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. Joe Whittington

    The democratic party machine is obviously afraid of Obama. I wonder why?

    January 15, 2008 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  2. jerry

    Poor Obama.... The Clinton machine is working him over quite nicely with old dixiecrat political antics they learned back in Arkansas. The Hillbilly Clintons are back. Petty comments made by back biting democrats are pushing me into the McCain column.

    January 15, 2008 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  3. Adam Walker

    The number of misinformed people commenting here is absolutely staggering. Three points:
    1. What Obama said WAS stupid. And yes, it was calculated, purely and simply, to inject race into the debate. Perhaps Clinton would have been wiser to compare JFK (who failed to succeed in passing major civil rights legislation) and LBJ, but the comparison is apt either way. I am NOT planning on voting for Clinton in the primaries for myriad reasons, but calling this particular bit of race-baiting HER issue rather an Obama's is either willfully disingenuous or just plain ignorant. Guys, it's okay to support Obama- I like him, too. But that doesn't mean absolving yourself of the burden of critical thinking when it comes to your man.

    2. Charles Rangel is a public figure, and, as a politician, he seeks ways to be relevant. So he comments on things he considers qualified to comment on. I suspect that as a high-ranking, well-respected, and black congressman he felt that this was the sort of thing he should weigh in on. Whether you agree with his statement, (or his desire to make a statement), or not, it is absurd to then pass the "blame" for it back to Clinton.

    3. The most egregious misstatements so far have been about Rangel's support for the draft. Clearly "draft" has become a buzzword and few people here have bothered to find out WHY he supports the draft.

    Rangel is the exact opposite of a "war-monger" as some people have called him. He has repeatedly outlined his reasons for supporting the draft, and many reputable and thoughtful people on both the Left and Right agree with them. The draft is the single most effective method we have to PREVENT unenecessary wars like our little "adventure" in Iraq. An all-volunteer force is, by definition, largely made up of lower-income youths who pursue that career either for the financial and educational incentives or, in some sad cases, because they ultimately enjoy the idea of being allowed to commit violent acts. With a draft (and it would have to be a FAIR one that included gays, women, and rich people, which may make the idea ultimately unworkable), upper- and middle-class families would actually have a stake in any war that were proposed, making them far more likely to question the motivations for any such war.

    If The Iraq war had been started while a draft was underway, the level of protest in the streets would be at Viet Nam levels today, rather than what passes for "outcry" today. And if Senators and Congressmen actually KNEW family members who were serving (and nearly all of them do NOT), they might be a little less willing to shed their family's blood then their own. Agree with it or not, but calling Rangel's support of a draft "warmongering" is absolutely the most absurd and ill-informed thing I've read today.

    January 15, 2008 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  4. farid shakur

    let me say to anyone who has a mind which operates clearly, you have the nerve to approach Barack Obama about any !!!!! thing about his pass about drugs or his thoughts and opinions on statements made by a person who has existed in an atmosphere in their life where freedom and equality and favor and security and respect and education easiness and travel and can you continue in this vain because i'm exhausted, could exist and try to suggest his stature as low you and those like you are the reasons there is a disdain for the actual existence this country exists and why danger is all around america. Most humans who have existed in this country may have committed acts that wouldn't allow them to be put in charge of anything this includes you & i so for all the focus on what congress members or senators or billionaires inject tell them to wipe their own !!!! because it stinks also!

    January 15, 2008 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  5. Anonymous

    The utter gall for you people to be blaming Obama for this is beyond incredibile.

    Billyboy along with MANY surrogates drop intentional bombs out there for WEEKS and that mean old Obama has the nerve to speak out and the "SHE" comes out from the shadows and claims that Obama is misquoting Bill or misleading the voters.

    Obama is trying to be above this and actually called for it to stop, but Clinton cabinet hopeful Rangel continues the dialogue.

    All of that kindler and gentler campaign stops along with tears and smears is part of the campaigns goal to split Democrats along gender and racial lines and it is working in her favor as there are more women and whites and she wants their votes.

    Anyone with half a brain could see this, but you blinded Clintionista's can't.

    Yesterday afternoon CNN had a panel on and they were all Democrats and 3 of them said that this internal bickering from both campains should stop and only one had the seeds to say wait a minute, she created this mess along with her stooges and Obama finally says something and it's somehow BOTH campaigns???

