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. Rob

    Hey Vince,

    Since you didn't quote "exactly", go back and see Obama's FULL message. He said that she downplayed the role MLK played in the sense that it takes a Washington politician to get things done and grassroots efforts OUTSIDE of Washington carries little weight. THAT was Obama's response. There was NO accusations of racism in that response. It was about PROCESS. Please get informed. sheeeeessh!

    January 15, 2008 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  2. Clifford Leon

    I have great respect for Congressman Rangle, but I must say that his comments are profoundly disappointing. He shows a lack of discretion and restraint by his unbridled rebuke of Senator Obama. Clearly, Sen. Obama must conclude that while his very candidacy is history making because he has a real chance of being selected as the democratic Party's candidate, he must also allow for the reality that the true political process must be able to embrace the idea that an African-American public figure can oppose another African-American's political asparations.
    That being acknowledged it is still sad that an African-American Congressman would feel comfortable using demeaning vocabulary – namely "stupid." Any elementary student would have been aware of the gravity of using the word "Stupid." Anyone hearing that word knows immediately that the author's use of stupid was meant to inflict damage and not simply point out the lack of information (i.e. the definition of ignorant). Congressman Rangle could have and should have been more concerned about the gross disrespect communicated when an AA congressman uses unambigiously derrogative vocabulary about another AA politician. Race should not be a factor but it is. And the AA community can ill afford to swim naively in political waters attacking other AA members without restraint and laboring under the presumption that the political arena is a level playiing field. Congressman Rangle should show us the dignity and respect he both demands and expects from others. For AA political aspirants pork barrels are not the only variety of barrels in need of destruction. Congressman Rangle criticize all you want to, support whom you will but stop dissin' a brother.

    January 15, 2008 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  3. Vera Jones

    Charlie Rangel, if you could stop bowing and kissing Clinton's "papal ring", maybe...just maybe you would come to realize that we no longer have to live on the plantation. If all African-Americans had your mindset...we would still be sitting in the back of the bus. We realize that you and Johnson love your massa and missus, but do try to control yourself in public.

    January 15, 2008 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  4. Chris Christian

    I had lost my interest in politics because of the many years of lies and deception by the Bush Administration. I listened to Obama's concession speech after his loss to Hillary in N.H. and my interest was rekindled. i found myself chanting along with the crown in N.H. "Yes we can!" He is truly a source of inspiration. With my eyes filled with tears I promised I would register as an Independent and vote for this man. The country needs someone with his vision and charisma. I am very ashamed of Mr. Rangel and his comments. There are no words to express how embarassed I am for him. My only conclusion is that jealousy and envy seems to have overtaken him and the unwarranted vitriolic nature of his comments truly paint him as crass.

    January 15, 2008 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  5. Al, Los Angeles, CA

    Anyone who's been watching the Clinton-Rangel relationship knows he's been hanging off her tit for years. He's been waiting for her to get in the whitehouse to collect.

    Inflamatory rhetoric like this shows Roland Martin is correct. The Clintons want 'race' in this campaign so that it scare white voters away from Obama.

    January 15, 2008 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  6. Janice

    If everyone would start listening to the candidates and not the news we'd all be in a much better place. I believe there is a democratic debate tonight. Watch it and listen with an open heart and mind. Quit taking sentences taken out of context FROM ALL CANDIDATES and using them as a basis for your decisions. Geez!!!

    January 15, 2008 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  7. Kathleen P Boyer

    It is unbelieveable that we cannot honor any kind of "white" contribution to the civil rights events. There were white civil rights workers who were murdered in the south fighting for the cause. I am so tired of the rhetoric involving reverse discrimination in this country. I am a white nurse working in a deprived area and all of the people coming into our office just walk in and have full service for their health needs. My partner and I have no insuance and these people walk in with fine clothing, drive away in good cars and are able to walk into our office on a week day. I am fed up with the system and how we have to bow down to every single little comment about race. I have worked in offices where people of color are able to spout off about working conditions but if one little thing is said by a white person they are held accountable. I am tired of paying the price of how these people were treated in the past. I have had friends of color and many people accept and treat people of color with dignity. When will we have had enough. We live here too. Lyndon Johnson took risk to sign that bill. When are we going to get credit for being so politically correct it is over the top! Hillary is getting reverse discrimination. I would rather have a leader that knows their history than one who considers drugs recreational.

    January 15, 2008 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  8. Marcus

    Rangel is part of the party machine; the network of cronies. As an earlier poster said, cronyism isn't only a Republican thing. If you think Rangel stood up and made this comment because he has strong feelings on the issue, you're a fool. Rangel has cast his lot with the establishment candidate, Clinton, and that is the the only reason he criticizes Obama's remarks

    The fact that Clinton is the annointed candidate of the DNC, who can call on her buddies in Congress to do hit jobs on opponents, isn't what bothers me most about this episode–I was aware of these facts all along.

    What bothers me most is that we are seriously considering the candidate who tries to lower expectations for how we can improve our society. "Don't buy into false hope." "Don't think for a second that ordinary citizens can accomplish great things; it takes a career politician like me to make anything happen." Politicians of both parties want to keep us helpless and dependant.

