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. J, Ca

    Go Charlie!
    Obama is trying to chicken out when the problem they started is backfiring.
    Don't let them off the hook that easily.

    January 14, 2008 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  2. Jen, New York, NY

    Poor Hillary. Her chances are going to be ruined by all her outspoken supporters.

    Obama/Bloomberg '08

    January 14, 2008 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  3. Joseph

    The only reason Charlie Rangel suggested the draft was to point out that it is mostly poorest fighting our wars, not the wealthiest.

    So using that to discredit him on this is stupid. I'm glad he pointed out how silly Obama's mystified reaction was. Like he doesn't know what is going on with the campaign – or that his South Caroline campaign has been stoking this issue for the past week or longer.

    You are fooling yourself if you think there aren't political maneuvers going on by both Clinton and Obama on this. This oh so innocent act from Obama is wearing thin.

    January 14, 2008 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  4. Benny Lava

    Hillary knows she wins if race is an issue, which is why she brought it up in the first place and why Rangel is keeping it going.

    Any comment on the Civil Rights movement of the sixties implies race. I don't recall hearing about the "civil rights" riots in Watts or Detroit – they were called "race" riots pure and simple

    If Obama wins, then basically the Sharptons, Jacksons and Rangels of this world have to start looking for a new job. The confrontational "black as victim" politics will have been buried. So will the Clintons.

    January 14, 2008 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  5. Mike, Austin Texas

    So let me get this straight... According to Wikipedia, Charlie Rangel, A high school dropout at the age of 16, who went into the military, then later finished high school and later recieved a Law degree from St. John's University. Now this man is calling Obama, whom attended Columbia then recieved his J.D. degree from Harvard, magna cum laude and had an election as the Harvard Law Review's first black president in 104 years according to The New York Times...again Charlie Rangle is calling this man stupid?

    To further talk about Wikipedia's references about Barack, he was a man who worked as a community organizer, a civil rights lawyer, worked with low income residents, etc. This is truly a man who had a passion for working to help people.

    Stupid? Maybe I'm missing something here. Charlie should be respected for his drive for an education and his military experience, but he belittles himself to call a man with Barack Obama's education and experience, "stupid" and I don't think that Obama's remarks to remind of us of the part that Dr. Martin Luther King played in the Civil Rights Act, is something to be called "stupid" for, regardless of the accuracy or inaccuracy of the statement.

    January 14, 2008 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  6. greg,new york

    Wow, I am so disapointed in rep.RAngel's words.
    what is going on with the old guys.
    they are living int he past. It's time to CHANGE
    Obama is not playing the race card he wants to stay on topic.
    I suggest Hillary and people stay on subject also before we destroy the democratic party.

    January 14, 2008 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  7. Ryan

    I am very confused.. When has Obama attacked Hillary? I don't understand it. I have looked and looked, and the best I can find is Obama saying something was "ill-advised".. Is it just me, or is the Clinton machine creating a negative campaign against itself? (My computer's spell check is racist, it keeps saying 'Obama' is spelled wrong.


    January 14, 2008 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  8. Ida Lula

    Anyone besides me tired of the whole "race card" issue in politics, and how people who have one skin tone can act like they get to say things that people who have another skin tone aren't even supposed to be able to address? We're all Americans here, and I don't really have any sympathy or support for anyone who uses their racial heritage to try and undermine anyone's first amendment rights to speak about anything at all.

    January 14, 2008 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  9. jay

    Barack Obama is making serious waves, and it's not just the other candidates that are taking notice.

    Bill Clinton wants "his" White House back, and all of the old Friends of Bill want to go along for the ride. Including black business leaders like Bob Johnson and politicos like Charlie Rangel. They've got their promises or understanding that they'll have special access, influence, positions, jobs for their friends and relatives. Then of course we have John Kerrey of Nebraska, always a loose cannon, who maybe figures he can swing a Task Force chairmanship out of the next Clinton White House.

    When politicians are crossed, their true personalities come out. Yes, they may be "for" civil rights, world peace, aid to the poor, and all sorts of worthwhile things. But, more than anything else, they want their seat at the head table. When they see that seat and make plans for it, they can and will turn nasty when somebody comes along to threaten to take it away. They'll make attacks that seem incomprehensible, except to other committed supporters of their candidate. Liberal Democrats can be just as nasty as conservative Republicans.

    Barack Obama is THE candidate of change. Hillary Clinton is the candidate of continued Bush-Clinton family duopoly of the White House. I'm certain they've already got her nickname lined up: she'll "forty four", and Bill will be "forty two", to go with George HW Bush as "forty one" and Dubya as "forty three". Won't that be cute? 41-42-43-44. I can just imagine both families getting together at the WH and having jokes about what numbers to assign to Jenna, Barbara and Chelsea.

    January 14, 2008 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  10. I am Black

    So far no black supporter of Hillary Clinton have spoken or represented my point of view about Obama. To tell you the truth I am actually ashamed.

    January 14, 2008 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  11. , SC.

    Saddesst thing she sends out other blacks to attack a brother. They just don't realize when you attack one you attack yourself.

    January 14, 2008 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  12. Veronique, Cumming, GA

    Obama is the embodiement of what MLK fought for, that one day, Americans of all ethnicities will vote for a black candidate based on the content of his character rather than on his race. I can't believe it's black leaders who are now shutting this dream now. They are bought and paid for by the Clintons. And there's nobody brave enough out there to point this out to them. Very sad!

    January 14, 2008 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  13. Lance in Monrovia

    This guy Rangel is an idiot. What post is he trying to get in a Clinton administration? When did Obama ever play the race card? When has Obama attacked Hillary? Hes responded to her attacks. That's it. He's run a transparent, squeaky clean campaign on every level. He's shown integrity, grit, charisma, and he's also by the way going to be the next President of the United States.

