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. Sue

    Charlie Rangel is an elder statesman in New York City who has won the right to speak his mind because he is beholden to no one. His comment was courageous and right on. But he has always spoken his mind, and for that he gets my respect.

    January 15, 2008 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  2. Tyler

    Hillary has served her time in public office and needs to go away and allow the next generation fight the battle of politics. Thank you for your time and now you can leave. The world has changed during your terms. Let Obama lead the way.

    January 15, 2008 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  3. Russell Gipe. Hendersonville,NC


    January 15, 2008 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  4. california voter

    As an example of how Obama should have handled this, let me take Tara G's implication that Charlie is somehow a 'slave overseer'.

    This comment that Tara has made is based on her support of Obama, as she signs her comment Obama '08.

    I think the point she was trying to make was that Charlie is in the back pocket of the Clintons. She's probably correct on that point, welcome to politics.

    However, making the jump that he is a paid off overseer of slaves implies that his constituents are slaves, which is hardly the case. I'm speculating that the analogy to slaves is that minorities do have a tendency to vote in blocks, this is mainly because they aren't represented in society. Just because Charlie is a representative, it does not make him an overseer of slaves. So African Americans do vote in blocks – they are not slaves. They are just trying to be heard.

    Tara's comment had a point, but was clouded by an emotional reaction to a failed test of the Obama campaign, which she is a part of as a supporter. Her analogies are weak, offensive and non-existent on many different levels.

    I welcome her to clarify her thoughts.

    That's how Obama should have handled it.

    January 15, 2008 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  5. kim

    Talk about missing the point..EVERYONE is missing the point neither one of them brought race into it, the media did when they reported it. Prior to that, the candidates were simply talking about two different political leaders and their influence on civil rights. I never heard Hilary say that White guy, you know LBJ, nor did I hear Obama say that black guy you know MLK, and most of the idiots in this world are fanning the flames because they keep calling it a race thing... I could really care less about all that stupid crap, I'm an independent, that usually votes Republican anyway, right now the only one looking good is Bloomberg!!

    January 15, 2008 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  6. K Cseri

    My observation of these blogs is that Obama supporters get very angry and say hateful things and many of them don't know fact from fiction. They are running high on emotions, not intellgent thought. They keep saying Obama will bring change to the country and be able to UNITE people and the congress. So far I don't see any uniting of people when his backers threaten to vote Republican if Hillary is the candidate. If he can't even unite you backers to vote Democrat no matter who gets the nomination than how the hell is he going to get congress to stop being so partisan and get something done for this country.??? I not sure even Jesus himself could unite this country there is so much hate out there when is comes to politics. I like Obama and I think one day he could be an excellant president, but not now, if he gets the nomination the republicans win again. Once that Republican underhanded dirty machine starts on him he will be eaten alive. Remember what they did to McCain in 2000?? One of their own!!! What do you think they will do to an inexperienced high ideals person like Obama? Now don't start spraying your hate again, by inexperienced, I mean knowing how to "fight down and dirty"! It appears he is learning somewhat but this is mild compared to what he will need with the Republicans. Their trick is to start lies about you so now you have to waste time on proving yourself innocent instead of being able to talk issues. That's what they did to the Clintons the whole time Bill was President and look at all the people who still believe the lies and bring them up all the time. Once a lie has been verbalized it is very hard to over come no matter the truth comes out. Unfortunately people are human and remember the bad more than the good, so the lie stays with them rather than the truth because the lie was said FIRST.

    I will be voting for Hillary if she gets the nomination and if Obama gets it I will vote for him. I will vote Democrat no matter who is running. I have had enough of the Republicans screwing everything up.

    January 15, 2008 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  7. S Alexander

    Bless you C Rangel.
    Could it just be that Obama is the shrewdest of them all with his holier than thou attitude, saying he would not comment on Hillary and then proceeding to comment on her remarks. Folks this is how bad he wants to take all black votes from the Clintons. And in the meantime it may just backfire on him.
    Anything to keep away from the issues. Undoubtedly he is one of the greatest speakers of our time. When it comes to discussing his record/experience there is not much there.
    And why shouldn't Johnson be able to say what he said. Should he be afraid to me mention or suggest that Obama did drugs? Well he did. Now this is a fact whether it should be brought up is another story.

