January 15th, 2008
01:20 PM ET
15 years ago

Major Clinton supporter calls Obama remark 'absolutely stupid'

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/01/14/art.rangel.gi.jpg caption=" Rangel had some tough words for Obama Monday."](CNN) - As both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama tried to lower the tension after days of charged rhetoric over race, a congressional supporter of Clinton's presidential bid called the Illinois senator's remarks attacking her over recent comments about President Lyndon Johnson and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. “absolutely stupid.”

"How race got into this thing is because Obama said ‘race,’” New York Rep. Charlie Rangel, one of the highest-ranking African-Americans in Congress, said in an interview on NY1.

“But there is nothing that Hillary Clinton has said that baffles me. I would challenge anybody to belittle the contribution that Dr. King has made to the world, to our country, to civil rights, and the Voting Rights Act,” said Rangel. “But for him to suggest that Dr. King could have signed that act is absolutely stupid. It's absolutely dumb to infer that Doctor King, alone, passed the legislation and signed it into law."

Rangel’s remarks came in response to Sunday comments from Obama, who told an audience at a Nevada campaign event: "I am baffled by that statement by the Senator. She made an ill-advised statement about Dr. King, suggesting that Lyndon Johnson had more to do with the Civil Rights Act. For them to somehow suggest that we're interjecting race as a consequence of a statement she made, that we haven't commented on, is pretty hard to figure out."

The New York senator has since tried to explain the intent of her remarks was not to diminish the contribution of King, but to point out the benefit of experience in enacting positive legislation.

Rangel also implied that Obama’s admission of prior drug use in his autobiography may have had a financial motive: "I assume that the book was not written for political purposes. It was honest….It was a big mistake for him to have done it [used drugs.] For him to be honest enough to write about it, I guess he thought it might sell books."
Video: Watch Rangel on the Clinton-Obama spat

–CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand
soundoff (1,694 Responses)
  1. AJ; Montpelier, VT

    Jake, ATL Posted:

    " It's official. Hillary's supporters are some of the dumbest in the world…they almost rival George W Bush's."

    And the trash has been heard from... Jake – Can you find it possible somewhere in that pea that you have in your head that you call a brain to engage in meaningful political debate? The tone of your post obviously matches your intellect.

    January 15, 2008 07:12 am at 7:12 am |
  2. charlotte


    January 15, 2008 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  3. Case, Savannah GA

    Charlie Rangel, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton are not the voice of the struggling working class. They are dividers I have seen it with my own two eyes. Obama is a uniter and that must scare the old guard. Out with the old.

    January 15, 2008 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  4. Noble

    I want to know how much Rangel was paied to tanish the name of a young leader like Obama , Clinton new that she was going to fail, she did brought such story , becuase she new that race will be the next stratagy since she new that blacks are only 10% in America . we know where you are going clinton and we will not vote for you (blindly) becuase we have made so many mistakes which will not repeat it`s self again . Secondly , Clinton`s camp FIRST started this race issure and out of pain Obama Responded and the bad side of this issue is that she instigated this and started runing , we have had Obama on several occasion mentioned that he wants to bring America togather and bring change in America . Wer are beside you Obama go on with your camp ,we will vote for you Obama , Clinton politice is not a matter of crying ,it is all about showing sence of matured leadership

    January 15, 2008 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  5. Bimmer

    Under pressure, the true Obama, the self-declared agent of change and hope, is coming out of the nicely packaged box.

    He has been personally attacking Hillary first alone and then by colluding with big brother Edwards after the Iowa caucus victory in the NH debate.

    After losing the NH primary, he promised to bring in Chicago's rough and tumble politics. And sure enough he started politicizing and twisting Clinton's comments that a President is needed to sign a bill. When that was being protested by the African American leaders, he called a truce.

    In so doing, he is showing that he is no agent of change and that "Yes He Can do dirty , divisive politics".

    January 15, 2008 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  6. Jason

    Seems Clinton hired Karl "turd blossom" Rove to run her campaign.

