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. Gloria from Tucson

    Just suppose every blogger commenting on a "he said"/"she said" statement were required to preface any remarks with the dated/ timed one or two sentence quote from the "sayer" that inspired the blog. This might help a bit to reduce the blog space taken up by folks having knee jerk reactions to something they have heard but not made the effort to check out for themselves. Fact check sources are available t us all! Please let's make use of them. There are too many of us suffering from "foot in mouth disease"!

    January 15, 2008 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  2. Jonnie rae, Boston

    It was not Obama who said "race." It was a lot of other African Americans who were offended by her equating MLK and LBJ in the Civil Rights struggle, a time during which, I might add, she was working for Barry Goldwater. Rep. Clyburn (sp? sorry) of South Carolina was among the most vocal. Do you want to say he is stupid too? Do you think the use of "shuck and jive" by AG Cuomo is ok? I so used to respect you. I can't understand your disrespect of Senator Obama; I just can't. I think you have hurt your own stature more than Obama's. By showing your ignorance of the true facts and your willingness to call people names, you have dimished yourself as a person, as a member of the African American community, and the Democratic party as a whole. I am at least your age, so I can say, "Shame on you!"

    January 15, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  3. Observer, Jacksonville, FL

    Scope213, you just made the point which a lot of people do not seem to see or do not want to come to terms with. Hillary is even enjoying the support close to obama's support just because she is white. If Obama was white he would have enjoyed a near 100% support because, let us face it, the man is bright and highly intelligent. He has fresh ideas. All his peers (those who look beyond race) tell of his achievements when he was a state senator in illinois. Hillary Clinton has not had any such accomplishments in her entire stay in Washington.

    January 15, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  4. Kitty

    Yes, God forbid we re-instate the draft and wealthy kids have to go to war, same as the kid's from poor family's ...
    Don't be mad at Sen. Rangel for pointing out that Obama just put his foot in his mouth.
    Obama said no more negitivity? Then he should have stuck to that.

    January 15, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  5. sule-1

    "New to Politics", you should probably check the meaning of the word POLITICS. Perhaps you will get some insight into all these.

    I hope somebody is keeping record.

    January 15, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  6. W.D., Silver Spring, MD

    Obama has done all he can do to keep race out of this contest so why would he inject it?

    January 15, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  7. James

    It's sad that Rangel has decided to dumb down the discourse at such a serious time in our history. The last thing that we need in this country is our so called leaders wasting our time with petty insults.

    Clinton campaign listen up....U ARE MAKING OBAMA LOOK GOOD. The voting population is not stupid. We know that you are behind this attack. Please tell your people to leave it alone and stick to the issues. I am sure that you can come up with sincere reasons why you are a better option. Stick to those....PLEASE

    January 15, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  8. Rick

    Tired of the rhetoric already. We need to focus on the serious problems and not the race/gender cards being played out. We have some serious issues here with the economy, war, housing, jobs etc etc etc

    January 15, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  9. chandra

    The Budget Plans fromm the Candidates are Unacceptable.

    The War on Middle Class Citizens who are now currently undocumented Citizens; how are any Presidential Budget Proposals from any of the Candidates (Democrats and Republicans) will resolve and solve this problem when these undocumented citizens do not fit into any of their budgeted areas for relief?

    A citizen (this exist) who is currently unqualified for unemployment insurances, unqualified for Social Security Disabilities, unqualified for Food Stamps, unqualified for housing, unqualified for medical insurances, unqualified for employment, unqualified for all Social Services Benefits …etc after the age of thirty-five (35). How are their budgets proposals or any for that matters, be beneficial to this undocumented citizens and relief this person from poverty, homelessness…etc?

    I would like to know who and which Presidential Candidate can resolve this issue since, no current Governmental Agencies, State Political Leaders and the Presidential Offices has no solutions? Not even the more experienced and qualified Justices of the Law could come up with a solution. So what would make these Candidates for President, who is inexperienced, be able to resolve this issue when these are the same individuals who had premeditated this problem at their prospective job levels and State Levels and the issues are in existence today??? They ignored the option for resolution at their Job Levels and Governmental Offices, what would make them think they would resolve it when they are in the Presidential Office?