    Therefore, Congressman Rangel, you can kiss that ambassadorship to Austrailia goodbye.

    January 14, 2008 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  14. Califa

    When are these high profile African Americans going to stop making illogical statements just to get into the good graces of the Clintons; e.g. Rangel, Johnson, etc. Sen. Rangel, who asked you anyway? What is your soul worth? Secretary of Defense? A weekend stay in the Lincoln bedroom? Please high-profile HIspanics, your next; resist the calls from Camp Clinton to say "as a Hispanic American I am disgusted that Obama would compare himself to Cesar Chavez by using the slogan 'si se puede'". By voting for whichever American best reflects our own ideas and values we can learn a lot about ourselves.

    January 14, 2008 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  15. Cesaria

    Bimmer, Hillary has people like Rangel and Johnson who as BET founder did more to harm the image of black people. She loses because her witnesses lack character.

    January 14, 2008 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  16. Prayu

    Right, Rangel... because people are never honest about their past mistakes, unless there's some kind of financial reward.

    I'm not surprised that a Clinton supporter wouldn't understand telling a truth that had no political benefit.

    January 14, 2008 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  17. julio

    There's something bias about judging HIllary on the smallest things anyone can get their hands on and just ripping her a new one.
    Im a supporter of these two people but the way people try their hardest to dog this woman with whatever they can get their hands on, is disgusting.
    Try actually reading into what Hillary meant by her comment.
    She was giving kudos to MLK but emphazised that he was not the SOLE ACTOR in the civil rights movement. The President was the one signing, and passing ammendments.


    January 14, 2008 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  18. Marisol

    To Senator Obama:
    Why did you wait one week to condemn accusations against Hillary that her remarks (and her husband’s) were racist in nature? Moreover, upon condemning these accusations, he then proceeds in the same breadth to state to ABC News that "I do think it was indicative of the perspective that she brings, which is that what happens in Washington is more important than what happens outside of Washington." He said he believes the quote betrays a belief on her part, "that the intricacies of the legislative process were somehow more significant than when ordinary people rise up and march and go to jail and fight for justice." He called that a "fundamental difference" between them (Source: ABC News Political Radar: “Obama Damps Down Racial Controversy” 01-14-08). Is there not a hypocrisy in your statement? Didn't Hillary already explicitly acknowledge Dr. King's contributions in all the aspects you outlined (See MTP 01-13-08)? What is this "fundamental difference" you refer to?
    Sounds like he's blowing off another whistle while simultaneously denouncing another one. This is absolutely shameful and disrespectful. To use his own peoples' suffrage as some platform to pounce his political ambitions upon.

    January 14, 2008 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  19. GaryO Virginia Beach

    Rangel is absolutely correct. President Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act into law.

    If he had not done so, there is no way that Doctor King or any of his supporters could have seen it happen.

    Obama cannot be that unaware of history. Of course, MLK had a lot to do with the advancement of the Civil Rights movement, but he did not sign any bills into law.

    That was Hillary's point. It takes a president sometimes to get things done in a timely manner.

    January 14, 2008 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  20. Lauren

    Bimmer, actually during "her days from Wellesly College" Hillary was a Republican who campaigned against LBJ, much as she wishes to compare herself to him. And Obama never said that Dr. King could sign a bill. The man taught constitutional law, attended Columbia and Harvard, was president of the Harvard Law Review–do you really think he doesn't know who can and cannot sign a bill? Do your homework.

    January 14, 2008 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  21. Prayu

    Oh... and Obama NEVER said Clinton's comments were racist.

    The concerns were by independent African American community leaders; the Clinton campaign is the one that was paranoid and blamed it on super secret Obama agents .

    Hillary started this, made it ugly, and now her supporters are keeping it ugly.

    January 14, 2008 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  22. Mike, Austin Texas

    Also, let's be Frank. Barack is facing a black community that is torn between its self imposed loyalties to the Clintons because of Bill Clintons support of black people, and a new emerging leader who is himself part black with a message of hope for not only black people, but all people. The black community is making it very rough for Barack because of this and in my opinion they are making a big mistake by not coming together to support a candidate who not only is a representative of their community but also carries a spectacular message of change that not only challenges but completely destroys the wall of "status quo" that we all have faced in previous presidencies.

    January 14, 2008 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  23. aisha naeem

    i m so happy to see that african american are the smarter ones ,and they know better than what obama supporters tried to tell them .after all hillary is the best go girlllllllllllllll

    January 14, 2008 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  24. Sam

    This is sooo very sad!... i knew this was gonna happen...Obama worked so hard not to include race in his platform, and somehow the Clintons have found a way to do exactly what they have done in Washington: POLARIZATION!

    Except this time it isn't between Dems vs. Repubs, rather it BLACK vs. WHITE.

    The Clinton's know that race is a touchy issue that drives as big of a wedge between folks as issues like gay marriage, abortion, the war....and so on.

    They know that race will undoubtedly change the dynamic of the presidential contest and will likely swing all the black votes for Obama & swing all the white votes for her. And if that happens, Obama may find it difficult to win! It's all too sad that it has to come to this!

    My HOPE is that ALL Americans both white & black, and everything in between can live and think above this non-sense...

    Good Luck Obama! I'm still in your corner!

    January 14, 2008 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  25. AJ, IL

    Bill Clinton the first "black president"? This term was coined from author Toni Morrison in 1998. Toni Morrison said "Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald's-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas." So this was Toni Morrison's view of Black America, as a bunch of poor, single-parent having , music playing, junk-food eating people. Sorry as an educated African-American, I find that comparison insulting.

    January 14, 2008 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
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