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. Carolyn Dungee Nicholas

    That Bob Johnson, a man who denigrated Black women & the Black race in general routinely on BET, the black TV network he owned & sold to whites for multi-millions, is preposterous & the source (Bob Johnson) should be considered.

    It was the talk of the town that Bob Johnson routinely committed adultery while married to his first wife, & I know of at least one who he took to their marital bed when his wife was of town. Who is he to try to make Obama look like a coke head?

    January 15, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  2. Craig

    Boy an incredible number of complete idiots we have hear – smoking the same crack their beloved rock star might have some time in his past. So many of you here have no education – apparently – otherwise you would understand that what Rangel is speaking about is indeed, fact. Study your civil rights history, before displaying your utter ignorance on a board here.

    And no, I don't want a president who used that kind of judgement during his experimental days. I would take the time to explain why Rangel wanted the draft back, but the ignorance here would be capable of understanding.

    Ignorance is bliss and many of you here, are certainly in bliss.

    January 15, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  3. Tina

    The mudslinging going on in this election is absolutely ridiculous. Clinton's comment obviously had nothing to do with race. Obama is taking any chance he gets to make her seem racist. I love how Obama supporters try to name everyone who doesn't support him a racist. It would be better if presidential candidate's dyed themselves blue so no one could use stupid insignificant things like this against them. Close your eyes and listen to policies. Open them only to look at resumes. Vote based on credentials and ideas, not charm or race.

    January 15, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  4. Ray

    I am no supporter of Mrs. Clinton but I do think Obama blew this thing up too much. Her comments, I feel, do not belittle Dr. King's efforts in any way. It would be like saying for all of General Eisenhower's efforts, it was not he who signed documents ending World War II.

    Dr. King was a civilian who led what we would call today a grass roots effort to end discrimination but it took politicians- members of Congress to create and President Johnson to sign the Act into law.

    I blame the media more on this than Obama or Clinton. The media loves to get things riled up.

    January 15, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  5. Peace4all

    Thank you Yochana. His "draft" was a bluff. Too bad there aren't more intelligent people making comments on here. To all Obama and Hillary supporters, attack dogs, etc., stop this nonsense. If this continues – it will divide the democrats and Guiliani will become president.

    January 15, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  6. letty Penna.

    You took the words right out of my mouth Charlie. Obama knew what she meant, but it looks like he will use this to his advantage. i thought he was different, but it looks like he is no different from the rest of the pack

    January 15, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  7. Rodney

    Why does every black politician that has been nurishing at the Clinton troth have to comment on this? Mr. Charlie shut up, the black community thanks you for your years of service, but stay out of this. MLK and LBJ are dead and gone give this a rest. However, I do resent the fact that Hillary thinks that "Master" Lyndon brought us from second class citizenship of his own volition. This country was going to self-destruct and LBJ did the wise and prudent thing after singificant violence and bloodshed was received by African Americans for demanding equal citizenship. Please, let the historians debate. The American people need to choose the best candidate available because we are in terrible state. Let's discuss the current issues and discuss who deserves more credit for the Civil Rights Act at another time.

    January 15, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  8. Frank

    The two-party political system is stupid.

    Who wouldn't vote for a McCain – Obama ticket?

    January 15, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  9. andrea benini

    i personally think obama is slick and a bit of a con artist He is fooling the guillible folks who want to believe in someone or something – he does not impress me one bit. Go hillary go!

    January 15, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  10. an American

    Obama is as guilty as the media in trying to interject race into this. Why did he make a big deal about Hillary's comments?. This reveals the dishonest side of Obama. He made sure that RACE was never discussed during IOWA and NH primaries because it is all white. Now that they are heading to south carolina..and him trailing the polls there, he has nothing to loose but a whole lot to gain if race becomes the issue... sly sly Obama

    January 15, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  11. Dan, UK

    This debate would go on and on with different interpretations depending on the side of the political divide we all belong. What the American people fail to realise is the danger of electing another wrong candidate who would further polarise the nation and by extension may not earn the respect of the world.
    Our views can never be objective on this issue as long as partisanship and interest is involve. The effect of this campaign of calumny would leave a deep scar among the deomcrats and affect their chances at the election. It appears the tactics is we would rather both lose it than you getting there.

    While the fire ranges, the best individual who could have handled this saga with better diplomacy was Bill clinton but unfortunately human factor could not allow objectivity and statesmanship prevail. A single word from Bill at the begining should have douse the tension because of the respect he earns among the black and across the globe.

    I read one posting above supposedly done by a CNN moderator which I have reasons to doubt. That on it's own expose where she stand. The American interest and her relationship with other parts of the world should form the bais of our views.