    January 15, 2008 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  8. lawgirrl

    Once again (and please know that I am a black woman saying this), "my people" cannot get their you-know-what together. I do not consider Rangel, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton or any of these other so-called Black Leaders and supposed representers of "Black Opinion" anything other than complete idiots. They do not have the best interests of minorities, or the economically disadvantaged at heart, they are slick and disgusting. It's funny, bc/ they all jump to the defense of R.Kelley (child rapist and pedophile musician), Michael Vick, and any other black person who embarasses their race/profession, but they can't get behind a black leader who actually makes sense--OH NOW I GET IT-they don't want to support him b/c they will lose their self-proclaimed foothold as "black leaders". Obama, like many blacks, wants to move beyond race and blame and start fixing things for everyone and move on. These "black leaders/pundits" will lose their bread and butter if we all move on and get beyond race and slavery, etc. Obama needs to just ignore them and stay on message.

    January 15, 2008 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  9. numerion

    Isn't that CLASSY. Obama calls for a truce on the battleground and humbly comes to shake Hillary's hand, then after he turns and walks away, a Clinton crony is sent out to stab him in the back!!! Pathetically Priceless!

    January 15, 2008 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  10. Amanda

    For God's sake. Obama and Hillary have both called a truce. They really need to get their people under control. This is terrible for both of them. Their "camps" are going crazy. The last thing we need right now is so much fighting within our party. Just look at the comments here. He's implying this. She's implying that. He's slick and slimy. She's crooked.

    How about...they're both being honest and they really want all of this to STOP. The thing I like about seeing BOTH of them in a debate is that they debate about actual issues – not this fluff. I think they want to get back to duking it out over the guts of this election.

    January 15, 2008 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  11. Rose

    There are people who believe it is absurd and completely out of place for people to question what the Clintons have done for African Americans. This is a run for the presidency. If they truly believe that they have done a lot for African Americans specifically, then why not ask them what have they done. For the Clintons to try and wear their loyalty to the black community on their shoulders, they should not find it offensive if they are asked, "What have you done for the black community?" I personally likeD the Clintons. Sure, they may have increases the amount of food stamps somebody receives (I'm not even 100% sure about that, it's just what I've heard), but NAFTA? I really hope the people of Michigan take that into consideration and vote non-committed when they cast their ballots.

    For the lady who insists that the Obamas are racist because Michelle said, "Ain't no white people in Iowa!" You clearly don't know the context of the statement. She said that at a black church to show them that Obama won Iowa, which is 98% white. This indicates that it was white people who led him to a victory in Iowa and not white people. It also shows that even though Obama is an African American man, he is accepted by whites and they believe that he does have the capability to be the next US President.

    For those who believe that Obama started this entire race thing, think again. Even if you feel that there is proof that he did it, it wouldn't make sense for him to do it. His entire campaign has a tone of inclusiveness. Bill Clinton (maybe unintentional) made the first jab when he referred to Obama's stance on the Iraq war being a "fairytale." When taken in context, that IS what he was talking about. However, it could be argued that he means Obama's idea is a "fairytale" all around. It was a horribly placed comment, considering all the MLK Jr. DREAM talk that had been going around about Obama. Hillary added fuel to the fire when she suggested that LBJ had more to do with Civil Rights than MLK Jr. In truth, that is a lie. Sure, LBJ signed it into law, but that never would have been done if MLK Jr. hadn't been jailed, harassed, threatened, hosed down, and attacked by dogs. The point she claims that she was trying to make was that without LBJ, MLK's dream wouldn't have become realized. That is quite possibly true. Obama's only comment was as stated in the above article, "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." In that statement, Obama says that her statement was ill-advised. He also say that he's trying to figure out how the Clinton campaign is saying his campaign pulled the race card, when she's been making all the comments about race. This entire race issue is her ploy to gain voters based on something other than her abilities to be President. I'm guessing the cry baby ploy won't go over well two times in a row.

    For Vince, I just saw your comment. If you had read the article you're commenting on, you would have seen the comment, THE ONLY COMMENT, Obama made about the comment Hillary made. I'm sure he doesn't think Hillary is a racist, but I know that he knows she is trying to sway the black vote back in her direction. Her LBJ comment does suggest that MLK wasn't as key to Civil Rights as he was. I don't believe that was her intend, but if you listen to her words, that's exactly what it sounded like.

