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. Audrey, Lancaster, PA

    Comments, Well we are hearing from the American people! That is a good thing, and I think either Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, are the best candidates thus far to be in the race. I do however reserve final choice, we may get some surprises, it is early in this election year. I hope the American people do their homework, as I am trying to do, so we are ready to make good, informed choices in the November elections.
    Comment: We do have much to study regarding our Presidential candidates. Often, the most difficult people to choose during the election process are in our own districts, as we generally do not know them, or about them. Too bad the media, always focuses on the most popular, and the highest offices. It takes all the representatives of our government in political office, trying to do their best to make this country be a true representation of it's people, and it's principles. Thank you for reading.

    January 15, 2008 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  2. GDS

    Reinstating the draft would serve to reduce the number of wars the US would be involved in, not increase them. Is anyone suprised that countries with compulsory military service are less likely to go to war than the US and when they do it is in limited numbers? If the children of our elected representatives and each of their constituents were at equal risk of being asked to make the ultimate sacrifice would we still send our military in to harm's way before exhausting all other options?

    January 15, 2008 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  3. Christie

    Obama just can't hold back from turning everything into a race issue. Too bad he keeps forgetting that he is half white and it was his white family that raised him.

    January 15, 2008 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  4. William

    Both the Obama and Clinton camps need to grow up. If they don't stop these character assasinations they are going to blow the election. Stick to the issues. The American people are tired of these negative tactics. We want REAL change. That includes a change from the Karl Rove school of campaigning based on negative characterizations about the candidates.

    January 15, 2008 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  5. eOpinion


    More cheap tricks from the Clinton camp. Her tactics thoroughly disgust me. Obama makes a point and she twists his words and politicizes it to improve her standing in the race.

    Don't fall for these 'stupid' tactics. Realize that there is an agenda to what she is doing and it won't work if people don't give it any power.

    Trashy Politics = Hillary Clinton

    January 15, 2008 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  6. michele

    Yes, Mr. Rangel wants to reinstate the draft – to END THE WAR. Sheesh people, think a little bit. The only reason the American public became fed up with the Viet Nam debacle was because their kids were being drafted. If the pain of the current misadventure were being felt across the board (this time with no deferments for the rich kids) then the war would end quickly. As long as it's somebody else's kid getting killed, no one cares.

    January 15, 2008 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  7. jerry

    Obama was right. Discussions between Dr. King and LBJ were on-going and timing was essential in both of their programs. It was a similar situation earler with Eisenhower and Little Rock. It is a shame that people refuse to see history as it was and prefer a romanticized nostalgia over truth.

    January 15, 2008 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  8. Bill

    Ok, so Hillary makes a bonehead statement that the media takes out of context. Instead of simply clarifying her position, she attacks her number one opponent. Later at an event that she is heading up, her supporter personally attacks Barrack.

    Instead of letting this politics of personal destruction continue, Barrack Obama puts out an announcement that he would like to move past these needless battles.

    So what is Hillary's response? Less than 24 hours later, she has another supporter go out and attack Barrack. So this is what we have to look forward to. Hillary getting her cronies to attack her opponents and a country divided. Yeah, this is why I'm never voting for Hillary Clinton.

    As a Democrat, I will not vote for Hillary if she is the party nominee. The country needs more than bitter politics of division.

    January 15, 2008 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  9. J. McKinney SW MO

    I will start off by saying I am a white, retired farmer's wife, and a Democrat. That said, I have to say that I think Obama's worst handicap is Michelle. She seems to play the race card in almost everything she says. I believe a lot of this is inexperience–she doesn't realize she is doing it, but I think she is very racist. And while some of you point out that Obama is half-white, this doesn't apply to Michelle. I think she is VERY, VERY FAR from being anything we woud want as First Lady. I notice she is making a lot of statements that are racist, which aren't being made a big deal of in the press. She is campaigning for her husband, just like Bill is campaigning for his wife, Hillary. We do, in my opinion, need to take the spouse into consideration a bit when we vote.
    That said, my vote is for Hillary.

    January 15, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  10. Jose Card - Independent

    Usually, it takes an idiot to call another stupid.

    Hillary = a divisive nation

    I am moved by your Willie Lynch's story.

    January 15, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  11. oscar

    the problem with rangels comments is the coverage of it and then the further distortion of it by those who only listen to soundbites. For example, some have said that rangel had called obama stupid, when he was clearly said that obama's remarks were stupid. He was attacking the message, but that distinction or fact gets lost and eventually what happens gets blown up because of this distortion. also rangel is not pro-war and his suggestion of the draft for all americans not just poor was to highlight that the cost of war is largely laid upon the poorer americans and not the wealthy. Another distortion.

    January 15, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  12. Mary, Beaver, PA

    Tara G., thank you for a brilliant analogy. I loved it. Listen up, people. Tara is speaking truth to you.

    January 15, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  13. Love Life

    I am an undecided, democratic, African-American, female voter (whew!) . I have to say that I am utterly dissappointed with the negativity coming from both the Obama and Clinton Camps. I am one that does not buy into the campaign rhetoric about change and taking back Washington. The more these camps try to exaggerate their differences from each other, the more they seem similar to me. For instance, it either an African-American man or a white woman are successful in winning the presidency in this race, change by the sheer dynamics will be inevitable because those two demographics in the ultimate position of power in this country offendeth the Washington establishment and power structure. So... DUH! Of COURSE there will be CHANGE! But trust and believe that niether party is going to nominate a candidate that is so threatning to the powers that be and the way that things are done that they will rewrite how business is done in Washington. Aint gonna happen- and if supporters on either side believe that, I am sorry to bust your bubble.

