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. ZH

    Division among the blacks, and other minorites, getting sympathy from women voters, are Hillary campaign's dirty tricks....You cannot fool us Hillary...anymore...

    January 15, 2008 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  2. Cheryl

    Barak Obama started this whole thing with the song that played when he won in Iowa with a nasty reference to women. He will regret it because I believe the media is getting wise to him! The Clintons have worked for years for black people. Clinton was dubbed the first black president when elected. Hopefully the people of SC remember this instead of being swayed by the media and Oprah. I think the american people are smarter than that! I for one will vote for Hillary because she has a proven track record! This is not a game or popularity contest we are in serious trouble in this country! We need EXPERIENCE we need HILLARY 08!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 15, 2008 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  3. Half of what you see, None of what you here

    Here we go again!

    January 15, 2008 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  4. Steve

    Just yesterday Clinton said, "Over this past week, there has been a lot of discussion and back and forth - much of which I know does not reflect what is in our hearts. And at this moment, I believe we must seek common ground."

    And now she's got her cronies back out on the war path. She's a crook and a liar.

    January 15, 2008 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  5. Johnny

    OMG. are we not listening to the whole story? I have yet to hear Obama make a strike back at Senator Clinton. He clearly states that they had not commented on the whole matter, and his brief interview only denounced the fact that he had anything to do with it. This seems to be one side pitching and hitting, and he's just stuck there taking the blame. I don't think he ever intended for the audience to believe that MLK could do it on his own. Yet, he doesn't want to take away from the significance of Dr. King standing for his beliefs until change occured. I believe that his references to Dr. King are more to show us that change came through a youthful, persistent, faithfilled ideology. It came through acting on this ideology, and I believe this is what Barack Obama intends to do. Sometimes we read to much into statements, especially when it comes to political issues. Go Ahead OBAMA!!!!

    January 15, 2008 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  6. John, Lincoln NE

    I must have missed the part where Sen Barama said, "But for him to suggest that Dr. King could have signed that act is absolutely stupid." Bravo Mr Rangel, bravo. It's one thing for Bob Johnson to willingly jump in line with the rest of the Clinton stooges. But an outright, bald face lie from a US congressman? Are you really representing your constintuency with these remarks or are you looking for a cabinet post along with Bob Kerry?

    January 15, 2008 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  7. Sue

    I'm not sure what all the furor is over. I am not a Clinton supporter but what she said is correct. and does not diminish Martin Luther King's contribution. King was the most influential civil rights leader this country has ever had. He brought attention to civil rights issues and ultimately helped bring about major changes in civil liberties for everyone. He was never in government and had no power to introduce legislation or sign laws. It was Congress and the president who passed the legislation, and signed the Civil Rights Act into law during a time when "separate but equal" was standard across the country. That president was Lyndon Baines Johnson, and it is one of his crowning achievements, especially since he was from the South. Wasn't anybody awake during their high school U. S. History class?

    January 15, 2008 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  8. Tom

    Democrats Unite, we have nothing to lose but the WHITE HOUSE! If these two candidates, and I mean both of them, are not careful, the party will be divided and the White House will be lost to the Republicans again.

    Democrats are lucky to have two amazing candidates, both of whom would be historic presidents should either be elected. The bottom line is that the Republican front runner is McCain . . . he is beatable, old, and stale, and if the Dems lose, they have no one to blame but themselves. This crazy bickering benefits no one but the Republicans.

    If either of you, Barack or Hillary, really want change, then stop sabotaging the party's best chance to regain the White House.

    January 15, 2008 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  9. Bob Weaver

    Hillary is using her established position amongst top Democrats to respond to Obama. She looks like she is taking the high ground by declining to comment further but in reality others are getting the message out for her. Pretty clever on her part.

    January 15, 2008 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  10. anonymous

    There are 3 to blame for this mess: Clinton, Obama, and the media. The media, in general, adores Obama. The Clintons are "old news" to them (the media). Obama is young, new, and full of ideas and ideals. What's not to love? I feel for both Obama and Clinton. Both have rabid supporters. We cannot expect them to maintain 100% control over all of them. There's always going to be someone somewhere saying something that has not been authorized by either campaign. We need to cut both Obama and Clinton some slack on this and tone down the rhetoric. Otherwise, we'll make it that much harder for Democrats to win the general election. Instead of sniping at each other, we need to keep the end goal in sight: a Democratic president moving into the White House and a Democratic-controlled Congress.

    January 15, 2008 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  11. Amy, Kazoo

    when will people realize that comments "supporters" make are not necessarily encouraged or agreed upon by the candidate. This can happen on either side of the party line. Stop crucifying the candidates for what the supporters say so that we can all get back to the issues.

