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. Laverne Epps

    What Hillary said was very sad, but not because of race. I do think it was not a very smart thing to say and for some it may seem to involve race. The real said thing is what she really saying. Hillary attacked hope and dreams. She was basically saying even the great dreamer Martin Luther King could make any changes with out the help of a crusty old system imbedded politician (LBJ). She wants us to give up hope and stick with the old system with her at the helm. How dare she!

    January 15, 2008 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  2. Wisely Said...

    BooBoo... I agree! I love the idea of Rangel suggesting that the draft be reinstated.

    The soldiering is being done disproportionately by Mr. Rangel's community. The rest of us are just funding it from our armchairs. Bring it HOME to the population that this should not be a war that touches only the poor and unskilled... easy prey to the army recruits. We all need to appreciate more deeply its costs. What suckers we were to get into the protracted battle for cheaper oil because we are a spend-ridiculously society about THINGS.

    Mr. Rangel's call to reinstate the draft is a WAKE UP CALL. Wow– amazing how many people just failed to GET THE POINT.

    Get it?

    January 15, 2008 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  3. mandy

    doesn't she know in a society thats so politically correct it would be a mistake to bring up race when shes running aganist a black man?

    January 15, 2008 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  4. Alan

    It's amazing that the media is focusing on this non-event instead of addressing the real issues. But of course, why would the media want to actually talk about real issues: like how the Republicans want to fill the government with incompetent people so they can say the government doesnt work and have an excuse to privatize everything; like poverty; like the war (nearly 4,000 dead soldiers now); like why the NATO commander had to ask for more troops in Afghanistan because our fearless leader decided to focus on Iraq before the job was done; and on and on and on. No, its makes for much better TV to talk about comments that one side or the other supposedly made and inflame people's passions about race, religion, illegal immigrants, abortion, gay marriage, etc...

    January 15, 2008 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  5. shirley hayes smith

    Barack is stupid. The Clintons have done more for black people than he can
    ever do in his life time. He is raciest, a raciest in a way that is hurting our
    blalck people. He is definitely helping the Republicans regain the Whitehouse telling allhis lies. People need to listen and promote Bob Johnson and Andrew Young 'scomments and evaluation of O'Bama. What a name for President. It is not afriendly American name. For some reason the media is afraid to to publicize
    any true negative comments about Barack because he will call it a race thing. They will lose their jobs. Wakeup America and vote Hilllary Clinton for President. If you want Change – She can make change happen.

    January 15, 2008 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  6. Phil

    For those of you so upset about the "race card being played" I ask you to point out where it started. And if you believe Obama started it then find the comments. The man said NOTHING about the issue. Clinton's analogy was a poor one and she got called on it. But instead of being a woman of integrity and apologizing if she accidentally offended anyone she pointed the finger and fabricated an entire assault on herself by Obama.

    If the Obama camp is smart they will do all they can in their power to show everyone that the attack was never made. This is the "Swiftboat" of 08. If he doesn't stand up for himself then the lies will fester until its too late and the average mindless voter will shift their support for nothing. A truce is not going to cut it.

    And for those that don't want to address race, this is a prime example of why it needs to be discussed. If anything Obama now is at a disadvantage because of his race. He has quickly been lumped into the group of race card playing blacks by some people. The question isn't "why do we have to talk about race" its "why do we not just accept everyone as different but equal". When you solve the second one you probably won't hear about race any more.

    January 15, 2008 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  7. Peace4all

    BTW, it wasn't Hillary or Obama who interjected race – it was the MEDIA – yes, all of them. TV, Print, Radio, Newsblogs, etc. There is no responsible journalism/Jounalist anymore – just cheap, headline seeking trash (CNN, MSNBC (Chris, Joe, Tim), CBS, Fox, ABC, Huffington Post, NT Times, Wash Post, Time, Newsweek, etc. ALL GARBISH. They are the race/gender mongers – They are the ones doing it and some of you are so, so STUPID to buy into it. If Obama or Hiillary become the nominee – I will suport them.

