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. Tara G.

    A letter to Charles Rangel and Bob Johnson:


    As I listen to your comments and opinions, I am reminded of the legend of slave owner Willie Lynch. He created a system to control his slaves and shared this knowledge with fellow slave owners. One important component was to take one or two slaves, give them better clothes, food, and living quarters, and make them slave overseers. This step would ensure the other slaves would comply without their masters working any harder than they had to, create divisions within the culture, and give false hope to the slave overseers themselves. Mr. Lynch's theory was to manipulate, dominate, and control their biggest commodity, their slaves. And, it worked like a charm. It seems by your recent actions this destructive and demoralizing tradition still goes on today.

    Obama '08

    January 15, 2008 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  2. California voter

    OK Cllinton is a woman and Obama is a black man. Neither candidate can change those facts. Playing up the real or perceived slights from either side regarding those facts does nothing to help the Democrats, it's only playing to the opposition party. My hope is that once South Carolina has voted all of this will take a back burner and those news media will do their part and focus on the issues.

    January 15, 2008 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  3. Vince

    Joey: Just got back and saw your comment. Off the top of my head I can cite one instance where Obama fanned the flames of racism. It was where he said he didn`t think Clinton was racist and in the next breath he says that she made some unfortunate comment about MLK which seemed to diminish the role he played in the civil rights movement. [I`m not quoting exactly.] It was kinda subdued but the implication was there that Hilliary was racist. He either didn`t understand what she said or deliberately misrepresented her meaning. If you look for them I`m sure you`ll find many more of these subtle "misrepresentations" coming from the Obama camp.

    January 15, 2008 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  4. Pat Huntington NY

    I absolutely agree with the Congressman. Obama's campaign twisted an otherwise inoccuous observation by Clinton, into a race-charged belittlement of MLK. Please. Anyone with half a brain that would think that Hillary doesn't know, appreciate, and honor the work of Dr. King, is, in the Congressman's words, stupid. And, her comments are 100% correct, and appropriate when you have Obama comparing himself to Kennedy and MLK. Yes, MLK made numerous inspirational speeches, much like Obama is doing today. BUT...unlike Obama, MLK put action, deeds, and his life behind his words. And yes, it is totally appropriate to note that but for old man president, LBJ, the legislative product of MLK's work, would not have come to fruition. Saying that does not, by any means, demean his work. If anything, it's a direct example of the success of MLK's work, and the reality that his dream was starting to come true!

    So, the final word I have to say on this...is that continuing this argument does nothing to help either candidate. Instead, it just tears the Democratic Party apart. So Stop It! Can't we all just get along?

    January 15, 2008 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  5. michael

    Criminy, here's that "destroy the party" meme again. Why don't you people get a clue? This is what primaries are about - candidates slug it out until there's only one left standing. Then they all have a drink and a laugh (probably at your expense) and go home.

    Rangel is right. During the summer and early Fall, there was much print expended over the fact that support for Obama was weak in the black community, with many blacks professing to not see him "as one of them." Of course, in that circumstance, it is to his advantage to "play the race card." It seems to be working.

    The fact that Hillary Clinton is not a quitter seems to be offputting for the Obama-bots. She actually fights back! How un-feminine! All I can say is, deal with it.

    As for those who say they'd rather see Huckabee as president than Clinton .. well, that seems to be the kind of deep political insight associated with Obama followers. We can only hope the candidate (1) is not the last one standing and (2) has more on the ball than his followers.



    January 15, 2008 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  6. Tomy Tutone

    Yep, Rangel's right. When I first heard of this hub-bub I thought Senator Clinton is right. MLK couldn't have signed the act into law – only the president can do that. When looking at all of Sen. Clinton's remarks in context, she didn't say anything racist whatsoever. So, like every other thing said by Sen. Clinton, it's either completely taken out of context by the republidiots and democratic rivals or completely misconstrued to mean something else. The moronic republicans would rather hear one of their candidates blabber on about non-issues (gay marriage, for example) or just one issue (for Thompson, its gun control; for Giuliani is 9/11). I'm beginning to think that republicans aren't comfortable unless they are scared about something (afraid of gays, muslims, blacks, government, etc...) Attention all republicans: the government is not going to take your guns away – don't worry. You will also not be cornered and ravaged by a street gang of gays at the end of a dark alley either. In fact, the gays I know that are raising children are doing a much better job than MANY heterosexual couples I know. As FDR once stated, "there is nothing to fear but fear itself." Get over it and lets start concentrating on the real issues affecting the lives of our citizenry.

