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. viky

    l think a good and gentle stateman is one that offers a mediation when the bushes are burning on issues that are so burning expecially race,knowing what slavery did to black people.Its absolutely necessory for this stateman of Rangel to read between the lines of the wording exchange by both hilary and obama then caution which is what a wise would have done.To say one is stupid is just how exposed most of thes people are trading on stopping history.

    January 15, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  2. Anonymous

    This is so EVIL.

    How was Obama's comment stupid? Obama never made a comment. Obama didn't say one word, not one word, about the incident... other than to say that it shouldn't be an issue and that we should move on.

    The whole angle of the Clinton camp is to criticize Obama's response. But Obama never responded. He took the high road and said nothing. So what "comment" theat he made are they talking about? This is typical Clintonian fudging of the fact. This more of the Clinton white lie machine. Isn't American tired of Clintons playing fast and loose with the truth?

    January 15, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  3. Eric

    Yes! Bill was the first "Black President" and I suppose Hillary will be the first "Black Woman President." Obama will do more for ALL Americans than Hillary will for African Americans.

    If not now, then when? If not Barack, who?
    When it is ever a good time to vote in an African American?

    January 15, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  4. Van Buren

    And let's not forget that Rangel is a fool and is old school and that is why he is for Hillary. Just another old school roadie. Wouldn't trust him as far as I could throw him.

    January 15, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  5. Dee

    Did Rangel not get the Memo.......Blacks were not really offended by Hillary comment. It was one of those comments that made you stop and say "what did you mean by that" Hillary even conceded it was an ill advised statement. No blood no foul...let's move on.

    January 15, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  6. MissKayM

    May the best woman win!
    Vote for Hillary!
    She has to be strong, tough....Good Lord she is a woman...and
    women do have to fight , as one can say anything they want to about women, but
    oh, do not mention race, not even the word race is allowed.
    Obama is just as guilty in the tossing nasties back and forth.
    They all are misquoted, so forget it and vote for the person who would
    be the best person, in your mind, for the job.
    Both the candidates want basically the same thing.
    I have followed Hillary for quite some time..
    If Obama should get in, of course I will be ok with that.
    I just want to be rid of Bush.
    I do think Hillary would make an excellent President.
    It is great being an American and being able to choose.
    Never forget that.

    January 15, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  7. Vince

    Drew Rocker: Congressman Rangel knows exactly what he is talking about. What rankles a lot of people is that he`s not afraid to "tell it like it is." There are some of you out there who don`t want "facts" to get in the way of your beliefs. So when someone speaks truthfully, or factually, you don`t want to hear it. But the truth can`t be denied forever. We need a lot more people like Rangel....

    January 15, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  8. Larry J, Houston, TX

    If I recall how this started during the New Hampshire Debates, Senator Clinton made the point that it, in the end, took Lyndon Johnson to make the changes and produce the Civil Rights ACT. Her point, granted a valid one, was without the LAW all the words would have had no effect.

    Obama, in response, later, in fact, said please don't dismiss the power of WORDS to stir change, mentioning the work of MLK [nowhere, Congressman Rangel, did Senator Obama, say his words or his work compared in any way to MLK.]

    Senator OBAMA's whole campaign is premised on the idea of people, coming together, can force change. And people are called to action through WORDS.

    I think the last 20 years + show what change takes place without the PEOPLE coming together to demand what they need. We have had only incremental, timid changes, the driving force being that of ONLY SPECIAL INTERESTS.

    That's why Senator OBAMA's message resonates and is different from anything we've heard for a long, long time.

    January 15, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  9. Jennifer

    Right on, Charlie Rangel! Obama is not such a nice guy like he pretends to be. He has been slandering Hillary Clinton for some time now, and I haven't liked him since. And what's up with John Edwards? Is he living in la la land? He won't get the presidency....he is annoying me too, and I used to really like him but this ganging up on Hillary with Obama baffles me. Edwards is the loser so why is he doing it?

    January 15, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  10. Mike

    It is amazing to me that the Democratic Party can once again self destruct. In an evironment where people are hurting from the economy and the Irag war, they have again given the Republicans a pass. Once again they will demonstrate to the independents and even democrats that they have the unique ability to destory from within.

    January 15, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  11. ahna,WI

    Enough of all the fighting and back stabbing and he said she said. If this is any indication of our next President then I'm voting for an independent or someone with some conviction and honesty. This has all gotten totally anal!!

    January 15, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  12. AJ, San Diego, CA

    Rangel IS in fact a jerk, but he's much smarter and more qualified than the lightweight, Obama. Who over the age of 25 supports Obama? They should have their head examined. The man has NO substance. It's a mockery of American politics.