    As for Jeff Johnson....go get a clue. I'm from Alabama and I don't sound that country. Even though he is the first African American billionaire, he sold out the black community when he sold BET and let it become what it has become. As a person in his position he has to be careful of what his name is associated with. Just as a person must be careful about what they sign their name to.

    Charlie Rangel, lol. He is obviously an idiot. Obama did not suggest that MLK could have signed Civil Rights legislation into law all by himself. He needs to retrace the steps of BOTH the campaigns. Obama did not "say race" as Rangel says. Hillary Clinton didn't use the actual word "race," but she did bring into play a dialogue that was driven by race when she commented on the Civil Rights Acts. The media hyped it up more. The game got even dirtier when Jeff Johnson said what he said about Obama being in the neighborhood doing what he was doing. If he believes his remarks were about his grass roots organizing and work as a civil rights attorney, Obama was doing more than the Clinton's were when it comes to black issues.

    Jeff Johnson and Charlie Rangel, you need to both take a seat. Your time is over! Before you comment, pay attention to what both campaigns say and what the media says.

    Obama '08 all the way!!
    Fired up and ready to go!!

    January 15, 2008 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  12. Kristy

    I am a woman, and I'll vote for Obama. I don't care what gender or color a candidate is, I care about the kind of person they are. I worry about those who are so gung-ho to vote for Clinton based on her gender. I am concerned we won't have another female president for decades if Clinton is our first. She will set women back.

    Here' s a direct quote from the caucus I attended two weeks ago:
    Woman to my husband: Come on over to Hillary's side, don't you want to vote for a smart woman?
    My husband's response: My wife is a smart woman, and she wants me to vote for Obama.

    Here's my point – people shouldn't vote for her solely on the basis of gender, just like people shouldn't vote for Obama solely on the basis of race.

    Also, my 88 year-old grandma caucused for Obama, and cried when he won Iowa.

    January 15, 2008 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  13. Drew Rocker

    I suggest that Congressman Rangle find out what in hell he's talking about before expressing a strongly held opinion.

    January 15, 2008 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  14. Larry / Covington, Louisiana

    There is nothing more laughable that the tired and worn political comment than this: "It is time for a change."

    I thought this meant something when I first heard it many decades ago. Instead, it is playing the electorate for fools. Burn this into your memory for when those of you who are still around in 30 years hear it again, for it will always come back. The word "change" should be banned from speeches. Instead, give hard facts, hard policy particulars, hard specifics on what your plan is. Driving by looking in the rear view mirror and complaining is not the kind of change that accomplishes anything.

    And now, all this race talk reveals that again no one much cares about reality, but rather how the perception of reality can be manipulated to support your political agenda.

    "It is time for a change," "I am for the little guy," and "My opponent is playing the race card," are all comments suitable for the trash pile of political waste.

    January 15, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  15. A.M.

    Mr. Rangel, I agree with your characterization about this being "absolutely stupid." Now let me qualify what I'm saying. Your response is what's absolutely stupid! Why in the world would you even get in the middle of this. Mrs. Clinton showed her backside on this, and wasn't person enough to admit it. Many were offfended by her remarks, and you should have been as well. Civil rights for blacks and others didn't just come about because "they" thought is was the right thing to do, it came about by non-violent force due to the efforts of many, most notably Dr. King; not President Johnson. He may have signed the legislation, but it was Dr. King (and others)leading and enduring the dogs, fire hoses, jails, being spit upon, threats, etc. If you were one of the surviving King children, would you not feel a little strange upon hearing a stupid, un-informed statement like this?

    Last but not least, your support of Mrs. Clinton clearly will place you on the wrong side of history on this one. She's dishonest, polarizing, egotistical; not deserving of being the President of this country. Can you look at yourself in the mirror without wondering, "what the heck am I doing?"

    January 15, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  16. Richard

    Truce? There is nothing in Hillary's comments about President Johnson that needs a "truce". Obama was stupid to inject the race card when it has been obvious fot years how hard the Clintons have been working for black America! You gog Girl!!!!

