that it takes White and Black, poor and rich, working together, to accomplish anything in this country. Without white benefactors who were in positions of power, many of the gains of the Civil Rights movement would have been impossible to achieve in a speedy or relatively peaceful manner.

    Obama is the who started all of this in the first place. He thought he could score some political points with Blacks by twisting Hillary's comments, and now that it backfired in his face, he's back-pedaling and trying to take a so-called "high" road. The cheek of it!

    As a black man, let no one mess with the Clintons. As White as they are, they speak to our true aspirations of economic empowerment and safe communities, etc., by channeling federal resources to address our true needs.

    This should also debunk the critics who say blacks vote based on race. The white Clintons will get our votes, inspite of their race, b/cos they have spoken and continue to speak to our true aspirations!

    Obama better come at us with more than just his black ancestry.


    January 14, 2008 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  8. Jennifer Brown Brown

    If the Obama and Clinton campaign have called a truce on the race issue – WHY CAN'T CNN???

    Your job is to REPORT the news and on the candidates not to SPIN IT INTO A BIGGER SITUATION! What on earth is WRONG with the news staff at CNN??? Don't toot the "best political team" crap when your coverage is clearly, one sided...I'm so disappointed, why are you highlighting the race thing with the Clinton campaign when they have a great record on helping the black population? AND WHY DON'T YOU RECOGNIZE THAT THE BLACK ON BLACK CRIME PERMIATES OUR LEGAL SYSTEM. Clearly – you swing with what's making headlines rather than any kind of factual statistics. SHAME ON YOU FOR PULLING THE RACE CARD, YOU'RE SELL OUTS NOT THE BEST POLITICAL TEAM!

    January 14, 2008 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  9. Kevin in Oklahoma

    I'm glad that they have decided to stop this back and forth. Now, if only supporters would do the same.

    Let's come together, and stand tall. Let's nominate the candidate that has the ability to lead our great nation.

    That candidate is Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama may be ready to lead America, someday, but, not at this time.

    Hillary Clinton. The only REAL choice for President!

    January 14, 2008 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  10. greg

    Hillary could not even manage a simple agreement with Obama's noble gesture. She had to load her response with one more statement, favouring herself, on the issue:

    "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,"

    She just couldn't let it go. Ever the pit bull, she (and her husband) will use any means at hand to advance her agenda.

    January 14, 2008 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  11. art

    This story is becoming more than ridiculous. TRUCE? Give me a break. Who was fighting who?

    This story was blown out of proportion and some democrats fell for it. Democrats should ask a question to themselves. Why were the conservative radio hosts were all over this so called story? I was listening to Hannity one day and that was all he was talking about. He went to say that Bill Clinton was associated with a racist when he was young, etc, etc. His and others goal is clear: Have democrats fight amongst each other for ridicoulous issues.
    We neeed to get over this racist nonsense and look at the record of each candidate.

    January 14, 2008 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  12. Ray

    Again, Hillary tried earlier today at an MLK birthday celebration-

    "Both Senator Obama and I know we are where we are today because of leaders like Dr. King," Clinton said at a labor-sponsored birthday celebration in honor of the slain civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King. "We have to bring our party together and our country together."

    Why was this not reported by CNN?

    Oh ya..Its CNN – News for Obama!

    January 14, 2008 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  13. Jessie

    Clinton certainly said she was proud – I was happy she did say that today. More so, she said it's amazing where we have came since both a woman and a person of color are running for president. With that said, Obama could have continued on the nit-picking and again – he took the higher road. Fortunately for this – this is the change he speaks of... unfortunately for the Clintons it's virtually a no-win for them.

    January 14, 2008 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  14. Louis

    Guess Obamas campaign headquarters figured that calling in the race card was not going to work. Cancel Reverend Sharpton to fans the flames, but have him keep a bag packed in case he is needed later.

    Amazing! With the Clintons record for Civil rights that this subject was even brought up. Obama must have some Republicans working for him.

    January 14, 2008 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  15. Lisa

    Thank you Obama! I wish that we could send all misbehaving candidates into time-out where they will not be heard for 7 days. Then they can rejoin the rest if they can prove themselves to be civil.

    January 14, 2008 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  16. USA partisan

    Politic has never been a 'clean' business, happy to see that finally ( for how long? ) our candidates do remember that it is not about them but about what they can do for this country !
    I would very much like to see the debates focus on each candidate program, and some fair analysis about the achievability of these programs..Anybody can claim that is going to give 1 to 10 trillions to each state on election day 🙂 what is relevant would be to explain how they are going to fund this generosity otherwise than by increasing our deficit or taxes.????

    January 14, 2008 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  17. Nobama!

    CNN you have it backwards. Hillary Clinton gave that speach earlier today, way before Barack gave his little speach.