    January 15, 2008 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  8. Ralp Lesailor

    Mr. Rangel, I know Mr. Obama. You are not Obama, not even close.

    January 15, 2008 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  9. DJH

    This is much ado about nothing! As much as I hate to say it, Hillary didn't say anything wrong here (and this coming from someone who wouldn't spit on her if she were on fire). Her comment took nothing away from Dr. King, she simply stated that LBJ, along with REPUBLICANS in Congress, pushed the civil rights legislation through that Dr. King championed. As Dr. King was not a legislator he could not have pushed it through Congress himself, though he was quite obviously the catalyst and driving force behind it.
    As far as the Clinton administration doing anything for the black community, well that is a fantasy. Clinton didn't do much of anything for anyone, but then most people either wont or haven't taken the time to look at his administration critically, but history will not be kind to him, at all.

    The fact is all of the presidential contenders, from both parties, are terrible. To get excited over any of them shows a lack of attention.

    January 15, 2008 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  10. Jennifer

    How in the hell is anyone going to say that Obama said Martin Luther King could have signed the bill? Re-read what he says and he didn't say anything that came even close to this!!!! Its just the whole thing that if someone says you said something enough times idiots will believe it rather than looking to see that you never said that. Obama has never ONCE brought race into this, others are so they can turn around and accuse HIM of playing the race card! ARGH!!!!!!

    January 15, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  11. Fran

    Charlie Rangel is one of the smartest congressmen we have, maybe the best too. And he is Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee which = power.

    January 15, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  12. Jonathan

    Angie said ".....the Clinton's have an impeccable record on civil rights- a proven track record, not just talk...."


    Having Toni Morrison call you the first Black president does not equal an impeccable record on civil rights! During the Clinton administration, state prison population grew, and the number of black males increased by 27%. He refused to reverse mandatory minimum sentencing laws, which were racially biased against blacks, with higher sentencing for crack dealers.

    I think that race is not a key election issue, but it is important to the generations of lost black males, and the families they leave behind. Having a President who also can servse as role model for all races, but particularly African-Americans, is the hope that I beleive in Obama's campaign.

    January 15, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  13. Tim Renfro

    We need to get down to what will work for this country. What we need is a centrist in office such as Clinton or McCain who can work with both parties in Washington and get something done. Obama is as far to the left as Bush or Huckabee is to the right. This country does not need four more years of Bush or Bush Lite.

    January 15, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  14. Tara

    Mr. Obama was the one who incited the race card, when he gave that speech after his loss in New Hampshire. He brought up slaves, and the remembrance of the Martin Luther King with the “I have a dream speech.” The only thing he didn’t do was where a hanker chief around his head and sing “Mammy.” It seems a great scheme of his, to show how “black” he is when he starts to lose- any other time he is trying to show how white he is. This is 2008, and I don’t want to hear it! You know what, “we all have dreams,” and I am tired of the race card!

    January 15, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  15. wog

    what is so big there like hillary said to be proud about, that a black man, and a woman , are contesting for presidency in america this should be nomal for americans we are in the year 2008. and why did she come out with this m.l.k story what has that to do with the contest.

    January 15, 2008 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  16. Mark Redd

    Once a Clinton, always a Bush!

    Hillary, Bill, George and George are the most disengenuine speakers I have ever heard.

    January 15, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  17. cc, Chicago

    Rep. Rangel has a horrific tax proposal that would amount to the largest tax increase in U.S. history and now after a truce called by both campaigns decides to keep stirring the pot. What is his motivation? Is Sen. Clinton still using surrogates to keep this thing going? I certainly hope she comes out with a statement reinforcing the truce or she will continue to turn off voters. And for the record, the stupidity lies with Sen. Clinton for making the statement to begin with. While I do not take away from her civil rights record, we are dealing with a highly intelligent, experienced lawyer and politician. She wasn't speaking from the cuff on this one. It certainly appeared that she was attempting to stoke the black community's skepticism regarding the electability of a black man to the presidency. Playing into those fears doesn't mean she hasn't done alot for the black community. It just means she'll do anything to get elected.

