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. Joshua

    This article clearly highlights the problems we're facing in the economy and overseas. It is a useful piece of journalism.

    January 15, 2008 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  2. scope213

    Wow this guy is a tool. I love how they twist words to make Obama seem the one throwing the race card into the arena. All Obama was doing was repeating what Hillary had said and in my humble opinion try to dilute the importance of MLK to the civil rights movement. Without MLK we would still have "colored" restrooms, crappy jobs, get beat by cops on a daily basis, etc. Actually, I'm American of asian decent...I probably wouldn't be here in the first place if it wasn't for him; my family would've just stayed in S. Korea.

    I see and hear Hillary and I wonder why in the world do we want to choose another old school politician??? She is another cookie cutter D.C. tool that will continue the slow decay of our government. We need change...comon people when you compare the two, Obama outshines by far. You want to make stupid excuses not to choose Obama, fine. But at least try to be color blind when you decide. To be honest and real, I think majority of the Democrats and Independents would choose Obama if he was of european decent (not again you say? it's the truth for many).

    January 15, 2008 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  3. Marianne, Washington, DC

    When did it get so you couldn't say something (actually pretty logical since LBJ actually did push the bill through Congress and sign it into law) without it being about race? As far as I could tell, the jist of Hillary's comment was he wasn't the main factor in getting the bill signed. True. But I don't think anyone would say he wasn't the most influential civil rights figure in America.

    January 15, 2008 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  4. Spectator

    I think it's curious that CNN is running this as a highly important story. The on-line headline juxtaposes "Obama" and "stupid" in an inflammatory way. Can we assume some pro-Clinton copy-editor is behind that? Way to be on the sidelines, CNN!

    January 15, 2008 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  5. Brian

    I agree with AJ, that both parties called a truce so why are media outlets still printing this nonsense. It's stirring up useless emotions about a non-story and completely fails to address the fact that both Hillary and Barcak have some VERY INTERESTING ideas on how to stimulate an economy heading towards a recession.

    People spent more time on this blog trying to justify silly comments than they did having a serious debate on where Hillary and Barack actually stand on the issues.

    What a novel idea it would be if blogs like these had substantive conversations about REAL issues instead of mindless cheerleading campaigns for one camp or the other.

    January 15, 2008 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  6. Greg, Phoenix, AZ

    How does someone like Charlie Rangel actually get elected to office in this country?

    He sounds like a child who cannot properly express himself.

    Time to move out of the way, Chuck, because this year it is out with the old and in with the new.

    January 15, 2008 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  7. Chiffonade,

    I am now Charles Rangel's biggest fan. (A sentence I never thought I'd make...) Finally, someone who clearly understands the nature of the comment. There is ABSOLUTELY NO disputing the value, integrity, leadership and stimulus provided by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. regarding the civil rights movement. What Ms. Clinton was alluding to is the fact that he needed someone inside government to AGREE with him, in order to put signature to law. She was highlighting the relationship of government with concerned and driven private citizens working together for positive change.

    I'm a lowly high school graduate. Why is it that I understood the comment perfectly and highly educated, highly paid people out there have done their utmost to TWIST this message into something so horrifically ugly???

    Clearwater, FL

    January 15, 2008 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  8. Know About Us

    These comments here on the NY Congressman only show that people aren't trying to go into this election informed. The Republicans are looking at a cake-walk in November because we want to exercise our belief in CHANGE all of the sudden. We're corny. My apologies to Al Gore, Jessie, Al and all the others who held/hold office in this nation who never got the support they needed from us. Put your faith in God where it belongs and vote for a candidate with a record that shows they can do what's best for our children. Hillary's the better candidate, but we are doing what we always do here (amped one day about promises and upset the next when the truth which we should already know come to fruition)...

