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. Attacked by the Establishment

    Calling people racist is as American as apple pie. But telling the truth escapes us. Perhaps if the central government will release the FBI files held showing the life of MLK (Michael King) then the world can judge for itself. Current our children are lied to in the school systems about this person. Immoral people (includes Bill Clinton) should not be a part of the education of children!

    January 15, 2008 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  2. Lauren

    I am so happy to hear Rangel stand up for Hillary! Obama knows that if he says the word "race" that everyone will freak out, it's very polarizing. It's an attempt to rally blacks and to make whites feel guilty. I'm sure he's been waiting for any opportunity to play that card. It's an old and dirty tactic. Anyone with a drop of sense knows that Hillary would never try to diminish the role of Dr. King.

    Also, FYI, Rangel only wants to institute a draft so that rich folks will feel the effects of the war the same way that the poor and middle class have. He knows it will never happen, but he is trying to make a point about who is carrying the greatest burden of this war. Unfortunately most people lack the depth and intelligence to look further into the real motivation behind this concept, they just hear the word "draft" and shut off their brains. It must be a sad existence to be so closed minded and easily manipulated by "talking points".

    January 15, 2008 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  3. Pamela


    Hillary's remarks were poorly thought out. I agree that people should stay away from jumping to conclusions about their implications for her racial motives. However, ignorance is not bliss and she was lacking in her understanding of the Civil Rights Movement and MLK's role in advising LBJ through the legislative process. Also, it was not good etiquette, to say the least, to suggest on any level that LBJ had a more powerful role than MLK in the Civil Rights movement. The Civil Rights Movement took place because Presidents were not doing their job. They were not fulfilling the Pledge of Allegiance. They were not seeing America as, "One nation under god, indivisible with liberty and justice for all."

    MLK understood that the lawmakers had to be given an offer that they couldn't refuse before they passed legislation. He was no dreamer. He knew people had to be hit in their pockets before they could be moved to assume the lofty moral positions they wanted reflected on their tombstones. MLK decided that LBJ did not fully share the dream, which was an expression of his philosophy of nonviolence. Furthermore, MLK, although he gave LBJ credit as a moral leader in the South and someone who empathized with the victims of poverty and racial violence, was distressed by LBJ's characterological limitations regarding the philosophy of nonviolence. He parted ways with LBJ because of the President's behavior regarding the Viet Nam War. He did not support LBJ's last wish to run for President. So, Hillary made a mistake giving more credit to LBJ when you consider the historical context. I don't think that she understood what a major moral influence MLK was for LBJ. MLK's dream was huge. It went way beyond the issue of Black and White in America.

    If Hillary wants to truly earn the Black votes that she will receive she should show that she was not one of Bush's, "(No child) left behind" people in history class. Blacks should expect the candidates, all of them, to get their facts right, irrespective of the topic. This is reasonable and Blacks, in the case of issues like Civil Rights should not let others bully them out of this kind of scrutiny with the over used charge that such behavior is playing the race card.

    January 15, 2008 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  4. shern

    Rangel, John S. Lewis, Sharpton, Andrew Young, and Jesse Jackson Sr. realize that the baton has passed to a new generation. Obama has not kissed their rings and does not gain their support nor does he need it! Shame on them for their collective lack of vision.

    January 15, 2008 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  5. Cyrille


    – President of the Havard of the havard law review : u need not only leadership characteristics to be elected here.U need to have a plan!!

    -Jobs as a civil right lawyer

    – Community organizer in Chicago,working right along side the people he sought to help

    – 8 years as a state senator ( more years in the kind of government that´s closest to each of us than anyone else in the race) in the rough and tumble world of Illinois

    He has the experience needed people.Check his website http://www.barackobama.com and read for urself!

    January 15, 2008 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  6. cookie

    Congressman Rangel, just let it go. Obama writing about his drug use to sell books? Shame on you!