    I think you do this on purpose. Why no mention today of Barack's wife saying, I quote, "there ain't no black people in Iowa!" or Barack's NV campaign office releasing flyers out in NV for people to vote against Hillary Clinton?

    January 14, 2008 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  18. Mary, Michigan

    Bill Clinton is proving to be more of a hindrance to Hillary's campaign than the positive force everyone thought he'd be.

    Hillary's campaign needs to do what John Edwards's campaign did to Elizabeth Edwards. She was a loose canon and was obviously told to stop talking. John Edwards was spending too much time answering questions about and defending her comments than the issues.

    Same thing is happening to the Clinton campaign. Unfortunately, how do you tell an ex-president to put a cork in it?

    January 14, 2008 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  19. *Light*

    [Tim Calhoun '08, Moreno Valley, CA] says:

    "1) Farrell from Houston, Texas is exactly right. There IS a double standard going on here by the Clinton camp. Let us be candid here: for whatever reasons, race and gender evoke different responses from the American people, whether right or wrong. One can play the gender card either implictly or explicitly and garner the sympathy vote. We saw that happen in New Hampshire. But it is incredibly difficult to shift the focus to race or make any complaints related to the issue of race without appearing "petty," "militant," "racist," etc. No doubt the Clintons know this, which is why they have consistently and slyly played the gender card while also baiting the Obama camp and his supporters into focusing on race. They know they have the political advantage in this battle, as unfair as it is."

    finally somone with some smarts. You have hit the nail on the head my friend. this is why Obama called a truce. for one, it is petty and it breaks down the party and two, he does not want his camp to play the race card. it will definitely hurt his campaign if he does that and the clintons knows it. ahhhhhh yes my friends, this one is going to be a fight to the finish.

    January 14, 2008 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  20. carol

    There is nothing like the Obama campaign are worried of the issue brought up by Johnson. Obama admitted using drugs noboby forced him to say that. He could have chosen to keep it a secret. Am happy that Obama decided to call it quit at this fight. It takes a person with a big heart to do that. Whether he faked it or not and if that is the case why didn't Clinton fake it first too. Way to go Obama. We wish you well and you are in our prayers. If God wants you to lead you sure will. Nobody will stop that.

    January 14, 2008 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  21. Frank D

    Hillary is drowning in a murky water of her own attacks and Obama throws in a lifeline to her!

    January 14, 2008 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  22. sfjan

    He inspires; she depresses. She emboides negativity. She says she's better equipped to fight off the Republicans because she's spent 15 years in hand-to-hand combat with them. Do we want more of the same toxic partisan gridlock? Or do we take a chance on someone who shows promise of bringing the country together, healing our wounds?

    January 14, 2008 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  23. william walsh columbus ohio

    im sorry folks to ruin your party but the facts are, hillery clinton, reason, this is a women that has had her eyes on the presidency for 35 yrs, its been a uphill battle that has taken more strength then most people even have, what she has accomplished is beyond your thinking, and all you can say is she should have left bill when he cheated? do you think she cares about that? this women has paid her dues, fought the administration that is 95% men and got to where she is now on a whim? shes fought longer to achive what she has wanted longer than obama has been alive!she knows this game inside and out, shes been in the whitehouse for 8 yrs, everything she has she struggled for, the issue here is not what bill did, but her true desire to make this country whole again,after a 8 yr term of a republican pompus ass that had no more right to be in office than elmer fudd, you may critisize her for her mistakes and misgivings but we cannot have another 4 yrs of someone who has not paid there dues in the whitehouse, so say what you may, but the facts are the facts, yeh i think obama has done the country alot of good just running and has a good following,white and black,who cares, if you have issues with that then perhaps you shouldnt be voting, but hes got another 8 yrs to gain what hillery already knows,this women will not let a man a woman or anything else get in her way,personal or otherwise, any canidate at this point is a hundred x better than we have had for 7 yrs, this women does not owe anything to anyone for her dues, paid in full, lets see what shes got,

    January 14, 2008 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  24. Jaime Scottsdale,AZ

    Drop the poop and let's AGREE TO DISAGREE. Not for a moment do I want Sean Hannity, Tim Russert, or Bush Bimbo to be smerking in any kind of delight. Sen. Clinton and Sen Obama are class acts. Let's not forget that.

    OUR COUNTRY WILL PREVAIL IN '08 and beyond as long as we keep focused on the real priority.

    God bless.

    January 14, 2008 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  25. Jeff

    Let's look at other's comment: "New York Rep. Charles Rangel, was sharply critical of Obama in an interview during the day. "How race got into this thing is because Obama said 'race,'" Rangel, the dean of the Congressional Black Caucus, said on television station NY1".

    Politics is politics. Nothing changed even for someone who speakes about "time to change".

    Hillary said in NH that politics is not a game, Unfortunately, she is wrong.

    January 14, 2008 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
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