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. Victor Shaw

    This is now sooo blantantly an attempt by Clinton partisans to transform Obama into 'generic, black candidate B'. High minded Democrats should be ashamed. Their front runner has played both the race card and gender card.

    My right leaning friends have even come up with a new, Hillary drinking game.

    Grab your favorite beer and watch her stump speech on C-SPAN. Every time she says, 'daughters', 'sisters', 'mothers', or 'glass ceiling', take a drink.

    I'd make sure I didn't have to drive later on.

    January 15, 2008 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  2. Robert.P

    I do not think this country is ready for a woman or black president. But if Obama is the Democrat Candidate I will vote Republican. If Hillary is the candidate I will sure vote for her. Better a democrate then a republican. McCain is no better then Bush.

    January 15, 2008 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  3. AJ


    January 15, 2008 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  4. Jason

    OK, here are the FACTS. Bill Clinton wasn't refering to Obama's candidacy as a fairytale, some people misinterpreted it. Hillary was trying to be cute with her MLK statement and misfired, what she said was ill advised. Obama's camp has never raised RACE because they know they stand to lose if it came to that. Hillary's camp has been trying overtly to bring up Obama's race since day one. Even when she talks about Obama being a qualified African-American etc...all she is trying to do is remind everyone that he is BLACK!

    In the long run, Clinton stands to lose if she wins the race this way. Because she will be going into the national election with the right united against her and part of her leftist base feeling sore and bitter. Caveat emptor!!!

    January 15, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  5. Ardelia

    Even Hillary conceded it wasn't the best remark. She conceded to that. I think we know the Clintons dedication to civil rights and even Obama has acknowledge thier dedication. It wasn't her finest moment but no blood no foul...Its the Media that blowing this out of proportion

    January 15, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  6. MQK

    Can you hear that? That's the sound of independents running to the Republicans...

    January 15, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  7. Reanna

    Why does race always have to come up. Always it is madia pusing black and white. It is no wonder that we are not all just plain and simple Americans. It is a election year, and it always turns into a mud slinging contest. Nasty nasty nasty. Instead of that why not address the state of health care for everyday Ameicans. How about fixing the State of health care for the mentally ill. There are so many issues more important than RACE. But the long list of comments proves that the media is driving and all of you are jumping onto that bus yet again. When are we going to all wake up. We have elderly AMERICANs taking bus trips to Canada to smuggle back drugs becasue they can't afford them. We have mentally ill people untreated becasue they cannot afford the inflated medical prices. We have children living below the poverty line in homes that contain untold of horror. And we are complaining about this bull! No wonder the government is warped look at all of you!

    January 15, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  8. Benjamin, Albuquerque, NM

    King had more to do with civil rights that Johnson. So I agree with Obama. However, King would NOT vote for Clinton or Obama.

    King had a deeper vision of the worth of human beings. This is seen in his statement, "I have a dream that one day my four little children will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

    For this very reason, his ability to see the worth of people, King would be against legalized abortion. King would be upset with the legalized destruction of millions of human beings in an early stage of life. He would also be upset that after all of his work for African Americans that they are aborting their children at higher rates than any other ethnicity.

    I wish King were here today. He would be a powerful witness for the dignity of human life - from the beginning of life until natural death, unlike Obama and Clinton.

    January 15, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  9. Carl

    Wait just a moment... he is criticizing him for admitting drug use in his auto-bio for the purpose of making money? I'm sure that was an "added bonus" to the book, but I"m also sure it was the TRUTH... and since people in this situation RARELY TELL THE TRUTH... it's a little breath of fresh air, kind of like how Bill admitted to smoking out.

    January 15, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  10. matt

    Not taking anything away from what MLK did but anybody who knows anything about this time period in history knows it took JFK to be assasinated first to get the country behind allowing Johnson to sign the civil rights act. It was Johnson's way of paying tribute to JFK. Obama should talk about things with substance rather than just saying "change" over and over again and playing the race card.
    The world called Bill Clinton this nation's "first black president" and now he is accusing Hillary of playing the race card. Ridiculous!