    January 15, 2008 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  7. Alan

    Charles Rangel is smarter than you are. Instituting the draft would be the surest way to end the war. Once everyday people, not just those who have enlisted in the military, have to face the prospect of going to Irag to fight in BushCo's debacle, or have their children and grandchildren go, then we'll see the kind of public outrage that will be necessary to end the immoral disgrace that is currently taking place.

    January 15, 2008 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  8. Mo Unity

    CNN, my other comment has been awaiting moderation for almost 30 minutes while other comments get posted that came after mine. Is it that i spoke the truth and wasn't pro Hillary. What the heck?

    January 15, 2008 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  9. rich

    This is why America needs change. Hillary unfortunately just brings out the divisiveness in people, and America needs to get beyond this. For all of us who are sick and tired of this kind of politics, the choice we have to make in these primaries and November is quite clear.

    January 15, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  10. sherry jackson

    Yes, he is the same person who wants to introduce the draft. He wants to reintroduce it in hopes that when people who are well off (rich people) start sending their kids off to die in the desert then maybe they'll stop plundering middle class and poor families who can't afford college. The point being made here is that while a white president signed the legislation into place as he was president, there would not have been legislation presented if King did not spearhead the movement. If people were considering what more than White America felt, you would understand why people of color were upset with Senator Clinton's comments.

    January 15, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  11. Steve C.

    HAHAHAHA; I love Rangel's comments about Obama's book. Saying Obama mentioned his past drug use in it so that he'd sell more books. Can you imagine the stones Rangel and Clinton would be throwing if Obama DIDN'T mention his past drug experiences in his book?? Darned if you do, darned if you don't. Rangel is a moran! (sic)

    January 15, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  12. just me

    Why, can't we just talk about issues like the war, health care, the working men and women, we should have known that this subject would pop-up, we should all think about who is better for the job. not some Joe Blow who can't keep their mouth shut. TELL ME HOW WE CAN MAKE OUR COUNTRY BETTER TODAY THIS IS NEW AMERICA NOT 500 YEARS AGO. VOTE FOR THE BEST PERSON FOR THE JOB. NO MATTER WHO!!

    January 15, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  13. shirley h smith

    We do not need Barack Obama for our President. He is inexperience and and therefore cannot face/resolve the issues of our country. He will most
    definitely split the races because now everything Hillary says is racial to him.
    He needs to get out of the race for the Whitehouse now.

    January 15, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  14. Jo Ann Hughes

    I am dismayed that Senator Obama would try to make Senator Clinton's remarks sound racist . He surely knows how supportive the Clintons have been for all African Americans. That was a low blow and unworthy of him.

    January 15, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  15. tiddle

    Rangel is absolutely correct in his description of Obama's remarks.

    The inspiration from MLK and the legal framework pushed forward by LBJ works hands-and-glove to advance each other. MLK serves to call a whole generation and beyond to rise up to the occasion, and LBJ serves to awaken the majority that equal rights extend beyond skin colors. The same happens goes in South Africa, with Mandela and de Klerk.

    Obama's inference is at once stupid and naive, which feeds into the race debate that serves to divide the party, rather than unite it. And, THIS is coming from a guy who champions himself as the uniter?!? Just give me a break, Obama.

    January 15, 2008 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  16. Kevin

    Anyone that thinks Charlie Rangel was pushing for reinstating the draft because he is a war monger, is way off base. Rangel's push for the draft is not to encourage war but rather to deter war. If politicians and business leaders kids were subjected to the chance of being sent off to war, this country would take a much closer look at the need to go to war. I gaurantee we wouldn't be in Iraq right now, if there was a chance Bush's daughters could be sent there. No one likes the idea of the draft, but it certainly makes it an even playing field for EVERYONE in this country. We talk about supporting our military. Sounds good as long as it's not our loved ones............

    January 15, 2008 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  17. Dee

    I guess Rangel didn't get the Memo that this was over...

    January 15, 2008 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  18. Anonymous

    Clintons have done a lot for blacks. Obama has not done anything. He is just a fortunate person trying to take advantage of blacks. Some white folks in his campaign are ill advising him to inject race into the campaign.