    None of us would appreciate constantly being blamed for the comments of someone else.

    January 15, 2008 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  12. Terry

    Lets chalk it up to being naive and lack of experience for Obama. He may have not carefully considered his words when responding. We can let it go and hope he learns from this experience. Perhaps calling a truce is some indication that perhaps he sees the damage he has caused.

    Hopefully all the candidates realize when they open their mouth they are taking a big risk. Honesty and Integrity are key here...the willingness to admit your mistakes will matter.

    January 15, 2008 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  13. Chip Celina OH

    Vince writes:

    You just gotta love this guy Rangel. I always knew he he wasn`t afraid to speak his mind and here he is again TELLING IT THE WAY IT IS.. If we had more people like him in responsible positions this country would in a lot better shape.

    Then follows later with:
    This is the way I see it.. The comments the Clintons made were NOT racist until Obama and his camp followers MADE them racist.

    Newsflash! >>>>>> This update just in from the planet reality! >>>>>>

    Charlie Rangel IS in a responsible position! He's one of 535 people in the United States Congress that PASSES LAWS in this nation.

    Then ,the way you see it, if a tree falls in the forest, it doesn't make a sound .... unless someone hears it?

    Happy Tuesday!

    January 15, 2008 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  14. Tracy Harmon

    The Clintons should be absolutely ashamed of themselves. This is pure rhetoric and they know it. Why didn't Hillary make this comment when she and her husband marched in Alabama last for the anniversary of the March? Because it was not beneficial to her at the time. She is a polictical thug who has absolutely no class. Wake up America, she is divisive and disgustingly transparent. The Clintons did very little for Black Americans during his term, so black america don't hold your breath on this one. Check the scorecard. Please don't be misinformed. I'd much have a President who wants the American vote, versus a President who is seeking the Black vote by manipulating the black communtiy.

    OBAMA 08!

    January 15, 2008 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  15. Anonymous

    There has to be a motive for being honest?

    January 15, 2008 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  16. Bridgette

    I I am so sick and tired of everyone applauding Hillary Clinton, for riding on the coat tail of her husband former President Bill Clinton. Since when does being married to a president count as experience? The last time I checked she hasn’t even been able to rectify any of the problems and injustices going on in New York. There is always an ulterior motive to things that are said. It was implied that even Dr. King with all of his dreaming couldn't pass the Civil Rights law without legislation. In turn legislation would have never been proposed had Dr. King not have had a dream that inspired and sparked a belief of hope in millions. His hope and words of self-integrity triggered marches, sit-ins, and made international headlines. Johnson didn't sign that act until King dreamed, and until the rest of the world sat and watched how African Americans and whites who stood up for themselves were savagely attacked for no reason at all. Legislation does not just spring out of nowhere, people have to be inspired and convicted into making change happen. And to Wow! You speak for yourself. One person's stupid actions or comments, should never generalize an entire race of people!!! It's so distressing how some of us are so easy to imbibe words of self-hatred upon ourselves. Obama is a man of vision, he has not played the race card, he is simply commenting on the obvious. If it were not a mistake, Hillary would have been so hasty to call Dr. King's children, and other influential individuals whom she felt would not receive her comments to well. I believe all of this unnecessary rubbish is coming as a result of certain people coming to terms with the fact that Obama was not just another inexperienced, black candidate they could just write off. He is an articulate, awe-inspiring, and well qualified candidate who does just appeal to the needs of blacks, but to the needs of America and that is what we need! OBAMA FOR PRESIDENT 2008!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 15, 2008 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  17. Mike O Plano, TX

    OK, folks: I'm in the GOP and have been since '62. I will tell you this; go ahead and nominate Hillary. It will make our job so much easier in November.

    You see, in her case, it's all about her. She only cares about the Democrat party as a mechanism to power and is completely unwilling to let anything stand in her way to that power. She will use whatever devisive, backalley tactics necessary to get where she's going, no matter what wreckage she leaves behind.

    We in the GOP will pound on her on the Clinton legacy and her power-hungry tactics and- with her inherent negative in the general voting public- would stand a good chance of defeating her. However, if Obama wins- with his message of hope and unity- it will make the road much tougher, if not impossible, for the GOP.

    Personally, even though I think his world view would be a disaster, I think Obama is an honorable man and one who would work to reduce bipartisan bickering. Unlike Hillary, he hasn't made his living for decades being a divider.

    The Democrat Party will be so much better off with Obama instead of Clinton; I say that, knowing full well it would NOT be good for my side of the aisle. But maybe stopping this political class warfare has grown more important than either side.

