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. rbe1

    Has it occurred to any of you rocket scientists that Rangel is pushing the draft to force Bush to deal with the true cost of his wars, as well as to hilight the easy life of our no-pain citizens, who think they can afford to shop for new SUV's while someone else's sons are dying in Iraq ? If you bothered to follow the man's career, you might find that he has always fought hard for the average guy. If you want a black president, Rangel would tower head and shoulders above our man Obama.

    January 15, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  2. Alden

    Obama is trying to align himself in the same camp as Martin Luther King ???
    I don't think so. That's a cute political maneuver though 🙂

    January 15, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  3. sp

    why is this on the cnn home page? a comment someone made about obama based on a misinterpretation if his words doesn't seem newsworthy to me. it seems more like any excuse to make obama look bad for not responding to hillary's attempt at interjecting race into the campaign.

    January 15, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  4. David, Dallas Tx

    Why do I think we're about to get yet another "Oh, we didn't authorize that comment" from the Clinton camp?

    Their strategy is easy to see: get supporters or staffers who are about to quit to sling mud on their behalf, so that they aren't perceived as dirty themselves.

    Twice is coincidence. Three times is a pattern. But this is incident number four.

    January 15, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  5. Erika

    It's sad that such a high ranking African American congressman completely misunderstood what Barack is saying. People are constantly trying to belitte the acts of African Americans leaders by interjecting a White American as a "savior figure". Yes, LBJ made moves in the right direction but i refuse to give him more credit or the same amount of credit as Martin Luther King. I am sure without King's actions, LBJ's actions would not have occurred!

    January 15, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  6. Louis

    This is stupid. Who cares? Talk about something that matters.

    January 15, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  7. FH

    Obama did not attack Clinton. Obama is class. Clinton is trash.

    January 15, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  8. TD

    Of course Hillary is technically correct, and of course she gets a pass. What would Rangel, or even the Clintons, have said if her comments had been made by any one of the Republican candidates? Imagine the furor from them all! There would be calls for censure, removal from candidacy and, at least, charges of racism.

    January 15, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  9. Quasimoto1

    I apologize if this has already been covered in the blog responses but this comment,
    "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."
    Surely, maybe he thinks being honest is a good thing for politicians or anybody for that matter. And surely he thinks that sending a positive message to people makes them feel in touch with most of humanity. I am not sure what Mr Rangel thinks but I would imagine that he too would agree that being honest is a good thing. Also I for one have not been pure my whole life, and have had some transgressions in my youth and young adult life but thankfully the law never became involved and these were nothing more than me growing up. I do not think I am alone nor do I think I am in the minority on this one, so for all you people out there who may have done some drugs or perhaps got behind the wheel when you shouldn't have, you are not alone, and maybe these things were not smart but making mistakes is part of maturing!

    Gotta Go, stay Solid!

    January 15, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  10. Linda Pacifica

    Thank you Congressman Rangel! Mrs. Clinton has been chastized by the media and Mr. Obama has taken unfair advantage of it. He absolutely tried to play the race card and he waited too long (until yesterday) to admit that her words were misconstrued and manipulated.

    January 15, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  11. KAS

    I find Charlie Rangal's comments a little too convenient given the fact that Senator Obama is leading Hillary in Nevada as we speak. The Clintons were also not happy that Senator Obama received the culinary endorsement in lieu of her so called victory in New Hampshire. Hillary is playing dirty politics and anyone with a brain can see that.

    OBAMA O8

    January 15, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  12. Dan

    LOL! Look at the Democrats destroy each other from the inside!!!! If this keeps up, it will bode VERRRRRY well for Republicans come November!

    January 15, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  13. Rico

    I keep hearing about this truce.
    Correcet me if I am wrong but didnt hillary offer the first sign of a truce and barak followed.

    January 15, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  14. Jim, Fredericksburg VA

    I don't want to spend another 4 years parsing sentences to determine what the definition of is is. Anyone but Billary in November.

    January 15, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  15. Anthony Rubio

    I would like to mention one more truth if I may, I believe that neither candidate has taken a firm enough stance against America's biggest problem, big business. Though Obama and Clinton both say that they will take action against big business', I feel as if they are just empty promises. I believe that it is easier to become corrupt in office than it is to create change for the better. I don't mean to sound conspiracy here, but the people who attempted to create radical reforms were tragically kelled in one way or another dating back to Lincoln. I feel I will reserve my vote until the day comes when a candidate becomes public enemy number one.

    January 15, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  16. Ehsanul Haque

    This time it is an opportunity for the great Americans to choose Barak as their President, not only to show there is no more black and white things. Much I see Barak speaking to the audiences, I feel he is a real democrat, for Americans and for the world. Hillary is also a right candidate to be the next President. But her speeches, attitudes show she is too White Housy, does not belong to ordinary people. As if she's just come out of the WH to collect the consent of people to return. Though I'm not American, I too have a right to speak about American affairs, as America touches world matters.