    January 15, 2008 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  19. Matt from IL

    Stop the insanity, please! Come on, Hillary made one speech with one short sentence and everyone jumps on the race wagon. This is ridiculous! I am so sick and tired of hearing criticism of people who are practicing freedom of speech! Anyone in this country has the RIGHT to say ANYTHING, afterall, isn't that what freedom of speech is all about? Dr. Martin Luther King wanted freedom of speech and fought hard for it, and now when supporter of Senator Clinton speak out they are criticized for expressing their opinion! Come on, get with it!

    January 15, 2008 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  20. Victoria

    For the record, I was excited to vote Obama. I figured a guy with no political affiliations, no covert ties to other politicians will truly be able to get things done in the White House that benefit the average citizen, not his political cronies. But the whole lack of respect for our National Anthem leaves me cold, and now leaves me to wonder how his star has risen so fast and who exactly is the driving force behind his efforts for the Presidency.

    Barack Hussein Obama might say he believes in America, but saying and doing are two different things. When he remained standing with his hands in his lap at a political rally where Hillary Clinton was clearly standing with her hand over her heart singing the National Anthem, he dashed my hopes that he was the man for the job.

    Senator Obama, if you don't believe in the National Anthem, you don't believe in anything it stands for. Therefore, I cannot support you.

    January 15, 2008 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  21. Janie, Raleigh, N.C.

    Obama has lost my vote. He brought race into the debate when he tried to sound like Dr. Martin Luther King. He used much of the same type of rhetoric. Fine. No problem. But to attack Hillary when she puts Dr. King (whom we celebrate today) into a historical perspective is unforgivable to me. Many of us who are white and live in the south KNOW what happened here when President L. Johnson had the courage to sign the civil rights bill. Is Obama unaware of the historical significance of the courage of President Johnson.? Does he not realize the reason the south has been "RED" ever since. Does he not know about the code words and the code ads that are run against the Democrats in the south.
    It appears that the sexist attacks by the media aare allowed to stand, but ANYTHING that touches on race is given a HUGE play.
    If Obama is the nominee of my party the only way I would vote for him is if Hillary asks me too. I do not think the man is ready.

    January 15, 2008 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  22. Rich

    OK. To all the people who are citing the fact that he introduced two bills to reinstate the draft and why that means he should be taken out back and shot. As someone who is ACTUALLY in the district he represents AND listened to the entire segment on NY1, you need to look past the headlines. It was a bill to make a statement, nothing more. He specifically worded the bill so the politicians kids could not escape military service. Therefore, maybe they would think twice before sending OUR children to die in police actions... err... wars. He also voted against his own bill. They picked a line which made his segment look stupid, where he was just pointing out how this whole argument of racism in the race is well, stupid. I am not his biggest fan and he does put his foot in his mouth many times, but he has conviction in his words and does try to help. He was arrested for trying to protest the Sudanese Embassy. With all that said, his time is probably up

    January 15, 2008 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  23. kimmbberr

    I was waiting for Obama to bring up the race card and he did. Go Hills.

    January 15, 2008 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  24. KarenCA

    This is ignorant to conclude that if someone doesn't support Obama, they support Clinton. I am not a Hillary supporter, but the Obama camp is getting ridiculous.

    His wife is on a role. She uses the race baiting phrases 'being let down again-not by us, but the world as it is. A world that we fear might not be ready for a decent man like Barack.

    Once again, the Obama message is guess who is racist and people to be feared. I notice CNN has not mentioned in detail the Obama camp's memo going around but they can't get enough of everything coming from the Clinton camp.

    January 15, 2008 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  25. tracy

    Wow! From what I understand both camps are trying to tone down the rhetoric and here is Charlie Rangel stirring the pot and keeping this going. Democrats this is not good. Let's talk about health care, the economy, education. We are in a wonderful position to put either the first woman president or first african american in office. Let's not squander this opportunity by this nasty type of politics that will only prove to divide the party and possibly put a republican in office.

    January 15, 2008 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
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