    Under Mr. McCain’s plan of re-training at Community Colleges…etc. This is a revolving issue for disaster. Besides, these unemployed individuals are trying to use the money to pay for bills to stay from debts rather than paying for school, which was done once in their lives. Also, the Labor Dept re-trains everyone who are receiving Unemployment Insurances. The question is what happens when the unemployment insurances run out and the re-training they received from the Labor Dept. is not what employers/hiring companies want in an employee? These are the types of quagmire the Governmental Officials and Political Experienced Leaders have created. To summarize these are all issues of out cries from the peoples which are unresolved and False Promises for corrections from Political Leaders and any/all Presidential Administrations, therefore is relief NULL????? Ms. C. Jugmohan

    January 15, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  10. Robert M Scott

    I am slowly getting tired of the "Old Guard". Let me preface myself by saying that I am a 44 year old college educated African American. I am a father of one son and a husband of a college Educated African American woman. We both are community volunteers, here in metropolitan Atlanta. I grew up in Baltimore and witnessed my father serve as campaign manager for numerous Democratic politicians. I feel I understand the process. Let me also go on record as saying that if Hillary Clinton were to win the Democratic nomination for President, I'd support her.

    The Clintons have been supportive of Black causes in the past and Bill has been the best President in terms of race relations, next to Jimmy Carter, that this country has ever seen. The history of African Americans voting for President has been a choice of the "lesser of two evils". Bill gave us an easy choice when compared to ANYONE from the past.

    I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for our Black Civil Rights leaders of the past. They embrace the Clintons and show them their loyalty. Today is a new day. There is a better choice. That choice is not running on a "race" platform. That person is running on a "CHANGE" platform and has the country's attention. He doesn't represent the same old establishment. He's being embraced by EDUCATED, FREE THINKING, and fully-EMANCIPATED African Americans. He's being embraced by EDUCATED, FREE THINKING, and fully-EVOLVED White Americans. We are seeking CHANGE.

    We respect the warriors of the past, but we don't want to go to battle with the BAGGAGE that goes along with the CLINTONS. We want to try CHANGE, first. I don't want to slam the Clintons, because it is true that we are all on the same side. We are at the point of choosing one or the other. I don't want to see some OLD GUARD Civil Rights veteran of the past use his TENURE IN OUR HEARTS AND MINDS in a way to slaughter or slander another AFRICAN AMERICAN man who is about TRUE CHANGE.

    Quantitatively, most educated African Americans give Bill about a "B-" as a grade when it came to him fulfilling the promises he made to us. For example the Haitians not being allowed to enter the country. He barked like a Pit-Bull when he needed our support. He did little or nothing about the Haitians being shown racial bias. Mexicans can enter, have children and those children become citizens. Haitians get turned around at sea with not enough fuel to make it back. That's RACIAL.

    Bill also compromised our loyalty along with the loyalty of his family, friends and constituents with decisions he made in his personal life as President. We have forgiven him and embraced him. But, that has to be factored-in to the equation when we look at where we place our future. It's true that it's Hillary running and not Bill. That's where my story begins, Hillary.

    She is not Bill. And, this race is for the President of the United States. This world has changed and Wealth has been re-distributed. The Gold standard has given way to the Oil Standard. The Oil Barons are buying MAJOR stock and interest in MULTI-NATIONAL corporations. Oil is $100/barrel and the US is a DEBTOR nation. Maybe in the past it was "A FAIRYTALE", but moving forward in this world, it may not be a bad idea for the United States to be represented by a BRILLIANT, African American Man, by the name of Barack Hussein Obama.

    For all thr right reasons, he's the man for the job. It doesn't matter that his father was born in Kenya and his mother 2in Kansas. It's not important that he passed up working on Wallstreet and making a ton of money. He went to the streets and worked the grass-roots. I cant see Hillary in the streets.

    It's very interesting to see this all un-fold. It is BETTER than HOPE. We can embrace each other across gender, race and politicall party lines. Let's face it, the Conservatives were ready for the Clintons. Morality and Values WILL BE THE TOPIC OF THE ELECTION against the Conservatives. It will take a Village to combat the "Morality" hole that Bill has put the Democrats in, LET'S BE REAL.