    January 15, 2008 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  18. Denise

    Wow. This is what it must have been like in 1864. Bob Johnson and Charles Rangel remind me of slaves that did not want to leave their master. When Harriet Tubman came to rescue them, they would say, no, the master has been too good to us. How dare you come to try to save us. What is wrong with you. The massa has been good to us. Leave us alone, you uppity negroes.

    Nothing has changed.

    January 15, 2008 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  19. Willi Brace

    Wake up African Americans!

    Obama is your only chance of a black candidate as you call him, getting near the presidency. Stop this technological form of tribalism and be behind him for he is the only one who can make a difference in the race devide in America, unless you want to wait for another 400 years.

    I think the blacks are jealous because he has so much support from the moderate whites, but do you know what they are very smart people. They are tired of this racial devide in the whole world. Stop crying over what happened to your ancestors and start making your life better. I think American blacks are more racist than the whites. I am an African black, but hey you guys even feel too superior than us.

    Apartheid was abolished because blacks and moderate whites were working together. Bob Marley was fighting for injustice through his music but hey he was not pure black.

    January 15, 2008 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  20. B. O.

    How sickening Obama plays his cards. Twist and turns everything Clinton says to make her look really bad, gang up on her in debates, let issues spiral into overblown hype, and THEN pretend to be the noble one and have the audacity to call a truce after things begin backfiring in his face. A lame attempt to make it appear he's innocent in everything. Real honorable.

    If Obama wants to start arguements and debates, he should have the nerve to finish them. If the U.S. gets attacked politcally or physically in the future, is he going to stand up and call a truce, while pretending the U.S. has never done anything to deserve animosity from anyone?

    January 15, 2008 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  21. Matt

    Why is it that this problem, being blamed on Senator Obama by many, seems to keep being perpetuated by supporters of Senator Clinton? I don't seem to be hearing/reading anything more about this from Senator Obama or his supporters, unless they are now asked about THIS comment from a Hillary backer.

    I can only hope that Senator Obama continues to refuse to enter into a back-and-forth "I know you are but what I am" discussion about this topic and remains above such underhanded tactics and politics. This is Bush league (and yes, the pun IS intended) hate politics and it needs to end.

    January 15, 2008 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  22. roger, conway sc

    This is the most sensible article that has been written about this entire race situation, I commend Rangel for his honesty and straight talk. Now he just needs to talk to Donna Brazzelle, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Jim Clyburn, & some of the other black leadership who seem so offended with such petty crap....This is just an example of what it is going to be like if Obama is the nominee or elected president anytime something is said someone is going to be offended and the media is going to spin it forever. I feel that most reasonable white & black people are ready for a black president but the black leadership are not they want to complain & whine to the media for attention and a minute in the lime light. Rangel needs to hit the media talk shows to get the RIGHT message out and stop the spinning.

    January 15, 2008 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  23. colorblind

    this is crazy i thought that having a black man and a white woman running was proof that WE as a country were coming together/ gaining ground .... but as i read these comments i see that we are still a very racially divided country ...... black Vs white ...... and anyone who has been paying attention can tell for themselves who started what ...... its not that hard .... and even a blind man can see that shes playing us against ourselves ...... the old divid and conquer (sp). lets not step back in time people ...... if i was in a burning building or in need of a heart or kidney i would care what color that firefighter was or who gave up the organ ..... i hope for a colorblind world ..... that would be real change ......

    its ez to see who the racist are .... there comment seem to have NO logic at all... im not the smartest but i can even i know better... STOP CLOSET (BLOG) RACISM NOW!!!!!!!

    January 15, 2008 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  24. Cliff,Baltimore MD

    Angie, you def. began your statement by saying " Im an American of African descent..." with that said your opinon is invalid.

    Rangel is a tool, that sold out to get a cabinent position. Mind you this fool wanted to reinstitute the draft. (I wonder where his sons and daughters are?)

    Lets further dwell into the voting record of chump rangel...hmmm even more suspect.

    Jesse and Al before you fade to black please take this character with you.

    Thank God for Obama and Cornell West, they will bring Dr, Kings dream into fruition.

    Obama 08'

    January 15, 2008 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  25. Gerard

    Rangel is being a partisan supporter and going too far with it. If the candidates want to put the stupidity of the past week behind them, then Rangel should shut his mouth about it and move on.

    As for his call for the draft; he never believed the draft would be reinstated. He was trying to make the point that if Bush was being sincere about the war on terror being the defining struggle of this generation, a fight for our very existence. And if we were going to have a doctrine of pre-emption and invade and occupy other nations, then we would need a draft to be able to fight that kind of war effectively. It was actually a very valid point if people could see past the simple minded headlines once in a while.

    January 15, 2008 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
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