    Thank you Jack Cafferty for adding some sense of reason to the conversation.

    I can see you sheep believing this, but many in the media as well?

    Bottom line is the Clinton's got what they wanted and is this what you people want AGAIN FOR FOUR MORE YEARS???????

    January 15, 2008 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  6. Rob

    I'm going to laugh in all you Obama supporters face if he wins the nomination and then is defeated by the Republican and we have another 8 years of this crap. Just because YOU, Democrat's like him, Doesn't mean Republicans will like him. All this race card play he is doing, and by doing it I mean bit speaking up sooner to end it, is going to leave a nasty vibe with the rest of Americans looking on. He will NEVER win the election. He really messed up with this. He should have spoke up and when the congressman form SC released a statement, he should have released his own like the one he released yesterday. You supporters of him are making a BIG mistake!!!

    January 15, 2008 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  7. DR

    Actually Congressman Rangel is smart guy. Many people criticize him because of his stand on the DRAFT without understanding the reasons behind it.

    The war today is fought on poor African Americans back and no one cares. Rangel is correct, if there is a draft and the wealthy kids are put in harms way, there will be protests in University Campuses just like during Vietnam. It is very brave and patriotic of rich kids to sit safely at home while the less fortunate is fighting the war.

    Everyone taking Hilary Clintons comment as racist is stupid just like Rangel said. Go read the article, It Took a Partnership by Joseph A. Califano Jr. It might enlighten you a bit.

    January 15, 2008 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  8. An American

    I'm with you Jessica! Nicely said. I think Obama and his "machine" are trying to turn this into to a race issue. What better way to gain the "black" vote? Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Senator Obama half white and wasn't he raised by his white relatives and not his black Father from Kenya? Who supported him? Apparently they did something right as he has achieved a great deal in his life. He certainly is a great family man, educated and an eloquent speaker. Why doesn't he ever mention these facts? It's because he is the "black" candidate. This is his position...The First "Black" President for "CHANGE". What does that mean exactly?

    Can you imagine what would happen in this country if any of the other candidates asked for the "white" vote?

    We should all be offended since we have huge issues that need to be addressed. The economy, the war, health insurance, immigration, terror threats just to name a few. That should keep the candidates busy.

    I was so very impressed with him at the last Democratic Convention. That's changed.

    January 15, 2008 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  9. BD

    Forget politics. Forget who said what. Vote for the candidate who stands by their beliefs. If their beliefs are in line, everything else will fall into place and no one can shake them. Vote for Huckabee.

    January 15, 2008 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  10. Wayne, Greenville TX

    Evan Tribley Columbus, OH January 14, 2008 10:08 pm ET

    This is the same Charlie Rangel who desperately wants to reintroduce the draft.

    This guy is stupid.

    Actually, the only reason Charlie Rangel wanted to reinstitute the draft was so that ALL American families would be exposed to military service – not just the poor and minorities who are overrepresented in our Armed Services. If the chickenhawks out there knew that they could be watching their OWN children go off to die needlessly, maybe they's be less inclined to support illegal wars, like Bush's invasion of Iraq.

    And the only people ouot there who are stupid are those who still support George W. Bush.

    January 15, 2008 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  11. Tyler

    Rangel introduced the draft as a means to ending the disproportionate number of poor serving in the military. He was using it merely as a tool to create a debate and meaningful dialogue. Something obviously most of you are incapable of doing. The rhetoric and divisiveness in the Democratic Party has become ugly. What is this message of Hope? Reading these comments and diatribes gives me very little comfort and Hope for our country and our party.

    January 15, 2008 09:38 am at 9:38 am |

    I think the Obama Clintons saga should end now due to the facct that some prominent African Americans are loosing respect for blindly supporting Clintons on national TVs for their own political gains at the expense of young blackmen like me.

    January 15, 2008 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  13. Universal Citizen

    I thought Congressmen (and Congresswomen) were "honorable" people who not only represented their constituents and this great country, but also exuded some measure of moral authority.

    For someone of Congressman Rangel's stature to use profanity on a potential president or anybody for that matter is below the stoop. My goodness, what has happened to this good country? Can't we disagree to agree without spilling blood? A supposedly "elder" statesman like Congressman Rangel missed a unique opportunity to show class by bringing the two sides together quickly in resolving what to me seemed like a minute trivialty with monumental consequences for both campaigns and indeed for the Democratic Party.