    I'm willing to have that BATTLE with the Clintons,....but ONLY if OBAMA is not the Democratic candidate. Bush and Cheney exploited this country and used the vehicles of the Carlyle Group and Haliburton to position themselves and their partners for wealth generated from War. Non-compete contracts and all other tactics for profit. The sacrificed lives. Not only did Hillary support it, but she owns her own "White Water Scandal the cancels out any fnger pointing. "Bush did it,....well so did the Clintons" is where we are politically with this.

    That is baggage. We see the BIG PICTURE, Mr Rangel, Young and Lewis. There is room for you, too. The Clintons, as well, for that matter. It is time. The time calls for CHANGE. Most of us are going to leave the plantation. We understand that there will be some of us that feel it is more important to express loyalty for the Clintons. There is are also a Cadre of young and old educated African Americans who refuse to mortgage our future with a "lesser of two evils". We have a BETTER choice. His name is Barack Hussein Obama. If that doesn't show the WORLD that we have EVOLVED as a country, I don't know what else will.

    Robert M Scott,
    Father, Husband, Youth Athletics Coach
    Barack Obama Supporter

    January 15, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  11. Matt

    Rangel totally twists Obamas comments. Obama never stated that MLK signed, or passed any legislation. Obama simply stated that MLK had more to do with getting Civil Rights the attention it deserved than Lyndon Johnson. Rangel is only inflaming the situation more with his comments while Clinton and Obama both are trying to tone it down. He is either not listening, or a total idiot..... He needs to just shut up.

    January 15, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  12. Michael

    Clinton and Obama (and Rangel) are all racists. All democrats who use the word "racism" like a bludgeon to end conversation are racists. Actually, Obama seems the most intellectually honest. Intellectual honesty is not an phrase one would use in describing any Clinton (or Congressman Rangel). These are some of the most predictably silly people on earth.

    January 15, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  13. shayama

    I have been living in US (lawfully) for more than 22 years. Every time there is a presidential election I look for a female candidate. In all these years after Elizabeth Doyle, for 2008 presidential election Hillary Clinton is another female candidate. I am surprised to learn that America being one of the most progressive country with a democratic government, yet American public can not digest this fact that their female is as capable as any male contender and she can run this country better than or equal to male president. I believe this is high time American’s change their attitude on this issue if they want to maintain their status as so called first world countries.

    Since everything being more or less equal in almost all the candidates (Democrat or Republican – I mean source of money, education, experience, etc. ) and if for no other reason to select Hillary then select her only to prove the World that you could also think of going out of the box and LET YOUR FEMELE BE A PRESIDENT. It is high time America, MORE THAN 250 YEARS OF INDEPENDENT DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT, and YOU PEOPLE CAN DO IT IF YOU WANT THAT MUCH I KNOW.

    January 15, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  14. Dakota

    Obama's comment *was* stupid, regardless of who (draft-supporter, etc.) called him on it.

    January 15, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  15. Ty

    Rep. Charlie Rangel represents the worst kind of liberal politician, a liberal who would compromise his principal in order to secure his political career.

    Case of point, Mr. Rangel injects himself into this divided issue that potentially will split the African American votes. Shouldn't an African American leader in the democratic party unifies his constituents, calling for truce between two candidates instead of fanning the fire? An honest democratic voter must ask such question.

    I presume the reason of his remarks is that he has foreseen the diminishing support for the Democratic establishment if Barack Obama is elected. Over all his years in Wahington, Mr. Rangel has not really accomplished a whole lot to enhace the equality and justice for minorities? Inner cities has grown worst in most of easten shore, meanwhile, the democratic party has increasing tie with corporate lobbyists (just think why a billionaire Bob Jones would come out attacking Barack Obama on behalf of Hillary Clinton).

    Mr. Rangel's statement is really to support himself for his political future in the democratic party. I honestly do not think he cares about the deed of MLK or his African American constituents.

    January 15, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  16. Marc in CT

    If not for Dr. King and the many wonderful people like him, who sacrificed so much up to and including there lives, There would have been no Bill to sign.
    So for Hillary or anyone to undermine his roll, [which she did] is wrong and Obama is absolutly right.
    Hillary brought this on her self and for people to blame Obama is wrong.
    I'm a Independent [more Republican than Democrat] but I see great promise in Mr Obama.

    January 15, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  17. SexismWhat?