    Secondly, while experience is important and does matter, history has shown us that it is not the determining factor all the time. Still, it is interesting that when the woman is the more experienced and qualified candidate, the rules of the game change. Ha! Now, suddenly, America needs a change. The fact of the matter is that you need to know how to navigate washington to get things done or you will be a LAME DUCK president. I am anxious to see who the front contenders will be for Vice President for either Clinton or Obama.

    As for the Rangle comments, and the reaction- I am offended by the underlying suggestion that Obama supporters on here have suggested- that Clinton somehow "sicked" him on the Obama camp by putting words in his mouth to unleash her fury about being attacked as a racist. This suggestion in itself is racist because is suggest that 1, black people that support clinton don't think for themselves, and 2., that she actually has the power to control and dictate the feelings and thoughts of elected officials in office. Are you guys serious? I guess I don't believe she has that much power.

    If I were following the vibe and feelings of this contest, my vote would change daily. Today it would be for Hillary- yet, I am undecided. Why? Because NO ONE (including Hillary) have really explored and dissected their personal positions on the major issues. THAT is what I am interested in, and that is what I will base my decision on. When that starts happening, and we get past the rhetoric and the rehersed speeches and the mudslingging, then I will have the information I need to make a decision. In the meantime, I have purchased both Clinton and Obama's books, pulled their voting records, and perused their campaign websites to extract as much info as I can on thier policy positions. Lets get back to being Democrats and keep our eyes on the ball: the WHITE HOUSE.

    January 15, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  14. Davidc

    Obama is a divider not a uniter, and he is destroying the Democratic and this country.
    I am veary sad of seeing his leading the campain to reacial dispute.

    January 15, 2008 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  15. CAL, NY, NY

    Back to Rangel's policies for a second–isn't it arguable that reinstating the draft is not hawkish, but by putting everybody on a level playing field in terms of serving, doesn't that give everybody a vested interest in seriously considering whether to go to war? It is a lot easier to send somebody else's kid to war than your own.

    January 15, 2008 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  16. Liz

    The republican hatemongers are here. They keep suggesting that we should vote Obama because its easier to beat a black guy.

    This is the same hatemongers that are paid to belittle Tom Cruise for not being Christians.

    January 15, 2008 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  17. Evie

    This race thing continues to divide the country even among the less represented groups. As a female and minority, I now cast my vote for the white guy.

    January 15, 2008 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  18. Claude, Calgary

    This is the reason why these old politicians need to leave government and fade into the sunset. Their politics is old, and they continue to be stuck on issues of the past that have no relivance in todays new world. Please Charlie, grab a bottle of whiskey, grab Hillary's hand and go away, very far away. Go to a dinner and talk about the good old days.

    Obama has a country to run so get out of the way PLEASE!!!!!

    January 15, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  19. Jacqueline

    I don't agree with Rangel's position. Obama didn't "play the race card", Hillary stepped into waters that she should have not stepped. She made it about race knowing that a certain segment of society would turn on Obama and make him out to be the bad guy. Hillary divided and conquered and it is for that reason that I won't vote for her even if she does win or steal the nomination. Rangel should have kept his big mouth shut. I believe Obama has tried to take the emphasis off of race as long as he has been running and he even tried to put this whole MLK/LBJ thing to rest. Hillary started it. Her comments were inappropriate and best left unsaid! If high profile blacks want to support Hillary, that is their choice. One man One vote. However, why don't they keep their mouths closed. A lot of high profile politicians/social activist appear to be pissed because Obama hasn't come to them for their blessings. To heck with Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Bob Johnson, Sheila Jackson Lee, Magic Johnson, Tavis Smiley and the rest of these modern day Toms. I am voting for Obama with my one vote and couldn't care less about their opinions!

    January 15, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  20. Gregory Hall

    I am the same age as Obama. I graduated magna cum laude from a historically black university. (North Carolina A & T State University). I have a wife of 20 years and two children. I never did ANY drugs during college even though they were everywhere. It concerns me greatly that Obama has openly admitted to doing so. Everyone thinks this is such a touchy, delicate subject that no one is willing to really bring it up. Speeches are great. Honesty is great. Setting a good example is also great. He has not done so. Hillary has my vote.

    January 15, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  21. jinishans

    Can you guys stop this and move on

    January 15, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  22. littlern

    Rangel needs to step back, take a pill or something and chill out. Race is going to be an issue. It doesn't matter what's said or who says it first.

    January 15, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  23. John Y., Charlottesville, VA

    "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."

    Aside from Bob Johnson calling Obama Sidney Poitier, this ad hominem attack has to be the most obnoxious statement to have come out in the campaign so far.

    January 15, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  24. calvin young

    Hillery's comment was dumb and Charlie Rangel should keep his big mouth out of it, and it was much wiser for Obama not to have commented. All of this is not about moving the country forward to address the real problems. Ambition and patronage is the real motivation here, not is what is best for the American people. All of the very good people involved need to refocus.

    January 15, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  25. tigerjcs

    It's about time some sensible black men dare to stand up to Obama, who has been injecting racism on Hillary's comments about MLK. We need both the black and the white cooperation in running this country.
    Go, Hillary, go.

    January 15, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
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