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. JMS

    I knew it was only a matter of time until "race" became a focus in this election year.
    It's a sad world when a country as great as the United States can't get past "race" and seems to be wrapped up in the worry over someone's skin color. I wish the Democratic Party would pull together and focus on winning this election.

    I do feel strongly that the Obama campaign has played the "race" card repeatedly. For the love of God there are more issues pressing the world that are more important than the color of a persons skin.

    Hillary Clinton was not wrong in what she stated. Dr. King was a great man, and he did have a heavy influence on the world stage, but the dreams that Dr. King had would NEVER have been made a reality without the support of Johnson signing Dr. Kings dreams into LAW.

    Come on.....get along.....and please do this country the biggest favor you can do. WIN BACK THE WHITEHOUSE. I don't think we as a country can stand anymore time right now with a Republican President. The country has gone to the pooper, and I feel that a Democratic President can fix the 8 years of screw ups this country has endured.

    May the best Man or Woman win!

    January 15, 2008 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  2. Jay

    And the took drugs when he was a youth issue? Come on, scraping the bottom of the barrel. And this talk I have seen about 'did he smoke crack, did he deal drugs' – that's a stereotype against black males playing out right there. Funnily enough, youthful drug taking is neither a rarity in a lot of people's history or in any way limited to black people. I seem to recall the last two presidents having some history of their own with this.

    Obama was truthful about what he did as a kid, telling about finding his way as a youngster and going off down the wrong path for a bit. But I've got a heck of a lot of respect for people who can pull themselves back on the right path and really make something of their lives. Now if you have kids, and they go through a phase like that, would you want them to be written off by others for the rest of their lives? No, of course not.

    January 15, 2008 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  3. ACT

    Charlie Rangel's interpretations are proofs why he has been as hopeless as a Rep for NY.

    As a democrat I was so excited about voting for Hilary when she decided to run, since then Hilary has done nothing but persuade me “not to vote for her” (same old Washington mud-slinging to stay of the real issues). Now she has the attack dogs (Johnson, Rangel) out to further this bickering to alienate democratic voters. Michigan Democrats please rally for Obama; he is the only one who can inspire democrats to mobilize and put our country back on track.

    If Hilary got nominated I am dead certain that I will not vote for her after what Clinton campaign has done for the last four weeks.

    January 15, 2008 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  4. sangliu

    I am glade someone had a clear VISION to see through this muddy game and is brave to go against the hollalla manufactured by Obama campain and his media pundits. They succeeded in blinding lots of the American people (not less powerful then the Carl Rove’s tactical skills) by injecting divisive interpretations of Clinton’s comments (otherwise a straight forward statement) Think, anyone wants to deny Kings contribution is out of his or her mind and it is Not Clinton.

    When Clinton won New Hampshire, many pundit clamed that it is due to race, instead credit New Hampshire vote wining to Clinton’s merit. It did not get too loud, and the Obama campaign succeeded now and had a finger falsely pointed to Clinton.

    January 15, 2008 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  5. Zion

    It is amazing how the Democrats who claim to value the black vote is currently attacking a black candidate. Is the success of a viable black candidate so intimidating that somehow Hillary has to continually throw both race and gender in the public's face? Who is the first person to accuse people of attacking them based on a socioeconomic factor, Hillary? (Oh, I'm a woman, that's why I'm being picked on.) Who cried just to win support in N.H., Hillary? Who thinks that because they were married to a president that somehow that makes her presidential material, Hillary. If this woman is nominated, I will return to the Republican Party. How dare some blacks, such as Sen. Rangel and Bob Johnson from BET jump on her bandwagon. As far as experience goes, remember, Hillary was one of the many votes that got this country in a two-front war that has cost lives and money. Obama voted against the war from the start.

    January 15, 2008 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  6. Tod

    Typical Clintons... spinning everything! How could you ever vote for Hillary... she is so old school politics. This is what we don't need. She is NOT Bill and there will be no return to the "glory days".

    January 15, 2008 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  7. Maya

    Rangel is an absolute chaos magnet. This attack on Obama is without merit and completely unwarranted. Barack did not attack Hillary–he simply made statement about her remark. This guy (Rangel) is coming totally out of left field with hostility that obviously has its roots someplace else. Why in the world is he bringing up the book? All of this chaos is really only going to serve to damage Clinton's campaign more. I'm already sick of hearing about it.

    January 15, 2008 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  8. Anna

    Thank goodness fsomeone has the courage to tell Obama he is out of bounds.
    Someone rein him in before he totally blows the election for Democrats.
    It's clear, if anyone needed the wake up call, that he's in it for himself. He's just as much politics as usual as the next guy.
    Go Charlie!

    January 15, 2008 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  9. Ed

    I haven't decided between the two candidates, but I am baffled as to why a lot of hardcore Republicans (including the Fox News Channel gang) are pushing for Obama to win the Democratic nomination. Are the intentions of these Republicans to vote for Obama in the general elections? Or is there another motive for their support of a democrat in the Primaries?

    January 15, 2008 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  10. ge jones

    Rangel's remarks are in poor taste at best
    what has hillary clinton promised all of these so called leaders of the black community that they feel obligated to come to her defense....i hope it is more comming than came from her husband (Bill) who got the better of the deal in his relationship with the black community....and why did't they feel a need to come forth and tell Iowa and New Hamshire....what should be the thought for today which is 90+per cent white.....let the democratic process proceed....or are they under the illusion that THEY know more than the people.....

    Gerald e. Jones
    former city councilman 7th ward Chgo

    p.s. i just happened to be born black

    January 15, 2008 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  11. Mario

    Rangel, you want your name in the news...again, you support Hitlery and sick Billy, your out of your mind. Obuma never did anything wrong or said what the creepy Clinton's said, the Clinton's will always shoot there mouths off and point fingers at Obuma because he isn't affraid of the idiots.