    January 15, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  11. MEB

    What you all have to realize is that Charlie, like a lot of other career politicians in Washington, dont care about the people. They care about protecting themselves and their ability to stay rich from lobbyist, etc. It is like a fraternity up there and it stink to high heaven. Rangel is not necessarily a Clinton cronnie. He is just trying to keep things status quo. He knows Hillary will keep it status quo and protect his career and the careers of other long time politicians. When you rally think about it, what do our representatives REALLY do for us as a people? Nothing. The all get rich. Keep in mind that when our government was established, serving in Congress was your way performing Public "SERVICE" and was not your full time job. There needs to be mandatory term limitations for congress just like ther is for the President, because when you get down to it all they do is argue with each other on capitol hill, go have drinks together and make us think that they are really concerned for us.

    The more senior politicians want Clinton in office. Why? Because she is one of them. Life long politician.

    We will never have real cahnge in this country because the people dont want it. We would rather argue than make a difference.

    January 15, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  12. Wayman Docks

    Hilary Clinton was off base for giving LBJ any credi whatsoever. If Martin Luther King and others had not been on the front line for pushing equality in America the subject never have arisen. LBJ didn't take any initiative for bringing equality to blacks in America; so Hilary shouldn't even evoke his name in the discussion.

    January 15, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  13. Joan

    Much has been made of Hillary Clinton’s experience. Yes, both Clintons are experienced. Experienced liars. Our nation is at a crossroads. Haven’t we had enough of liars in the White House, for goodness sake?

    For “goodness” sake we must change the direction of the campaign and this nation. We must focus on the economy, health care costs, the Middle East, global terrorism, the environment, and other real and important issues. We need someone who can offer leadership and hope so that the promise of America is something to be respected both at home and abroad.

    This can’t be done under the Clintons. They are truly too divisive and represent the worst of human ambition. Whatever Faustian deal they’ve made it’s their problem not ours. It’s time for Democrats to “divorce” the Clintons. For goodness sake, the Clinton era is over. This nation can't take anymore of the kind of scandals that define the Clintons, let alone their basic viciousness. If New York wants to keep Hillary – they can have her! The rest of the country needs to move on! It is time for a real change and a break with the corrupt politics of the past.

    For goodness sake this country needs the leadership and hope of Barack Obama!

    January 15, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  14. Vantresa in Maryland

    This guy-Rangel is an idiot! As a black female, I am embarassed by this guy and Johnson (former BET owner). Rangel has no clue, anyway, he has to support Hillary; he's a NY-democrat. If one actually listened to Mr. Obama, he did not suggest that MLK has more to do with the Civil Rights Act than Lyndon Johnson. I would hope that no intelligent , well informed person would listen to this fool!

    January 15, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  15. Gerald Devora

    Maybe now that influential voices in the African American community have called out Barrack Obama we can get back to the real issues. I'm not suggesting Hillary Clinton is innocent but no one is going to delude me into believing Obama is.

    January 15, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  16. R. Gonzales

    i am of mixed race, Cuban and African American, and I want to tell Charlie Rangel that I hope someone will oppose his big old butt in the next election. He has done nothing to help people in his district. However, he is living large just like his girl Billary.

    You wanted to bring back the draft, stupid. Does your girl Billary agree with you?

    I hope someone other than Adam Powell will run against you and put your big butt out of work so you can go get a job.

    If john Edwards doesn't ge the nomination or If Obama does not get the nomination, I will sit out this election. If Hillary is the nominee, I will vote Republican .

    January 15, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  17. Janie, Raleigh, N.C.