    January 15, 2008 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  7. Rus, Whitburn

    What a blatantly biased misrepresentation of what Obama said – so much for what little respect I'd had for Charles Rangel!

    January 15, 2008 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  8. Wow

    Bob Johnson and now this guy? Black people are done for, and way too dumb....way too dumb for words. And Im black, so dont say anything about racism..

    January 15, 2008 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  9. Neemael

    Enough already...seriously they are way more important issue to talk about than that!!!! To be honest Im sick of the Clintons attacking Obama in order for them come out the good guys.
    The comment about Obama putting his grugs use in his youth in His book...hellooo the book is about his life and experiences,that(drugs)was part of his life,was he suppose to lie about it...GIVE ME A BREAK!!!

    January 15, 2008 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  10. Thomas

    I think the answer is obvious – VOTE EDWARDS.

    January 15, 2008 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  11. Vega Diamond

    There comes a point where some people should learn not so say a word. This is one of those. Sure it took pres. Johnson to sign the paperwork, but in a so called Democracy, who really makes the decisions? I can pretty much guarantee that if Dr. King did not draw attention to the Civil Rights movement, that he wouldn't have signed it. Sure the signing of the paper was monumental, BUT it is not as monumental as the actions prior to the signing. It took Courage and Strength and extreme perseverance to have any actions taken in that society. So no Obama's comments were not stupid. I think that all these Clinton bandwagoners are not really putting thought into their comments and that is a shame.

    January 15, 2008 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  12. Deborah



    January 15, 2008 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  13. Jerry

    Let me start off by saying I am a Southerner and a life long republican. That said you will likely find my comments shocking. It amazes me that so many of the black "leadership" has come out in an effort to support the Clintons against Obama. Despite Charlie Rangel's effort to serve as a surrogate attack dog for the Clinton campaign it is clear the one injecting race into this is Clinton because she knows she has to make Obama seem "whiter" than herself. Rangel claims Obama's remarks were intended to imply Dr King could have "signed" the civil rights bill himself. No one who hears Obama speak would ever come away with the impression that he is ignorant of historical facts or an inexact speaker. He correctly stated that without the social pressure brought about by the protests, peaceful demonstrations and other activities led by Dr King, there would not have been any impetus for Johnson or any other congressional leader to support civil rights legislation. Yes it took Johnson to help push through the legislation and actually sign it but the force behind it was King. You don't have to look any further than the owner of BET or Charlie Rangel to see that those in power fear a guy like Obama who isn't beholding to them for his base. On the other hand it is clear they will smear anyone, including another black man to keep their connection to Washington power (i.e.. the Clintons) in power. For the average black man not to support the first black man to truly have a chance to be elected to the White House would be the epitomy of ignorant. Do they really think that a Wellsly College graduate whose only exposure to black issues was through being first lady at state and national levels can understand their problems? Wake up folks!

    January 15, 2008 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  14. Zac

    mmm playground politics...I'm game!

    To Rep. Rangel: "No, YOU'RE stupid!"

    January 15, 2008 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  15. Melissa

    Charlie Rangel, you are the one stupid for trying to have the last say or try to reignite after the truce called by Obama,. We want to move on and people like you that have lied all there ways through politics should please keep shut and let the players get back to the business of what they have to offer.

    January 15, 2008 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  16. Jeff Ensinger

    That's a Democrat I would vote for. I can't think of any others. Go get 'em Mr. Rangel.

    January 15, 2008 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  17. A. Macaulay

    Actually, I surprised by Congress Charlie Rangel’s comment that Barack Obama’s admission of drug use as written about in his first book was motivated to sell books. The book, “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance” was published in 1995 after Obama was elected the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, but before his political career began.

    Seems unlikely that a book written by a graduate student would be motivated by hopes that it would make the NY Times Best Seller List or promote his political career. Actually, Charlie Rangel should read it instead of press handouts from the Clinton camp because as Columnist Joe Klein stated in an article about Obama for Time that the book "may be the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician.”