    January 15, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  13. KMM Grand Rapids MI

    I hold solid Democratic views on political policy. I am so exhausted from the terrible terrible divisive nasty last eight years of politics. For a few wonderful days I had hope again when Barack Obama stepped up and said he would run for President. He truly believes we can change all the old style politics and move on to a united country...that would be the starting place to effectively heal the terrible issues we face. Then Hillary lost....and then Hillary was going to lose again, and just squeaked by. She freaked out.....Bill freaked out.... These two people are two of the most power hungry self centered people to have come on the scene since Bush and Rove and Cheney. If Hillary Clinton gets the nomination from the Democratic side, I will vote for McCain, who is going to be the Republican candidate. He may be Republican, but he is the next classiest person..and you will see Democrats go to the Republican side in masses to avoid having Bill and Hillary in our faces and messing up our peaceful hearts. Good luck, Obama. You have brought out the worst in the Clintons. At least you have shown us the truth.

    January 15, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  14. Jason

    Let's see. Hillary is right about Lyndon Johnson role in civil right. For anyone who doesn't know, there is an article in WashingtonPost about it. Obama picked a wrong argument.

    Vote for change. What change? Old tricks, distoration, and nothing new.

    January 15, 2008 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  15. someone in uniform

    Just FYI (and backing up "Alan's" comments above).. even though Rangel wants to reinstitute the draft does not mean he is a Warmonger...in fact he is anti-war. His reasoning for the draft is not to cause more war, but he feels that if the American Public at large had a greater stake in the "costs of war" then we wouldn't still be in Iraq.

    ...but perhaps supporting the idea that "service to the country" is good thing makes someone a warmonger. Last time I checked it was the civilian leadership (ie; the president) that made the decision to goto war...not the folks actually in uniform and their families who bear the costs.

    January 15, 2008 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  16. Jack

    You are really helping the Republicans!!

    The vehemence in this “BS about nothing” has already resulted in some in the Obama camp saying they will never vote for Clinton and visa versa.

    The result will be:

    Prolonging the Military’s agony while the Iraq Politicians do nothing but watch us die.

    Making the tax cuts for the top 2% permanent.

    Eliminating the Estate Tax for millionaires (Bush’s personal gain from the elimination of this tax will be at least $2 Million)

    Elimination of the IRS in favor of a National Sales Tax – that will increase the tax burden on the middle class – go to factcheck.org for details.

    The only real issue between them is – “experience” and “does that experience matter”.

    Now play nice or live with the results for another four years.

    January 15, 2008 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  17. JJ ATL


    January 15, 2008 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  18. Terrance Atkins

    A letter to Charles Rangel:

    I can not sit here and let you imply that our next president Barrak Obama is saying that MLK himself signed that act. He is simply saying that all thet credit is not due to Johnson, but some is due to him and our other African American activist. Also this rumor that is going around that Clinton is a racist is vaguely incorrect. Some misinterpret what she is saying, and furthermore i would like to say that either Obama or Clinton would be a great representation or president.

    January 15, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  19. Wilhemina

    Do you really want something to wrap your minds around?

    Check out the Republican Camp...Watch this Educational Video from the Mormon Church, it seems that they believe they are gods, aliens to this planet earth, and black people are black because they were cursed. Tanning Salon's do not want this type of message to get out :)LOL...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zy0d1HbItOo.

    Speaking of silly thinking, Obama and Hillary need a time out , and if that doesn't work we need to vote for Edwards, that will get their attention. Washington has to much junk, clutter, cobwebs, grayhairs, we need to "Clean House"... I am calling Niecy Nash right now.

    January 15, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  20. George Redden

    What Clinton was saying, is that UNITY is what made the Act to be written possible. She's not trying to incite any sort of "Racr" war. She is simply stating plain fact! If any of you had bothered to either listen to, or read the ENTIRE statement, you too would know this. Lets stop bickering. I AM a Clinton fan/supporter. However, if it would give the Democrats control of the White House, I propose we make a Clinton/Obama, or Obama/Clinton country. If we're doing the whole minority thing, then lets do it all the way!

    January 15, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  21. Bob Kenyon, Plano Texas

    The events as I see them:

    1) In a debate, Clinton said Obama was spreading false hope.
    2) Obama responded by imagining if Kennedy thought the moon was out of reach or MLK thought equality was impossible.
    3) Clinton responded that MLK couldn’t do it without President Johnson, which is true.
    4) Some felt that was an insult to MLK, that it diminished his role. I believe Hillary was correct in the fact, but I see no reason to bring up anything which lessen’s MLK’s image.
    5) Bill used the phrase “Fairy Tale” in regards to Obama, then backpeddled.
    6) Obama referred to Hillary’s comments as “unfortunate”.
    7) Bob Johnson implied something devious in Obama’s past.
    8) Obama calls a truce.
    9) Rangel calls Obama “absolutely stupid”

    Which campaign makes you proud to be an American??