    No wonder this great country is bleeding like this. Because people who profess to be leaders don't know their backs from their fronts. For a congressman to display such inability to engage intellectually without the use of vulgarity bespeaks volumes. No wonder they are afraid of change.

    Change is what we need in these great United States of America! Change in our thinking; change in the manner in which we deal with one another; change in our overall attitude; change in the manner of men and women we send to Washington DC to represent us and spend our hard-earned money.

    Change people, Real Change! This country needs some purging! ugh!

    January 15, 2008 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  14. RJ

    Personally, I hope Hillary continues to say it like it is - forget the nicy, nicy "change" rhetoric - it's beginning to make me sick. Anybody can make fancy speeches about "change." It's GETTING CHANGE IMPLEMENTED that matters. And that, for better or worse, takes a seasoned politician - yes, a politician - one who understands how the government in Washington works (and has worked for hundreds of years and will continue to work). It takes EXPERIENCE within that arena - the give and take, the negotiations, the consensus building. And that takes knowing and having worked with leaders in the executive and legislative branches. And it takes the clout of EXPERIENCE when dealing with rogue nations around the world, or bringing back respect for the American presidency by other nations. It takes EXPERIENCE to break the grasp by HMOs and managed care proponents, who make billions by curtailing basic healthcare for all Americans (and even "screw" their own insured). Those billions could easily pay for a national health care program. And, yes, it takes the daring dreamer such as Martin Luther King, as well as the daring EXPERIENCED politician such as LB Johnson, to make the Civil Rights Act a reality. It takes someone like Hillary Clinton! I just hope that, when Democrats finally find themselves face to face with that ballot, they'll put all the rhetoric aside and remember the basics.

    January 15, 2008 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  15. Susan Texas

    This back and forth is just what the Republicans want. I am a Clinton supporter. I believe she is our best choice. I was all ready to vote for Obama if he got the nomination, now there is no way I will. If he gets it, I'll vote Independent. I will never vote Republican, that goes against everything I believe in.

    January 15, 2008 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  16. Tina

    We better WAKE UP and start talking about the issues. The democrats need to take back control of the White House. It won't happen if we let "them" make us fight each other. The whole thing has turned stupid and makes you shake your head that we keep falling in the same traps. Obama and Hillary are good people; so lets keep our eyes on the prize; but remember the end does not always justify the means. GOD help us all.

    January 15, 2008 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  17. Denise

    I am a Black American and I have lost respect for the Clinton's..There was a truce that was called by both candidate's. Many do not know that at the Time that Barack was making his statement about Truce that Ragel was at the same moment slamming him.. Hilary should have straightened it out when she made her statement.. How can she control the country when she cannot even control the people who are supposed to be on her side and helping her?

    This is not good for her and as for Ragel; a man who wanted to Induce the Draft? Well that says it all right there..

    For those who say Obama has turned this thing to race? Tell me when he made a statement distorting the facts? He has not even commented on the subject of race. How many times has he had to apologize for someone on his staff who has stuck their foot in their mouth? How many times has The Obama campaign had to send out Memo's re-explain what they meant in certain statement? The statement she made was ill-advised... And lets not even go there with Bob Johnson who has just flat out lied...

    In short, the Clinton Campaign has made a lot of mistakes and its just the beginnging on the primary. Is this what we can expect from them; making statement and then retracting them... Barack atleast has those who support him under control you can't say that about the Clinton campaign, especially her husband.

    January 15, 2008 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  18. nihal, switzerland

    I think CNN is doing more to heat up this situation than the persons quoted, by giving so much prominence to stupid remarks such as this one, by Rangel. We know who's side you are on – still, shame on you!

    January 15, 2008 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  19. north

    Here we go again the same old fights the same old politics. Nothing is changing. The world is going down the drain and we still play political he said she said. The dems should lose this election. They are sounding like the same old tired leaders that would rather fight each other than deal with an issue and fix it. I am not voting for either one, canada here i come.

    January 15, 2008 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  20. Mike, Fort Washington, MD

    What have the Clinton's done for the Black community???? You people act like they solved all the problems in the Black community. What problems have they solved. Someone please let me know now!!!!