    January 15, 2008 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  18. max

    Obama playing the race card. This will lose the nomination for him.

    January 15, 2008 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  19. Divide and Conquer

    Charlie sees his candidate tanking in the NY polls and pulls yet another "boner" for the Cllinton campaign. i started out this election cycle pulling for the Democrats, but it looks like Mc Cain is the better option. The Democrats can't even run a primary, so how can they run the country.

    The sad item is that Edwards and Obama are great candidates offer fresh hope and a new direction. Then in come the Clintons, Rangell, and all the other old party hacks and tear party unity to shreads. If Obama or Edwards can somehow over come these "Beltway Bozos" and get the nomination, I'll take back the above and vote for either of them.

    This whole scenario is pathetic.

    January 15, 2008 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  20. Andrew, NY, NY

    Carrie, You are absolutely correct. The Clintons have gotten the art of deflection down to an art. Only the simple minded cannot see what they are doing and have done in the past. There is ALWAYS someone else to blame for their problems. The Clinton's have demonstrated a character flaw in that they cannot accept personal responsibility. The call for CHANGE demands we deny the Clintons the WH, otherwise it will be 4 more years of this. As for Charlie Rangel....what a dinosaur!!!!

    January 15, 2008 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  21. Carol

    Amazing: Barack never made a statement or interjected race in response to Hillarys racially insensitive comment. She however started playing victim and the blame game when her insensitive remark upset the african american community and they responded, not Barack. Then she turns around a blames Barack for her statement.

    Grow up Hillary and Bill and stop playing victim. It's getting very old.

    January 15, 2008 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  22. Rob

    How stupid can the old guard of the democrats be? It's embarrassing letting Bob Johnson and now Charlie Rangel do the dirty work and distort Obama's statements. Essentailly "Curse you for being honest with the American public and showing what inner city life is." You should do what Bill did. Cheat, lie and dance around a disposition. And poor Hillary, stand by your cheating husband not once, not twice but at least 3 times (what we know of) for the sake of your own political ambition. I'm sorry but if she was such a strong woman that has some self respect and integrity than she should have left him long ago. I probably would have respected her more.

    I just don't get it with Rangel.... I just hope the African American race can see past the dirty politics of Clinton and associates. If they don't understand that they are being manipulated by friends of Hillary (who have their own self interests at heart and not that of the African American population) than you're doomed to continue to be "oppressed." Shame on Rangel and Bob Johnson for throwing their race under the bus.
    This is pathetic and if the Democrats nominate Hillary... good for you. I think you like the government being dominated by the Republicans.

    January 15, 2008 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  23. Jax

    It IS dumb to suggest that MLK could have signed the bill into law. However, Obama didn't say that. In fact, Mr. Rangel is the only one suggesting that, therefore...

    January 15, 2008 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  24. Chip Celina OH

    I haven't seen any mention by the "best team in politics" about the lawsuit in Nevada concerning the "at-large" caucus sites. CNN, could you enlighten us?

    Apparently, months ago the DNC approved creation of these "at-large" caucus sites to enable shift-working members of the culinary union easier access to the caucus process. But, seems that since the union has endorsed Obama, (and it looks like trouble for Hillary) that the teacher's union has filed suit to "disenfranchise" the culinary workers. Four of the litigants bringing the suit forth were AT the proceedings where the logistics for the "at-large" sites were approved.

    Chicanery? I think so. Whether or not the good senator is directly involved or not remains to be seen, but why is it that questionable tactics always seem within her orbit?

    Have a good Tuesday!

    January 15, 2008 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  25. Rob

    Another question:

    If Hillary can control what her surrogates say then how in the world can she run a government.?

    If you see the flip side of Obama, how fantastic of a campaign is he running? Did you watch John Kerry or Daschle on Sunday? Probably not because they talked about positive attributes and what our country can become. I guess that is not interesting enough except for the mud slinging of Clinton. The desperation reeks!!!!!

    January 15, 2008 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
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