    January 15, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  22. sjm


    I like both candidates BUT I must say I think this altogether is unfortunate. Many people need to find out facts before making an assumption of what is heard in the media and from campaigns. Do your homework! We dont need to make any more mistakes and elect a president by "hearsay". Here are some facts we all need to consider:

    – Obama voted on FUNDING THE TROOPS not for the war.
    – Hillary did.

    – Hillary's comment was taken out of context BUT not by the Obama campaign. I think the media and the question posed to her on "Meet the Press" incited the response.

    I commend Obama for thinking about his response instead of "flaming" off of emotion.

    All, at the end of the day, we need to realize that taking sides is not an example of true change. It is an example of division and we dont need anymore of that in our country.

    Love you ALL...

    January 15, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  23. God Bless America

    Clinton's Foreign Policy toward Africa was the worst of its kind. His failure ranges from Rwanda, Somalia, Sierra Alone just to mention few. To call him a black president is absolutely offensive.

    January 15, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  24. Brad Burklow, Harrisburg, IL

    Does Hillary call this a truce? Good Lord Charlie take a deep breath. Are you trying to sound like a blithering old insane man? That last comment about Obama revealing drug use to sell books didn't even make sense. Look, The Clintons aren't racists but are obviously not above trying to bate Obama and subtly inject race into the campaign narrative. These are smart cookies and I doubt much happens in her campaign by chance. What scares them is that independents, moderate republicans, and white America are warming up to Obama in large numbers. They are trying to bate him into sounding more ghetto so he loses his crossover, general election appeal. That's why they keep bringing up the drug use. "See he's no Kennedy, he used to deal crack." "He's no MLK, he's just some slick pimp that talks smooth."

    Obama should avoid the race issue altogether, blame the media for blowing it out of proportion and address the big elephant in the room more forcefully. Mercilessly attack Hillary's supposed strength of experience. This ready from day 1 is nonsense. The one thing Hillary was directly responsible for in Bill Clinton's Administration was Health Care and it was a COMPLETE FIASCO THAT NEARLY RUINED HIS FIRST TERM. She blew the most critical vote of her short Senate career with the vote supporting the Iraq War. Other than that she's evidently been a successful corporate lawyer and children's issues advocate. She's clearly qualified to be president, but to portray herself as the embodiment of experience and judgment and Obama as some idealistic, empty moron who can't get anything done is ludicrous.

    Obama/Edwards '08


    January 15, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  25. nicteis

    Full disclosure: I'm a white male, and a supporter of Edwards, Obama, and Clinton, in that order, based solely on what I've learned of their policy positions. I think the election of any of the three would be a leap forward for America.

    I've seen no evidence that either candidate is injecting race into this campaign. Clinton and Obama are both very smart people. They both understand the reality: If the campaign becomes "about" race, it will damage Obama first, by negating his greatest strength, the sense that he can carry us past what divides us. And it will inevitably damage Clinton in the general election, turning away a large contingent of African-Americans, and many of the young voters who have been attracted by the Obama movement. Neither has anything to gain from it, both of them know that, and both of them would deep-six it if they could. We have this brouhaha for two obvious reasons, and possibly for a more cryptic third.

    First, the media want to stir up a fight, the more emotional the better, and if it damages Hillary's chances in November, all the better. The media hate everything Clinton with a deep and abiding passion.

    Second, race continues to be the greatest third rail of American politics, as well as the least examined or understood. Nearly everyone has profound emotional investments in it, whether recognized or suppressed. As much real progress as we have made, all the conversations we've failed to have over the decades continue to seethe under the surface. It takes very little for them to bubble up from beneath. Supporters of the candidates on one side take quick umbrage at racially tinged remarks, and on the other side at the umbrage, which is reflexively seen as "playing the race card".

    That stuff is going to happen spontaneously. It doesn't have to be directed from the top. Once the flames are lit, it's going to be hard to douse them from the top – as all the heated comments from both sides on this thread, none of which, presumably, were produced by either campaign, clearly demonstrate. And then the media gleefully jumps with its bellows to pump up the flames.

    Third, almost as much as the media hate Hillary, they love John McCain. Taking Clinton out is their dearest wish. But once she's gone, they will, as they have in every election since at least 1984, set about to destroy whatever Democrat is left standing. The surest way to destroy Obama is to convince the public that he is "playing the race card". And that's more effectively accomplished in the primary, because once he's nominated, the Republicans will not be able to restrain themselves from a level of race-baiting that will be so obvious Obama will need to make no accusations to benefit from the backlash.

    Finally, I am very fond of Charlie Rangel. He's far more congenial and sensible than Al Sharpton, and he has every right to prefer Clinton over Obama. But he's grown too comfortable with the pontification rights of his Washington position. He's insufficiently attentive to the damage he can do by shooting his mouth off without thinking. I hope he steps back and reflects on this moment's high stakes for the country.

    January 15, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
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