    I've got news for you: Jim Crow and segregation were ended through the determination and courage of ordinary people who recognized injustice. Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act because he was going along with the tide of history, but do you think for a second that he would have stood up, on his own, and demanded equal rights for blacks?

    Don't believe the hype. We CAN do things for ourselves. We DON'T NEED politicians to make the world better for us. Politicians fail, time and again, to have a spine and do what's right unless the people DEMAND it.

    January 15, 2008 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  9. KJeroH

    Regarding the many comments about Rangel and the draft: Rep. Rangel suggested bringing back the draft because many of the Iraq War's supporters had no relatives in the conflict; it was being borne primarily by the middle and lower-middle class. Further, the strains on the US military with Iraq and Afghanistan were making it clear that increasing the size of US forces may have to be considered. Rangel felt, and rightly so, that the only way for the burden to be properly shared across class lines would be a draft: not the same lottery system as in Vietnam era, but some sort of draft. There would also be options for military and other government service. So before criticizing a very well-informed and dedicated Congressman, at least give a fuller picture of the reasoning behind the issue.

    And the rancor of this campaign was raised to its current levels by Obama and Edwards. It's a pity Clinton slipped into the mud. But I can only hope Obama is sincere about returning to a positive campaign. The Barack Edwards scorched Earth tactics almost reached the level where they would not be able to support a Clinton nomination. (Although Edwards has already promised he will not) Obama's recent comments give credence to his call for change and away from Republican-esque 51% partisan rancor.

    As a solid Independent for over a dozen years, seeing the degeneration of the campaign into a mirror of the Republican side was truly disheartening.

    January 15, 2008 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  10. benny

    If Hillary's didn't mean what she said it sure came out like some politician in D.C deserves more credit than Dr. King for the passing of the Civil Rights Act. My question is this: when did politicians in D.C ever done anything against the status quo unless they were pressured by the majority of the people. Hillary should have clarified her comments, apologized, and moved on. Instead she blamed Obama for calling out on her own statement. Same old Clinton strategy. As a Black man, I believe politicians would have done more to lift up minorities if they had to fight for theor votes. I am an independent and I think all Blacks should register and vote as such. Right now the Democratic Party takes the Black votes for granted. For now, Hillary and Rangel for whom I had a level of respect have just lost my vote.
    Obama comes across as being more honest, more respectable than Hillary. Even Edwards is a better candidate than Hillary when it comes to addressing issues that pertain to African Americans. I hope that he get to be president some day.
    But for now Go OBAMA

    January 15, 2008 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  11. Hey Jude

    The Democratic Party is fast becoming the Donner Pass party and the media
    is the great facilitator.

    January 15, 2008 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  12. Jesse , PA

    We all know that when she was talking about MLK, she was saying that he did some "good" things to get the movement going, but it took LBJ in Washington to really get anything done. That's what the real objection was to. Obama is inspiration, Clinton will get the real results. She hides behind Bill making him say the bad things that get covered by every media outlet and if that won't work she will get some Black people to come out and talk about Obama's race comments. The first one will "Willie Horton" Obama and the second one will show how stupid he is. See America real live honest to god black people think obama is wrong.

    January 15, 2008 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  13. Awele Alexander Ogwu

    I do not believe that Senator Obama ever said or inferred that "Doctor King, alone, passed the legislation and signed it into law." Senator Obama is an attorney, and was a civil rights attorney at some point, and is quite aware that legislation cannot be passed by civil rights leader and/or political activists.

    In my opinion, Congressman Rangel's comments are, to use his precise words, "absolutely stupid" and certainly unfounded.

    The race issue is a sad one, particularly divisive and should cease immediately, though I doubt that it will. There are undoubtedly some people who are licking themselves over this. The character of each presidential candidate should be assessed and the issues discussed at length. That is primarily what should be in focus here.

    January 15, 2008 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  14. Dawn

    Hillary has done a wonderful thing turning this into a race issue. I expected that after she cried on television and said all those stoopid things after she lost. Since it is for the media now and the rest of her supporters...why is that Clinton put more Black men in prison than any other president..?

    Wow...Typical of a weak woman who sits around after another broad does her husband. Amazing

    Back to the real issues at hand..

    January 15, 2008 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  15. Gerri

    Charlie Rangel is old establishment Washington that wants to keep things as they are. He meets with umteem lobbyist and wants to keep his pockets fat. Charlie Rangel does not speak for me at all. They are coming to Clinton's aid because they want favors from her like before to keep their "pork" projects.

    Bob Johnson should shut up with the filth and smut he portrayed while at the helm at BET. Again another person who is interested in favors from the Clinton administration for their support.

    Hillary and Bill said what they said in the context that was devisive and spiteful and there is no way around it I don't care how the "house negroes" try to spin it. They have only make me want to support Obama more. Obama is trying to change that old washington attitude so these people are going to fight and scrap to keep the status quo as is.