    January 15, 2008 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  7. Johnson Blah

    I think everyone is blowing this way out of proportion. It was Hillary Clinton who started by saying that MLK alone could not get anything done and that he needed the strength of a president to do something about it. Now to me that sounds like Clinton is downplaying what MLK has done by saying that by himself change could not have happned. I'm not saying that it couldn't have but why in the WORLD would u bring something like that up?
    Obama never ONCE said that MLK alone could have done everything. All he said that what Clinton had stated diminishes what MLK had actually done..which is entirely true if you listen to what Clinton said.

    January 15, 2008 09:51 am at 9:51 am |

    Lets set the record straight, this began when Hillary suggested that Barack Obama was comparing himself to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and President Kennedy (he was not by the way)

    Sen. Obama made reference to these two giants in order to emphasize a point, Hillary intentially mischaracterized his comments, besides she is constantly taking credit for successes in Bill Clinton's administration, was Hillary Vice President or Secretary Of State she's got a lot of nerve.

    If she wins the nomination using these tactics it will be a pyrrhic victory because I as well as many others will not vote for Hillary.

    New York City For Barack all the way!!!

    January 15, 2008 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  9. Dave

    Rep. Rangel is just one of a series of Affrican American who has allowed themselves to be trotted out and told to attack Obama in an effort to divide the South Carolina African American vote. The "Billary " camp has injected race into this campaign in order to siphon off Obama's support from the white community.

    January 15, 2008 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  10. A voter in time

    Will the Clinton Hate machine ever stop! i'm so disgusted with them it.

    January 15, 2008 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  11. John, Lubbock, Texas

    Are all politicians the same? Of course, the head of BET was making an underhanded comment about Obama's drug use–anyone could see that. Neither Bill nor Hillary would call him on it. And, of course, when I read what Hillary had said about Johnson and King, there was nothing in it that would lead me to believe that Johnson was getting the lion's share of the credit for civil rights changes. That was nothing for Obama to make a big deal over.

    Pathetic. Hey, I'm voting Democratic, regardless, but this petty bickering is really disillusioning. Get back to the issues and a positive vision for the future!!!

    January 15, 2008 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  12. Donah LPdGC

    the trouble with America......
    there are too many dumbos....
    allowed to post their bloggs.....
    Why don't you all just shut up and let the ones... not YOU (!!) who have the means and the experience and the college degrees and the brains (again not YOU !!) to steer our country back to where it was once before GWB.... if you are evangelical.... fine .... but don't load me up with that crap.... Donah !!

    January 15, 2008 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  13. Cyndi

    Clinton is on the defensive. Obama has always been above her petty games. Why is she desperate after she won NH? It's bafffling.

    Obama called her remark "unfortunate."

    Tell the truth. I'm beginning to see why people don't like Clinton.

    January 15, 2008 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  14. E. C., Houston, Texas

    Rangel is absolutely correct, and this is the ONLY time that I ever have or would ever agree with him on any point. Obama was just 'waiting' to use the word, it was just a matter of time until he 'could.' For Shame on Obama...who declares to be so 'high and mighty above it all'..........

    January 15, 2008 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  15. ahna,WI

    I personally almost fell over when I saw Hillary Clinton with her hand over her heart saying the Pledge of Allegiance along with everyone BUT OBama. And he wants to be our Commander and Chief? Yes, everyone is entitled to their beliefs but this is OUR flag!!! I am appauled!! Now Obama is talking out of his butt about Hillary's remarks. Obama you're looking more pathetic every day!! I use to back you but not anymore.

    January 15, 2008 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  16. Juan

    I also feel the need to tell the world in some manner that these aging relics from a time past do not speak for the entire African-American community.

    January 15, 2008 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  17. Marcus

    I am so tired of the potential candidates, all of them, showing disrespect for their opponents. What I need to hear is what they have done to improve our country and our government and what they plan to do if elected President.