    January 15, 2008 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  21. Scott the Keeper (atl06)

    I'm ashamed of our "so-called" black leaders... They've been on the Plantation for so long, that they have the "If Massa sick, den we sick too..." Mentality. I'm glad to be a free thinker who doesn't let the media pick who my leaders should be. If so, I'd probably be following the rest of the cattle into believing that Barack Obama can't lead this country.

    One truism about racism... It's taught us not to believe that we can do/deserve any better... It has intrenched in us, that "crabs-in-a-barrel" mentality. Pavlov would be proud... We finally get the leash taken off, and we're still scared to leave the yard...lol

    I hate that race has even been brought into this debate. If I were Obama, I would stand up and say, "While I would never minimize the racial pride that some have in this country, nor could I ever discourage the racial prejudices that other's have... I'm going to say, right here and now, that I aknowledge both of those truths, but I believe that I can be above those snares and win the democratic nomination based soley on the merits of my platform. I can CHANGE the direction of this country for the better, inspite of the attempts to drag me into an un-win-able quagmire that just distracts us from the real issues of our time. I'm saying that both because of, and in spite of race, I'm still the best man for the job..."

    Don't get in the mud with pigs, they like it there... This whole debate is starting to sound like Tom Cruise in the "Jerry Mcquire" movie... Everybody's running around talking about, "I LOOOOVVEEE BLACK PEOPLLLLLLLE...." Please... Spare me...

    January 15, 2008 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  22. PJ, NEW YORK

    I COULD NOT AGREE MORE with the statement above by Marko Dezdri in Portland, OR, he said:

    "Hillary has a plan, Obama has words, Hillary has experience, Obama has words, Hillary has the guts, Obama has words, Hillary is tough, Obama just uses words."
    "We need action people, not a talker."

    Way to go Marko! My co-workers and I have daily discussions on politics every day. Most of them are starting to understand what I have been saying about OBAMA from the start. The Democrats are making a huge mistake by backing him, turning him into this 'rock star'. OBAMA has had a free ride on the media train for far too long. If he doesn't derail before winning the nomination, just wait until one of the more seasoned Republican's get a hold of him, they'll eat him alive. Hillary Clinton has survived ALL of the Republican attacks over the last 16 years and she's proved she's a survivor. She's the only Democrat who can win the White House in November. Don't make a mistake and hand the election over to another Republican. I'm so tired of hearing from the OBAMA campaign, hope/unity/change! This country is facing some very difficult issues/times right now. We need someone who will take action, not just talk. This isn't American Idol it's the future of our country we're talking about!

    People, please read the whole story, not just the headline that CNN puts on the TV or their website. The Clinton's are not racists.

    January 15, 2008 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  23. Butch Dillon

    It is beyond amazing that Congressman Rangel would even consider adding fuel to a dying fire. Team Clinton cannot shed the ugliness of her campaign. She appears to live in a bubble one might have imagined reserved for the likes of a Bush. The Clinton machine is all about Clinton, not the nation, not the people, not the government.....just Clinton. If destiny finds her on the democratic side of the November ticket, McCain is going to look very appealing to a large number of democrats and independents.

    January 15, 2008 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  24. lisa

    The problem with this election.....too much talk!! Charisma does not make a President! Color and gender does not make a Presiden! Qualifications make a President!! Who will do the best for our country. Who will protect us the best. And countless other problems that we haven't even begun to discuss because we are to busy discussing who is the best speaker. No offense to Obama, but that is all you hear about. SHAME on the media. They are suppose to be IMPARTIAL. They are part of the problem. They have created the problem.

    Let's get to the issues at hand, so we do not continue to be the LAUGHED at by the rest of the world. Obviously we are no longer feared. They have most of our jobs.

    Let's take back the election for all of our sakes, AND BASE IT ON THE ISSUES AND ONLY THE ISSUES! THIS IS NOT A POPULARITY CONTEST!

    January 15, 2008 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  25. jason smith

    I am from New York State and all of our politicians here are stupid....Hillary doesn't get a pass just because she deserted AK and came here to run for Senate as a political strategy....she is not a New Yorker, she is an embarassment, nobody asked her to come, and she can go back to Little Rock...

    January 15, 2008 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
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