    January 15, 2008 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  9. wesleyb

    Look... to say 'I would vote for one democrat and not the other' when their policies are the same says that you're voting for the individual, not what they can do for this country. A democratic voter even implied that they would vote for a republican before Hillary because they 'don't like her'. Blue and Red are so divided on all major policy decisions that it is nearly imposible to get them confused: Iraq, Abortion, Healthcare, Gay Rights, Taxes, the Economy, Immigration, etc... Look at the stances that each side takes; vote for what you believe is best for America; and stop listenning to some Senator who is antagonizing the situation or some skinny extremist reporter who is only trying to sell her next book.

    p.s. He suggested the draft to scare the people who are making millions off of this war but sacrificing nothing. Most of the Soldiers risking all come from the lower end of the ecomic scale. It was not meant seriously.

    January 15, 2008 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  10. Bob

    1st) Neither the Clintons nor Obama used race to define nor defend their position. This is a fabrication and manipulation by the spin doctors!

    2nd) The gist of the Clinton’s criticism of Barack Obama was to try and diminish Barack’s message of “change you can believe in” and his [Barack’s] vision of a better tomorrow. This is what the Clinton’s referred to as giving people false hopes that cannot be delivered on.

    3rd) In reference to JFK and MLK, Barack simply used the two great Americans as argument to support why he believes in “vision” and that a vision of the end state is effective in defining goals. Barack stated that neither JFK and MLK gave up on their visions simply because they lacked detailed plan or means to see them into effect! One could easily add Ronald Regan to the mix as true visionaries!

    4th) The line up of major players on this is clearly “old school” verses “new school” hence Charlie Rangel’s input. There are clearly entrenched politicians and political interest that are backing the traditional candidate with some exceptions such as Senator Kerry and others whom share a vision of change, change we can trust.

    5th) You can’t separate Hillary and Bill Clinton in their co-run for President and as such they are the virtual incumbents and their comments must be seen to represent one voice.

    6th) The Al Gore and Ted Kennedy endorsements will be the “big fish” that will either add additional legitimacy to one candidate or confirmation of experience to the other.

    It is clear that the establishment HATEs the insurgent and “the vision thing”.

    Take a look at all the video related to this story available on YouTube. You can start, stop and replay as many times as you want in order to get your interpretation of who said what and when for this entire NON RACE EVENT!

    Never under estimate the power of inspirational “vision”.

    January 15, 2008 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  11. nic

    So the Clinton's know every Tom in Washington?! Obama never said that "King could've passed the law" himself. He didn't say anything about King as far as I can tell...it was Hillary who opened her mouth on the subject first, in an attempt to downplay Obama's message of hope.

    It's amazing how vicious we (blacks) can be toward eachother...but STUPID is allowing the Clintons to pull your puppet strings in public & calling your brother "stupid" for challenging the white establishment.

    January 15, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  12. Cheryl

    It's about time a black leader stood up and put an end to this absurd debate. This whole thing is sickening and I agree with June from California...if this stuff doesn't stop soon, I'll vote for McCain. The Clintons were and are huge supports of the black population. To try to turn this into a racial situation is disgusting. Shame on you Obama.

    January 15, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  13. Stand together

    Let's stand together, people, and vote for change. The comments caught off the cuff and mean insertions in this tight race, we have to ignore . I think that Hillary and Barack want much of the same thing for this country. Hillary should have known better, but I don't think she intended to insert the race card any more than she wants to flash the gender card. This historic time in this country when the two Democratic front runners are a woman and an African-American man, should not go down in bickering, but be celebrated. Can we stand together? I think so.

    January 15, 2008 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  14. CO Dem Mom

    What a jerk! The ONLY reason he's blasting Obama is because he's a Clinton supporter. Nothing he said has any substance and he just made HIMSELF sound "stupid".

    To nitpick the semantics of every word someone utters is patently ridiculous.
    Obama, and Clinton for that matter, are FOR civil rights, women's rights, equal rights for all.
    Nuff said, get over this. Talk about the ISSUES!