    If anything the Clinton's keep playing the race card, so wake up America!

    Go Obuma!

    January 15, 2008 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  12. bobo

    we here in Africa have experienced the art of divide and rule and am surprised black folks in America have not yet woken up to what the Clitons are up to.

    January 15, 2008 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  13. Vasco Da Silva

    Hillary Clinton and her supporters should be ashamed of themselves. They start these attacks and then try to spin it so its the other side that looks guilty. I hope that for the sake of our country Barack Obama becomes President. We need a fresh perspective completely from the outside. There is no candidate that can give us more hope than Barack Obama and hope is a very strong thing.

    January 15, 2008 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  14. tuna

    Barak said in a speech that the President must have the people charged and involved in order to make real change. They go hand in hand. LBJ did in fact sign the Civil Rights Act which was NOT popular at the time. You had the movement and the president – hand in hand. I don't see anything wrong with the statement Hilllary made ... the movement would have continued but it was the signing of law that pushed it forward – hand in hand.

    Don't forget, Hillary worked for civil rights for a long time .. even the protests against the Vietnam war were fueled by the fact that the poor and disenfranchised were the ones going. She left the ways of (her father's) Republican party and became a Democrat. She is part of the movement that made it possible for Barack to actually stand a chance in this racist country.

    Can you imagine ... what it feels for her to not be voting for the first viable African American presidentail candidate after all her hard work? Or for Barack what it feels like not to stand behind a woman after suppporting women's rights? And then there was Richardson ... a Hispanic who has accomplished so much in New Mexico. I find it all very interesting.

    January 15, 2008 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  15. Pat

    let's respond by getting out the vote for Barack...this is text book Clinton machine...the typical Clinton dirty polarizing politics....we do not want this to continue and the only way to move forward is to throw the Clinton garbage out of Washington....Yes We Can!!!

    January 15, 2008 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  16. Robert Zuckschwerdt

    I have to agree with Hillary, I haven't seen Obama marching in the streets to help blacks like Martin Luther King Jr. did, he doesn't strike me as a leader for the people like his predecessors, maybe it's his schooling in Muslim schools in his early years!

    January 15, 2008 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  17. vincie



    January 15, 2008 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  18. Ron

    Mr. Obama has consistently talked about JUDGMENT, having the power of discerning and judging properly as to what is true or right, well in this case his JUDGMENT was flawed. The wisest thing he could have said when anyone asked him to comment on what the Clintons said was to say “I have no comment, I want to discuss the issues that are affecting the American public”. But that’s now what he said he had to fuel the flames of division. THAT’S NOT GOOD JUDGMENT.

    January 15, 2008 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  19. Mike G

    What a spin. How does Hilary end up blaming Obama for something that she instigated and said. Those words came out of her mouth and Obamas comment didn't fan anything. They were quite vanilla to say the least. He could have went on a tirade about her comments especially considering that MLK day is coming up. But he didn't. Very poised and classy while the Clintons are on the defense again for something that they generated. Interesting. Rangel, is a joke. In fact, the more goons that keep coming to the Clintons rescue the worst. Don't they know the that African-Americans don't have any love for Rangel or Bob Johnson? Those two clowns make her defense less credible by the second!

    January 15, 2008 09:59 am at 9:59 am |

    Congressman Rangel is right. Obama is wrong by playing the race card which am sure is back firing already.

    January 15, 2008 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  21. Jon, Memphis TN

    Go Rangel – good to defend Mrs. Clinton. The Obama campaign twisted her statement from Day One. She never belittled Dr. King's leadership, just said that with LBJ, the Civil Rights Act would not have been signed into law. Obama then tried to take advantage of that statement. OBAMA is the person making race an issue. Shame on him.

    January 15, 2008 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  22. Benny Lava

    I am now at the point where there is nothing that could by said by or on behalf of the Clintons that I could ever believe.

    January 15, 2008 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  23. Craig Finnegan

    I like this Rangel guy. I'm already disgusted by the race angle played by the Obama camp, and played so obviously that every American of every color should take offense at it. My father was a well-loved guidance counselor for inner city kids, and I studied and traveled in Africa for years, but I can't stand Obama, and it has nothing to do with the fact that he's not the same color as me....it's that he's a daydreamer and spin-artist with the possibility of being as disastrous a leader as Bush has been....only not as an aggressor but as a sucker, with his head in the clouds whereas Bush's has been in the dirt. Ironically, Obama has the very opposite personality traits I admire most African-Americans for, who I usually see as both arch-realists and straight-talkers (versus pseudo-lofty smooth-talkers like Obama). So my take on the knee-jerk support that so many African-Americans are giving Obama is that (to compound the irony) they're doing themselves a great disservice, because, if he's elected, his character weaknesses and the future failures we're all going to have to suffer as a result of those weaknesses are going to backfire on African-American pride.

    January 15, 2008 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  24. Fayth

    Im so happy that Hillary is leading the polls… Obama is a fine man and a Great speaker, But I really belive that the right wants Him to win Thats scary….. Think about it…. besides Me and many others miss those 90's it was the first time me and my husband were ever able to put money in stocks… we have Been closing CD's and retirement funds just to keep our homes and credit cards… I'm sick of this … Im running out of monies to get us above water… im just grateful we had it to help us many dont and thats a shame… GO HIILLARY GO

    January 15, 2008 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  25. SM

    Rangel has the eloquence of our current president. Clinton's comment gave LBJ more credit than MLK, and Obama was right to call her out on it. Rangel is a sellout.

    January 15, 2008 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
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