    One would have thought dirty politics is limited to undeveloped democracies but what the Americans are doing at the moment amount to tearing in shrewed all they stand for. I doubt if the democrats would ever come out of this without the backlash effect during the general elections.This are dangerous political land mines that would continue in Washington even after the elections except Democrats los the election.

    This whole development leavesbad taste in the mouth.

    January 15, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  12. Deann

    I don't think Obama feel his way is stupid, he try to upgrade his class to compare with Martin Luther King Jr. and represent him as the smartest politics’ leader in the world for ever, he attempt to use this way to fire up the voter to elect him and believe him. It is his important key point.

    January 15, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  13. Randy TX

    The smartest, best person for the job isn't even running. Where's Gen. Wesley Clark when we really need him? He's been in combat, he understands putting Americans in Harm's Way. Very smart guy, who got better than a C+ average in school. Commander of NATO, he understands Putin.
    Let's change the political system in this country so it's The Person that gets elected not the Bank Account.

    January 15, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  14. Angela Marshall

    Congressman Dingel is wrong about this one. Just like he said he encouraged Obama to run for president but he will not win, and he is supporting Hillary. He is wrong again. Congressman, be objective.

    January 15, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  15. Jane

    His probably on the clinton payroll

    January 15, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  16. Chulhee Hong

    It's sad this is actually a talking point in the race for the nomination.

    January 15, 2008 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  17. Jay

    This is the scenario:

    1. Clinton think she's is a shoo in for nomination – argument = experience

    2. Obama wants to work with people for change – argument = hope/doing together

    3. Iowa won by Obama – Clinton shocked

    4. Polls in NH indicate Obama will win

    5. Clinton cries, husband attacks Obama, Clinton campaign starts throwing out stuff to drag Obama down – Clinton accuses him of falsely raising hope

    6. Obama counters that hope and optimism was what got us to the Moon and led eventually to the Civil Rights Bill (hence reference to JFK/MLK)

    7. Clinton insinutates MLK/JFK much better men than Obama (how dare he compare himself), but then demeans MLK's efforts to score a point against Obama (i.e. Johnson signed into law)

    8. Bill comes out with 'fairy tale' comment on Iraq

    9. Obama's past drug use brought up by Clinton camp (we are talking rapid fire attacks here)

    10. Obama forced into defensive position, drawing people's attention away from his message – as these attacks were intended to do by the Clinton people – they can't credibly change to the same message Obama is using at this point – so the only option is to try and throw him off, confuse people and discredit him.

    11. Obama forced to set to work defending the Iraq allegations

    12. Meanwhile, people from the black community who are not part of Obama's campaign express offense at Clinton's MLK comments of Hillary and also people generally offended by the attacks the Clintons are making.

    13. Clintons' get backfire and try and cast them as Obama's fault, falsely accusing him of playing a race card. Further they rally around their support from black community leaders to come out against Obama in public (this latest one being particularly nonsensical). Try to play themselves as the one's hard done by.

    14. Clintons' repeated mentioning and reinforcing of the false 'race card' story polarizes the black community to Obama and the White Community (the majority) to Clintons'.

    15. Divisions created between voters, vowing to vote Republican rather than the candidate they have chosen to blame (Republicans jump for joy).

    16. Obama, having regrouped from multiple attacks, says he did not play a race card, it is ludicrous to say the response from the black community was engineered by his campaign (which it is ludicrous), and is baffled as to why she would make a distinction between MLK and LBJ anyway (afterall – Barack is both grass roots/movement person and lawmaker rolled into one – so what is the relevance for Clinton to say this unless to say 'you're only grassroots, not a lawmaker kiddo, and I'll sell the memory of MLK off to make that point against you').

    17. Obama calls for everyone to 'stay on message', focus on their campaigns and get the job done – says he will defend himself when he needs to, but we shouldn't lose sight of the bigger goals of the Democrats and not damage them through this kind of behaviour.

    18. Three hours later, not to be outdone, Clinton puts out a conciliatory message as well, although continues to fan the flames through lackeys because all she has got against Obama – if people are not buying the 'more experience' line as sufficient – is to try and destroy him, manipulate him off track.

    19. The aggressive campaign by the Clinton's to win by using these tactics may sink the chances of democrats, handing the presidency to McCain.

    Please, please, please, open you eyes – see what is happening. You can accept the kind of politics the Clinton's are playing, but there will be a price to pay for that in the future.

    Obama is the right person at the right time for America. Everything else aside, he is what America needs to have right NOW to start healing and the rest of the world can see it. You're very fortunate to have this person running in this election at this time. You need to unite as a people and you need someone who can pull your energy's together to all work as one to get to work on some really big challenges that are actually imperative to be worked on, and cannot be achieved with division.