    January 15, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  17. Educated African Immigrant

    Obama is all talk and no action.

    Obama talks the talk but Hillary has walked the walk.

    There is nothing to show that Obama will be a "black" president. if anything he will be hesitant to push minority issues for fear of being seen as pandering to minorities.

    Hilary will be able to do more for blacks and other minorities than Obama ever will

    With terrorism, the ecomony, foreclosures, the job market, the volatile world stage, etc, America is currently sailing in rough waters and now is not the time to hand over the ship to a new grad.

    Obama should spend some meaningful time in the senate, learn the ropes and reapply in 4 or 8 years.

    I may support him then.

    January 15, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  18. CA

    Both campaigns have called for an end to this back and forth. So end it! Please stop reporting this stuff as big news! The media is fanning the flames of the controversy more than anyone in either campaign!

    January 15, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  19. Brchodzin

    Though I take anything Rangel says with a grain of salt, this is just more proof that Hillary is resorting to whatever the lowest common denominator is to garner votes for her slagging campaign. Last week she played into the worst female stereotypes in order to win NH (crying for the cameras? playing the emotional woman card? getting "her man" to bully anyone who stands against her?). And now that she's fully aware Obama is more likeable and more electable than she will ever be, she will pull every dirty card she can. Of course she's trying to provoke Obama to play the race card- it's one of the few tricks she has left. Perhaps this is some proof of his inexperience, but it's inexperience in campaigning that has hurt him. Until recently, they both have run rather respectable campaigns. Now Hillary sees her assured win flushed down the toilet and she starts playing dirty. Shame on her and her multi-million dollar hate-mongerers. As a strong, self-made woman, I used to greatly respect and admire Hillary. Now I'm just disgusted with her. Obama will get my vote.
    Respectfully submitted-

    January 15, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  20. Val in PA

    Rangel was correct about Obama's comments. The Clintons have been very loyal to African-Americans and Obama had to inject something racial into this. Clinton's comment was such a non-issue that it isn't even funny. I listened to it over and over again on TV and there is absolutely nothing controversial about what she said. I love Hillary Clinton and she has always shown great commitment to the people of this country. She definitely has my vote. Thanks to Rangel for defending her as well.

    January 15, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  21. Richard in Atlanta

    Truce? There is nothing in Hillary's comments about President Johnson that needs a "truce". Obama was stupid to inject the race card when it has been obvious for years how hard the Clintons have been working for black America! You go Girl!!!!

    January 15, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  22. Les

    Obama was wrong, it was Obama who put race all the time in his speeches without using the word "race" directly in his speech. I am totally appalled how people are so dense to see what Obama is doing in his campaign. Whenever Hillary made a contrast of her plan with Obama, Obama and his people accuse Hillary of racism which I find totally deplorable.

    This is what's wrong with our politics today, we are toeing the line so not to offend. We can't talk of issues now that matters to the American people without bringing up race which started with Obama. Anytime you question what Obama stands for and how he's going to solve the problem of our country, you're called a racist.

    If you call Obama black you're called racist, but its not racist to call Hillary "that white lady" which Chris Rock stated while introducing Obama to his audience in Apollo Theatre.

    I'm voting for Hillary this primary all the way to the General Election. But at the rate it is going, the democrats are busy destroying themselves, we have Obama to thanked for that!

    I blame Obama and his supporters for trying to destroy the Democratic Party, they have NO LOYALTY for our party. Even one of the campaign people of Obama in Nevada is asking Republicans to abandon their party for the primary and caucus for them so Hillary can't win Nevada. THIS IS LOW BLOW......TOO LOW!

    At the rate Obama is going right now, he's showing his true color, he wanted the Republicans to stay in the Whitehouse all the way to Congress.

    Without JFK, RFK and LBJ, NO civil rights act would become a law. MLK can't sign anything into law, it shows the stupidity of Obama. I agree with Rangel.

    January 15, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  23. therealist

    The DNC is 60% white and 40% black. Racial divisiveness is the Clinton plan to win the dem nomination. After all, black people don't vote Repubican..

    January 15, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  24. Anon

    Wow, just reading these comments shows how divided us democrats are...

    January 15, 2008 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  25. Patty

    Both Obama and Hillary, stop it now! We don't care!

    January 15, 2008 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
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