    Ehsanul Haque
    Montreal, Canada

    January 15, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  17. Kaitlin

    How did this become a religion issue for some?
    For those of you who still believe that Obama is Muslim because of those email rumors, etc., do a little more research next time.

    How did it become a republican vs. democrat issue for some people when it is about two democrats?
    People continually fall victim to the American political party system and feel the need to bash others because they are of the opposite party.

    Sadly, race will always be an issue, until people aren't able to tell the difference between skin color anymore. And it is a shame that it will be that way, unless everyone learns to accept everyone elses differences. I personally believe that there is only one race – the human race. More people need to start seeing the world that way.

    And with Black leaders saying that Obama "isn't black enough." What does that mean?

    I don't think Obama is playing the "race card." When a supporter of one candidate says something about another, it is obviously a biased view, and words get twisted, and false statements can be made. Also, with the way the media portrays things nowadays it's hard to know what exactly is going on, what is truthful, and what is neutral.

    I have not decided who is getting my vote yet. Democrat or republican, I don't care. What matters to me is what they will do for our country.

    January 15, 2008 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  18. Kathie

    It was just a matter of time before race was to be mentioned. Why is everyone so upset? Jjust wait, if Obama get's the Democratic nomination, the Republicans are going to bring out his first grade report card. Get ready to watch the sparks fly. And, you better believe the race issue will will be big. Personnally, I like both, Senators Clinton and Obama, and I'm still undecided.

    January 15, 2008 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  19. Jack Letts Baltimore, MD

    Modern History Sourcebook:
    Sojourner Truth:
    "Ain't I a Woman?", December 1851

    Sojourner Truth (1797-1883): Ain't I A Woman?
    Delivered 1851
    Women's Convention, Akron, Ohio
    Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about?
    That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?
    Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?
    Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.
    If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.
    Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.

    This is a very old argument. Hillary's got my vote.

    January 15, 2008 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  20. Nick, Athens, OH

    Uh... I thought both camps were moving past this issue? Which should mean that any major Clinton supporter would respect that truce.

    Good job congressman, way to make Obama look good.


    January 15, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  21. Anonymous

    In my opinion Obama has been chomping at the bit to bring race into this election, and he seems to have chomped too soon as this "excuse" to play the card was poorly chosen and is bad timing. I think that this will be a defining moment where the electorate becomes disgusted because, heretofore, we've been able to keep the real issues at the forefront between the two of them. I actually expected this, ever since Obama started to sound like MLK in his speech after the New Hampshire primary as he chanted "I have a dream". . . Sorry, I mean "Free at last" . . . Sorry, I mean "Yes we can", in an atypical southern drawl. Did anyone else catch this?

    January 15, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  22. Sean

    Rep. Rangel needs to lay off the Clinton teat. I mean, I know he is a New York Congressman and stands to benefit from a Clinton presidency, but Obama did not say anything negative about Clinton's MLK comments. I think they were downright gracious, considering the Clintons were trying to blame Obama for their consistent stream of gaffes:

    "I mean, I think what we saw this morning is why the American people are tired of Washington politicians and the games that they play. But Sen. Clinton made an unfortunate remark, an ill-advised remark, about King and Lyndon Johnson. I didn't make the statement. I haven't remarked on it. And she, I think, offended some folks who felt that somehow diminished King's role in bringing about the Civil Rights Act. She is free to explain that. But the notion that somehow this is our doing is ludicrous."

    I personally agree with the sentiment a lot of people have expressed–All politicians lie, but the Clintons do it with such ease it's disturbing. All this said and done, Obama is the most honest politician I have ever seen. As a Democrat, I have to say at this point I will never, ever vote for Hillary Clinton.

    January 15, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  23. RJ

    Only when the outcry became so great throughout the nation for change is when the Civil rights act was signed into Law. If Martin Luther King and the many followerers would not have stood up and demanded it, it would have never happened. It should not have taken the heroic efforts of MLK and others in order for equality to exist. unfortunately that is the only time change occurred within the white house is when the outcry was too great to ignore. So actually, it took over 400 years before the WHITE HOUSE did anything right? Why so long? If change began in the WHITE HOUSE then why did it take so long to sign the Civil rights movement into law?

    January 15, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  24. Dee Herd

    I was going to vote Clinton,but after her, having her supporters going out after Obama like this.I'm Voting Obama.I wanted experance thats why her,but this -It shows me what kind of nasty,slime ,2 faced person she'll be as a leader. and those thats she will surround herself with-Do what I say or I'll send in my team to personnal destory you-Thats not the principals I want for my country so I'm voting for whats good for my country-I'll choose Obama-At least he stands for Hope.-He reminds me of Bobby Kennedy.If she wins I'm not going to vote for the first time in my voting history-28 years-And I'll change my party to independant.

    January 15, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  25. Lost in Oz

    I am not yet decided, but I agree the bickering needs to stop!

    I was on the Obama band wagon; though through all of the bickering and then to stop and think about saying "President Obama"; I am not sure how saying "President Obama" sits with me and his church affiliation seems somewhat racist to me; but what do I know...I am a midwestern trying to figure all of this out.

    January 15, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
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