    Have faith, have hope, take the leap and create WITH Obama the America you want. Obama might not be as old as Hillary, but he has got vision that Hillary does not have – too indoctrinated by the status quo to even understand where Obama is coming from – that's why she is attacking like this. And you need someone who does understand, who does believe, who has got fresh energy, who can lead you out from the mire you've gotten into and do it with you, not to you.

    January 15, 2008 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  18. Palo Alto, California

    Obama is the one turning on the Race debate. When you can not contrasts specifics and experience.....then you need to rely soly on empty talk, you have to intensify the race with issues that you feel will sway your supporters. Funny how the race issue was not there after he won Iowa but all of the sudden it is in the picture after he lost NH and heading into SC. The interesting thing is that now....Hillary's african american supporters are finding themselves criticized for being politically incorrect. African americans such as Rangel who have walked the talk and act the talk such as Hillary is now being criticized by a man who's only qualification is a good talk. Wake up people.....talk and words alone can not be relied on.......after all these are politicians. If you really want change, you need to look at the candidates past actions. Talk is cheap.

    January 15, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  19. Gary Williams, Signal Hill, CA

    If these remarks and the church he belongs to with it over-whelming black advocacy doesn't make people look more seriously at what makes up this candidate then nothing will.

    January 15, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  20. Vince

    Rose: Hilliary Clinton comment about MLK was to point out that his dream could not have been realized without help from the central government. In this case LBJ signing into law certain aspects of the civil rights bill. Now can you tell me how this suggests that MLK`s role in the civil rights movement was diminished??? Does that also make LBJ a racist for helping MLK? What rational are you people using in trying to make this into a racial slur?? I said it before and I`ll say it again.. The comments the Clintons made were NOT racist until Obama and his camp followers MADE them racist...

    January 15, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  21. Steve Jay

    I agree that Obama has made 'race' an issue, and the fact people are buying into his hype is beyond me. Anyway, black people who vote for him because he is black are just as bad as those people who wouldnt vote for him because he was black.

    Race should NEVER be an issue ... and I think he is trying to make it one. Look at Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith etc who are coming out to support him ... isnt it obvious what is going on here?

    You should vote for who is the best person for the job ... and anyone with any intelligence can see that is Hillary Clinton.

    January 15, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  22. Billy Sayles

    Martin Luther King was a great man, and contribute to the debate on social and racial issues, but to deny the excellent political skills of Lyndon Johnson is ludicrus; even John F. Kennedy would not have been able to get the bill pass through congress. It amaze me how this whole thing became racial. It simple shows the lack of experience of Senator Obama. By the way I'm African-American. Even George Wallace said Johnson convince him to accept racial equality. Man what political skills Johnson had ?

    January 15, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  23. an American

    BEWARE of the "unity" speach. Democracy is NOT unity. The only place you have unity is under a dictatorship when people dont have a voice. In his last election Saddam H got 100% vote from his people. We all know how. Difference is good. Also when politicians talk about unity, it is either that they are willing to compromise their position ( say that they are anti war and go to war to appease others) or they are flat out liars.

    January 15, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  24. Paul P Paul

    Wow...what's really stupid is people saying that Charlie Rangel wanting to reinstate the draft is an act of warmongering. Rangel's point with the draft bill was symbolic, highlighting the fact that the burden of military duty falls mostly on low-income, disproportionately minority members of our society. To dismiss Rangel as not credible because of his position on the "draft" is to fall right into the Republican/FoxNews propaganda. To post it here is to continue the absolutely inane right wing chatter that's dominated the national discourse for the past five years. If you took the time to back up your opinions with fact, you'd realize that Rangel actually voted AGAINST the Iraq War Resolution in 2002. Please do your homework before you decide to spread nonsense.

    January 15, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  25. Angela

    What makes the Clinton's think that African Americans would vote against Obama just because Bill Clinton THINKS he was the first black president?
    Do they really think that African Americans are still living in the 1940's,50's, 60's, and 70's?
    Listen I am a wife, mother, small business owner, educated, I'm black, and my husband is white! There is no way on this earth I would ever vote for Hillary Clinton. The tactics they've been using against Senator Obama (a real black man) are shameful.
    If she gets the democratic nomination I'll vote for a Republican!! Im looking for a change in our country starting at the top, so are my family members and friends. Hillary is not going to bring the type of change that is needed!! I'm disgusted by comments coming from their camp (which they started). Senator Obama can say whatever he want's about change and his life..it's not a "fairy tale" it's hope! He lives the life of a black man, not Bill or Hillary!! Rangel is talking total TRASH and he looks like a broke Al Sharpton! He reminds me of a saying from back in the day!! CRABS IN A BARREL!!! Stop trying to bring Obama down when he's only trying to unify this country.

    January 15, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
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