    January 15, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  18. Myke of Maryland

    I'm tired of Black leadership selling out!!!
    (Thank God for The Oprah)

    I'm tired of ignorant people not investigating the facts!!!
    (The media is hyping this story, NOT OBAMA!!!)

    I'm tired of experience being a question!!
    (Bush had all the experience and look where we are)

    I'm NOW tired of the Clintons!!!
    (We will NOT go "backwards" if we elect a man of color)

    GO OBAMA!!!!!!!!

    January 15, 2008 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  19. Don taylor

    For a country that prides itself on diversity and acceptance it's startling how sensitive people have become to words that they impose with double meanings. And the meaning they choose is always the wrong one. Al Sharpton, for one, is being allowed to stifle dialogue between candidates with his version of what they meant. One might ask....Who is actually stirring up the race scenario?

    Bill and Hillary Clinton's recent remarks are being completely misinterpreted. If they were racial in tone....they would be the stupidest people in the United States. Their records certainly would indicate just the opposite.

    Why is it that those other than blacks have to run their dialogue past the "correctness police" before speaking. Lets listen to policies and determine how they will impact citizens both in the United States and around the world before imposing criticism on those attempting to effect real change with false "correct speak.".

    January 15, 2008 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  20. Mike D

    Since when is the issue Obama's MLK remarks? I thought Hillary is the one who made comments about him? The Clinton spin machine is working in full effect.

    January 15, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  21. Amelia

    It is so enjoyable to see the Democrats imploding like they are this election...and of course they are...the "frontrunner" was a woman. What did you expect? Women can't be president. No self-respecting republican woman would ever even dream of running for that position, we know what it is and it is a job for a man. As a woman, I know my place, it's sad that no one ever taught Ms. Clinton her place.

    January 15, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  22. Sacl

    In agreement with Rich and Janie above, and Mr. Rangel . it took two, and more, regarding passage of Civil Rights legislation. Dr. Martin Luther King and the civil rights activists AND a sympathetic President. Personally, I doubt if Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan or our current President had been in office at that time, any Civil Rights Acts would have been signed into law during their presidency, regardless of the civil rights movement.

    Regarding Mr. Rangel's supposedly wanting draft reinstatement - as stated above, it was so everyone would be on equal footing to fighting in this ' illegal' "war" in Iraq. It was not a stupid thing to say or propose. IMO, it was brilliant. And, if the draft were reinstated today, you can bet there would be more people actively and loudly voicing their opinion against it. Parents, politicians, college students. Afterall it wasnt until the draft during Vietnam that people took to the streets to get it ended. And more politicians voted to get it ended.

    January 15, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  23. steve

    So why should I vote democrat? I may believe more in their agenda than republican, but I have Zero confidence in them. Look at how they manage their campaigns. Who would of thought that race would become an issue within their own ranks? Whats next?

    January 15, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  24. New to Politics

    I'm sorry – I'm new to the political world so I may be wrong in taking statements at face value:

    "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." Senator Obama

    He is reponding to the statements being made about his campaign over reacting to Hilary's comment about President Johnson and MLK – when in fact he never reacted to those particular words. People are accusing him of pulling the race card – all I see are other members of the African-American community reacting to the statement (and no I don't think they are over reacting – but that's another story).

    So is the lesson here that if you're black and you say something against a white delegate, that you must be part of the Obama campaign? Or that as the black candidate, Obama's campaign automatically get's "credit" for any response by the black community?

    Someone – help me out here.

    January 15, 2008 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  25. Skepticus

    The race card will be played early and often in the candicacy process. Get used to it. Obama will avoid doing so because he knows that his attack dogs and other supporters will play it for him. This year's field of candidates does not have even one from either party that stands out as the person that belongs in the Oval Office. Not one.

    January 15, 2008 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
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