    January 15, 2008 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  18. jason smith

    Hillary supports laws which look good on paper, but which in effect do not help businesses or struggling farmers in the Upstate region....the news in general insults people and says poor people and uneducated people vote for Hillary....yet Hillary would produce more of the same rhetoric without results.....if you want to stay poor, vote for Hillary, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy.....

    Remember, if you want to talk about "fairy tales", Bill is not running, it is not a "fairy tale" he was impeached, it is reality.....

    Charles Rangel is just a race-spewing politician who depends on stoking the fire, insulting blacks, whites, whoever will listen to him....otherwise nobody else would even know who he is, is he going to be on HIllary's staff in charge of race relations????

    True; Dems are hurting themselves, but Hillary starts tearing up in a campaign, which is embarassing, people fall for it, which is even more embarassing, flip flops on issues, starts some racial talk intentionally to take away from real issues, then tries to spin it, it feels like Bush is running again.....and being from NY State, it is very insulting to everybody here who (while not as rich as somebody working on Wall St. in NYC) considers themselves intelligent nonetheless.....

    That anybody from this state would run with these deceitful, immoral tactics...and give Republicans an edge on morality or straight talk, like McCain, especially if you are a Democrat....somebody needs to ask Hillary exactly how is her behavior and remarks supposed to unite people??? Is she that desperate for the nomination that she would lash out at other Dems, effectively destroying our chance for change in this country (which, polls indicate, includes about everybody as the major issue)???? Is she upset her previous slogan didn't work, now she has to change, but the problem is, she does not reflect change in her attitude or by running a mud-slinging campaign.....just like Bush, if anybody attacks her, they are not "fair", just like anybody who attacked Bush is not a "patriot"....I see very similar tactics.....

    January 15, 2008 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  19. anonymous

    Is Rangel mentally slow? - a non- critcal thinking african-american? How does he get that from what Obama said? Seriously, I wonder what position in the white house/cabinet Clintion offered him if she wins.....in order to say make that a public statement.

    All this means is that Clinton's spin doctors are VERY afraid of Obama.

    January 15, 2008 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  20. Cliff Vegas, Los Angeles CA

    And by the way... criticizing Rangel's draft proposal will not earn anybody points with Obama or anybody else who cares about real, substantive issue. A few years back, Rangel and others proffered a suggestion that the draft should be restored because some believe that it would be far fairer than our present system.

    A lot of poor inner city kids are pulled into the military because they have very few options to lead productive lives. To escape the gangs and drugs, they enlist hoping that the service will give them skills and experiences that will make them employable later. And usually this is the case. But in times of war however, national stats show that our present military burden is shouldered by a disproportional number of African-Americans and Latinos – most of them from poor families.

    January 15, 2008 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  21. Bev

    Who's STUPID......You all are. Do you not remember the statement in the papers that Mr. Rove made to Obama. "I'll show you how to beat the Clinton's" Pretty slick. My vote goes to Hillary Clinton. And you should pay attention.

    January 15, 2008 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  22. ryan from philly

    I completely support Hillary. Her opponents are pulling at any thread they can because they know she is the most electable and experienced candidate. She is by far the most qualified person for the job, so the media and Obama will misinterpret her every word in an attempt to derail her campaign. As far as race, no other candidate in this race has been more supportive of minorities than Hillary. She has the track record to prove her successes. Obama, on the other hand, has absolutely no track record. Therefore, if he receives the nomination, we will certainly have another Republican president. He is unelectable! Middle-America will not vote for a black, former Muslim president with absolutely no experience. It's unfortunate, but that's the way a very large portion of the country thinks.

    January 15, 2008 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  23. Elaine

    Congressman Rangel,
    Careful who you sleep with you just may get fleas!

    January 15, 2008 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  24. Iraq Vet

    Yep "Dumb" and "Stupid" are the exact kind of words I want to hear from a distinguished senior Congressman. You're a class act Mr. Rangel. Thanks for dragging this further into the gutter.

    January 15, 2008 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  25. Derek Miami, FL

    This is such an immature thing to say. Hillary would do anything to get the nomination. First I was disappointed in her then her husband Bill. Now I am disappointed in everyone else who surrounds her.

    Senator Obama is very intellengent. With God's grace he will be the only one who will bring up the country out of a black hole. Definitely NOT Hillary!

    January 15, 2008 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
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