    Obama will not get my vote because he appears to believe that after he uses his race to get votes, no one should mention his race.
    It also appears that Senator Clinton's gender is allowed to be attacked by both Obama and Edwards, but once the race issue is raised (by Obama I might add) the media goes into a swoon.
    The fact is the south has had a Republican majority because of the courage of the Democratic President, Lyndon Johnson. When Johnson joined with Dr. King and those in the civil rights movement, the southern white voters fled to the Republican party which used coded campaigns to tramp down the black vote.
    Does Obama not know US history in the south. I recommend he read, "Blood done sigh my Name" by Dr. Tim Tyson. He might learn something that he did not learn at Harvard, it appears. Hillary will get my vote.

    January 15, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  18. Heidfeld

    Yes, he did call for the draft... but it was in a effort to END the war, not prolong or promote it. I'm sorry if some of you weren't paying attention at the time or are simply too shortsighted to see that. A draft would be the wakeup call that this country needs.

    His comments simply state the obvious. Obama was trying to distort Clinton's comment for his own gain. Only his naive supporters would fail to see that. The man has no track record and little experience, yet some are ready to make him the president just because he makes some generic claims about hope and change.

    Please, if his supporters really wanted a huge change, and a man with wonderful ideals, they would be voting for Kucinic, not Obama. Unfortunately there are too many ignorant fools in the general population for a guy like Kucinic to have a chance. The point is, Obama is Kucinic lite. He doesn't have nearly the vision Kucinic has, or any of the experience Hillary does.

    Hillary is a million times more qualified than Obama, with more determination AND ability to make a real change for the american people.

    January 15, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  19. Sondra

    I am a female democrat who was torn over choosing Obama or Clinton for president - this story has made me an OBAMA supporter. I am disappointed in Bill, Hillary, Bob, and Charles. They are clearing the way for a REPUBLICAN to be president. Either way, they do NOT have my vote.

    January 15, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  20. CHARLIE Toon

    CHARLIE RANGEL makes a common sence statement.Nothing more needs to be said.

    January 15, 2008 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  21. Paul

    Charlie Rangel is black, therefore we should all listen to what he has to say on this matter

    January 15, 2008 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  22. Wayman Docks

    Rangel as a black man should be more responsible as well than to come out and try and clarify her misplaced statement just because he thinks it will be money in his pocket if she wins.

    January 15, 2008 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  23. Cyrille


    I am well educated to see what´s going on here.If the so called Clinton experience only helped to vote for the Irak war and to be an advocate of that war,then i am very disappointed and must conclude that all her so called experience didn´t help her in anything.

    In a normal corporation,she will be fired by now since by her lack of judgement,she brought the whole company/ firm into a desaster!!! Those are the facts people and don´t try to make it look sweet!!!

    ,,the number of years in office is neither here nor there.What matters is the Leadership to reach the scores of independant voters and accross the political lines to make change,,

    ,,Obama´s experiience in looking at the evidence led him to conclude that the Iraq war was not a war we should engage in,while Clinton looked at the same evidence and concluded that we should engage in it,,

    How long was she in office again?

    January 15, 2008 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  24. Margaret Curley

    All it takes to get us off the real issues is accusing each other of being racist. Then while we are busy pointing fingers at each other the real powers to be go on with their agenda. People pay attention to what is going on around you. What is more important the here and now? or who did what 40 years ago? MLK had the courage and fortitude to try and bring forth change. LBJ had the courage and fortitude to bring change forth. Hillary Clinton is not a racist nor is Bill Clinton their records speak on their behalf. Barak Obama is not a racist. Lets get back to the issues at hand quit allowing our heads to be turned in the wrong direction. Otherwise we are going to have another Republican in the White House to make sure that the middle class completely disappears.

    January 15, 2008 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  25. Bob, Florida - RFO

    Educated African Immigrant January 15, 2008 10:43 am ET

    Thank you Educated African Immigrant but we don't need anyone to "learn the ropes".

    We need change, change we can believe in!

    Go Barack '08

    January 15, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
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