    Thank you – some common sense. Obama – stop playing the race card. It's going to being mighty idiotic if Obama wins the primary purely by playing the race card and even more of a reason for me not to vote in the general election at all. He is the most devisive democrat ever – even more so than Clinton. She has repeatedly said "I am not running because I am a woman" but becaus she feels she is the most candidate, even though it is blatantly obvious how sexist this primary is; however, do you see her crying sexism- no. But Obama inevitably calls "race". Well, let him call it, because if he wins the primary, this girl isn't voting in the general election, and the Republicans will win a 3rd term in a row. Smart strategy on their part. I bet they are lauging right now!

    January 15, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  18. JK, Los Angeles, CA

    Wow. Senator Clinton is getting more desperate every day. And the Clinton camp wonders why Senator Clinton is unlikable. Every day the Clinton Camp sends out another prominent African American to bash Senator Obama. A very Clintonian playbook.

    January 15, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  19. IvyGrad06

    As an African American woman I have an open mind to both candidates. I understand that Hilary was suggesting that the role of a president is important as without the president certain laws cannot be enacted (ex – Civil Rights Acts). However, she misses the point that LBJ was not just such a great guy that he wanted to enforce Civil Rights - there was a mounting pressure in the country that he could no longer ignore and that pressure stemmed solely from the Civil Rights Movement led by MLK Jr and other African Americans who were NOT elected officials. That's why I found her statement offensive – because it shows that regardless of her involvment with Civil Rights in the past...she doesnt GET it – she emphasized the wrong person when stating who made change. Dr King did more than "help along the way" – he and his supporters REVOLUTIONIZED the country with their non-violent approach and it was only years of marches, boycotts, and speeches that any elected official signed anything.

    Also, a few people have commented that Obama has mishandled this situation and that there is now proof that he is too inexperienced to deal with politics in America. I understand their point (or at least part of it) is that to be electable means being able to play these games. I wonder, though, if we should be electing someone who exemplifies how politics SHOULD be and not how politics ARE? In other words, why elect Hillary who continues to play dirty games, rather than Obama who has not stooped to her level?

    January 15, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  20. Todd

    Clinton makes a good point, and Obama's people just don't get it, or maybe they do not understand the political process and the political history of the civil rights laws. Marches and speeches didn't make the Civil Rights Act into law, a law which Southern Democrats fought against strenuously, by the way. Politicians ironed out a law that a majority would support and a President would sign. Without LBJ, there would have been no CRA. What would Obama's camp say if Clinton pointed out that Affirmative Action was actually proposed by Nixon when he was Vice-president, and then implemented by a President?

    It's nice to see that Rangel, a man whose politics I normally can't stand, is willing to make sure everyone involved in the progress made in the 60's gets credit. I think that shows real class. All Obama wants to do is pretend he is the second coming of MLK, while pretending that the people who implemented MLK's dreams were just props. Inconvenient truth indeed.

    January 15, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  21. gramma moses

    This is a very powerful,black man or is he just an intelligent man trying to tell the very emotional people of America that they should stop name calling and realize what a mess America is in. It seems to me to be very foolist to set black against white, aren't there more whites? How does that work? Aren't there more women than men in America? If Charles Rangel doesn't know what he is talking about how did he get so powerful? Of course I am just a stupid Canadian who knows nothing about politics...

    January 15, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  22. Daisy

    So tired of the "race card" being played. Can we please get to the issues at hand.

    January 15, 2008 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  23. Angela

    Well, I think everyone knows the dead horse of racism was going to get dug up soundly thrashed (were beating a dead horse). Now that we've done that lets let it rest in peace and move on.

    What about those Michigan primaries today???

    January 15, 2008 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  24. Karen

    Hillary made the stupid comment....then her advisors rewrote it and turned it around against Obama. Do these Hillary supporters think the voters are also stupid to see the manipulation?

    January 15, 2008 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  25. John Karsten, Virginia Beach, VA

    Turst me people, I do not like HRC, but I have to say the Media spun this one up. I am an Obama supporter....When I heard her comments, I did not think any thing of it, until the media tried to say she was belittling MLK. I was not offended by what she said, I was more upset by the media coverage. Obama should have left this one alone.

    January 15, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
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