    January 15, 2008 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  16. John

    I am a moderate, independent white voter – and I would have considered voting for Obama in the primary and general election prior to this entire debate – unfortunately, the Obama campaign has now decided to play the race card – and attack the Clintons (who I don't always agree with) - but the depth of Obama's intellectual dishonesty on this issue – and the way he is distorting their comments – is infuriating – and I will no longer consider voting for him.

    January 15, 2008 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  17. MK

    I really, truly feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone with all of you Obama supporters claiming that CLINTON'S camp is attacking HIM. I have all of the facts–full, dated quotes in their complete contexts–on my blog (peopleareyouserious.blogspot.com). I am mystified how you people could have it so wrong–please read my most recent post, from start to finish, and then tell me if you still believe Clinton is the one engaging in smear tactics here.

    It is 100% fact that Obama distorted her comments regarding "false hopes" and "reality breaks," and he invoked an obscene comparison between himself and MLK to childishly mock those comments. OBAMA brought MLK into this discourse, people. And, as I say in my blog post, if you distort "x", which then leads to "y", you're responsible for the implications of "y", are you not? So you distort Clinton's comments regarding "false hopes" and "reality breaks" by implying that she wouldn't support MLK's vision because (ridiculously huge leap here) she's calling you out on your eloquent but empty promises; and then, when she responds by saying that MLK did a lot more than give speeches and, in fact, offers a reminder of her main motif that idealism and activism alone don't guarantee change–that you need a courageous, experienced President to compel real, legally enforced change–she is suddenly derided for "taking a cheap shot" at MLK.

    I'm sorry–I think comparing yourself to an American hero like MLK–who endured so much hardship fighting for this country and who died for this country on our very own soil, on our watch–comparing your naive, inexperienced, privileged self to someone of that magnitude is the real cheap shot here. It's pathetic and it's offensive.

    January 15, 2008 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  18. geneva

    Very interesting. The Clintons will play just enough of the race card to get the white Democrats to vote for Hillary. When they feel they have the nomination, they will return as the first black President and the lifelong supporters of blacks. And they have Rangel and the georgia Congressman to run interference for them. I hope blacks are not stupid enough to fall for this ploy. It is very risky on the Clintons part, but they must do whatever it takes to get the nomination or all else is mute.

    January 15, 2008 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  19. common sense

    This is insane! What comment in Rangel talking about? Obama never said any of the stuff he is so angry about. It kills me when people argue against a statement that wasn't even made, and then the public just assumes that because Rangel (or anyone) dissagrees that Obama actually said this!

    Obama has gone OUT OF HIS WAY to not bring race into this campaing. But when Hillary says something stupid, then Obama has to answer for it?!?!

    This just senseless.

    January 15, 2008 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  20. Dan, NJ

    Rangle, Vince (above) and apparently many other HRC supports have the timeline completely wrong. Clinton made her comments about LBJ and MLK. What she was trying to say was that it took the policital experience that LBJ had to get the civil rights act passed, not just the acts of MLK. And while there is some truth to that, many in the black community found it as offensive and dimishing Dr. King's impact.

    But Obama's campaign stayed silent. Then HRC, after seeing Obama did not take the bait, went on television and accused Obama of twisting her words. Now, for the first time, Obama responded. He pointed out that he did not remark on Clinton's comments but that he false claim he had twisted her words was ludicriuos. He is 100% right bc to that point he had not commented.

    Now Rangle says Obama "got race into this thing." Again, that just doesn't match the record of what happened. More dirty politics from the Clinton campaign, this time after a supposed true. Dirty tactics like this will send me and many other disgusted Dems voting for an Ind or Rep if HRC gets the nomination.

    HRC and her supporters should STICK TO THE FACTS AND THE ISSUES.

    January 15, 2008 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  21. Chapel Hill, NC


    January 15, 2008 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  22. Tony V

    This is Washington and the media at it's absolute worst.

    For the record:
    (1) Obama invoked MLK in an inspiring speech
    (2) Clinton wanted to steal Obama's thunder by saying LBJ had more to do with civil rights victories than MLK. (not necessarily belittling, but definitely wrong)
    (3) The media talking heads tossed it around to start a fight (for higher ratings)
    (4) All the Washington Blowhards (like this fool) climb over their own grandmothers to weigh in so they can get on TV.

    January 15, 2008 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  23. Eric-Houston, TX

    Old Charlie Rangel, he finally said something I agree with!

    January 15, 2008 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  24. Jonathan

    I have always respected you to these comments. Senator Obama never suggested MLK could have signed the legislation. That is false. He didn't start this. Your candidate did. You have deliberately lied about this fabricating from thin air a statement Obama did not make. You should be ashamed of yourself. I tried to email you on your congressional website but it only takes emails from constituents. You have an obligation to step forward and apologize for making up statements.

    January 15, 2008 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  25. chaki

    Mr. Rangel, please STOP and THINK. We have eight years of foolish behavior, and making this mole hill into a mountain is ridiculous. Mr Obama is making history, and as the young people say...STOP HATING!

    January 15, 2008 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
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