    January 15, 2008 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  15. Gary Waukegan IL

    Great job Democrats,I thought you were the party of inclusion.I thought that you didn't look at race,gender,or religion.To everybody saying this is the media making a big deal out of these statements by Hillary or Obama,just imagine how different the coverage would be if a Republican said some of these idiotic comments.

    January 15, 2008 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  16. Heather

    So I should judge a candidate by the actions of his/ her supporters? Come on, people. Clinton made a comment that was blown out of proportion and out of context. Big deal? Barak and Edwards and Kucinich have done the same. Enough with this paparazzi-style yellow journalism. Make it about the issues, NOT the actions/ words of a few camera hogs.

    January 15, 2008 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  17. Bruce Taylor

    I think Charlie Rangel is trying pathetically to keep the race issue alive. He is just a Clinton minion. It is a very sad statement as to what this campaign has become.

    January 15, 2008 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  18. Ronaldo

    Rangel is and always was an "idiot". He's always trying to pass some law or say something that makes him stand out .He has always sickened me with his condescending attitude. Dude shut your pie whole and lay it to rest. Go back to your desk.

    January 15, 2008 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  19. Roy

    Both Hillary and Obama have made fools of themselves over this pandering and posturing. They have demonstrated.poor judgment.
    Edwards is the least of three Democratic evils.

    January 15, 2008 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  20. Modu

    Rangel, Andrew Young etc, represent the past – and an Obama Presidency will make that clear to the whole world. So it is in their interest to support Hillary and Bill, so I can understand why Rangel is in such a foul mood. No one likes to leave the stage, especially to someone that appears more intelligent, more articulate, more well spoken, more educated.... I feel your pain Congressman..

    January 15, 2008 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  21. fietts

    It’s heartwarming to see Chairman Rangel found time to tear himself away from his $35,000.00 portrait to add fuel to a dying fire.

    The Obama Camp never wanted his running to be about race as they knew if it ever came down to that they would not win the nomination.

    BO’s focused less on being a Black Man running and more concerned about being seen as a Man running for office that happens to be black.

    Both LBJ and MLK Jr. needed one another to make the Civil Right Bill a reality, just like B.O. and HRC will need whites, blacks and Latinos to get into the White House.

    Time to raise the game, far too much rest in the balance…

    January 15, 2008 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  22. bill

    for all the deals that Charlie has had to cut to get where he is today, he owes the Clinton's their distorted view of history. What Obama said has been twisted by two desperate political hacks who's sun has set. Hillary started this fight and now she is claiming innocence? Sounds like a Moica defense. Coming from a couple whse life has been spent spinning anything that comes out of their mouths to get them inches ahead of everyone else, their argument of starting the fight and then claiming assault is ludicrous. They should be ashamed of dragging the name of Martin Luther King into their tacky culture of politics but it is one more example of two people who would sell their daughter if it meant a vote for more power. Pathetic couple, pathetic Charlie.

    January 15, 2008 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  23. jon

    why are we giving facetime to this rep? CNN has really taken sensationalism to the next level this election cycle. Pretty soon we'll be getting better news from the tabloids then our own sources.

    January 15, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  24. Sue in Florida

    Is not a simple "thank you" here enough? Obama started this problem trying to play the race card. Let someone point out to him that this was/is not the case with Senator Clinton. It was not spoken to minimize any imput or hard efforts of Dr. King. Now that everyone knows this was just fodder thrown out to create chaos, can we not move on to more important reasons of "why" to elect someone. Obviously, Mr. Obama can only say change so many times together with making issues with other candidates.

    January 15, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  25. Myke of Maryland

    Who in their right mind didn't think race wasn't going to play a part in this election?

    The fact that we live in a racist society FORCES race to be issue in this campaign.

    Many of my white friends don't believe a black man can be elected because they accuse the other white person of being the racist.

    Life is way too funny!

    January 15, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
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