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. Mike, Fredericksburg VA

    Hillary's "experience" shines through – again and again and again.
    As for LBJ: with his life time of public service, LBJ did only two things of merit:
    1. He signed the civil rights legislation.
    2. He decided not to run for president.

    I do wonder about this: when Bill Clinton was president, the term was "Billary", now that Hillary is making a run, is the "Hillbilly" the correct referent? So, what other potions (opportunities that Hillary says she has for the nation) is she brewing up in the cement pond?

    January 15, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  2. Deb, Richmond VA

    and to think – we have until November to be bombarded with lies and half-truths. Honest discussion regarding policy seems to be unacceptable to candidates in both parties. It doesn't matter a person's race or religion. what matters is their ability to light a fire under congress and get some work done.

    The middle class is on its death bed thanks to the policies of the president & congress for the past 7 years. What are our options? Who can we count on? So far, I'm not impressed with anyone at all. Bill Richardson was actually the most qualified for foreign policy, but no one seems to be concerned about domestic issues.

    Too bad we can't wipe the entire slate clean, and choose businessmen, economists, scientists, doctors, teachers and other educated middle class citizens to take over the government. The elite of American have done nothing but line their own pockets.

    January 15, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  3. RF, NJ

    Race and gender should be non-issues. Talking about them is a waste of time and a smoke screen. MOVE ON to what's important!

    January 15, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  4. larry

    Obama knew what Hillary was communicating. There was nothing racial until Obama alluded to it. It's just another case where he's been handed softballs the entire campaign, never been pressed with the tough questions, and when he wants to throw a spit ball it's never thrown back. This time it was and he doesn't know how to act. How's he going to act when N. Korea or Iran start throwing nukes? When's this guy going to answer so real questions. So far he's just been profiling for the cameras.

    January 15, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  5. Juli L

    Here is what will stop women and blacks from getting into the White House; Every time something is said that has a slight hint of color and/or sex, the others feel the need to throw the race or sexist card in the ring.....

    Well, I got news for both, Voting America is rolling their collective eyes and looking the other way to vote.

    Knock it off and run on your own strengths and stop looking for excuses. We have enough victims.

    January 15, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  6. Undecided Voter

    I find it ironic that the candidate of change, Obama, is the master of spin. It looks like the same old politics as usual. I wish the media and candidates would focus on the issues.

    Also, I find it interesting that the media decided prior to NH that the Democratic race is between Clinton and Obama and that Edwards doesn't have a chance. I thought that was for the voters to decide. Maybe Edwards will benefit from all this nonsense.

    January 15, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  7. Angela

    Kellybelle and Angela you are so right. I totally agree 100%.

    January 15, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  8. Sabrina

    As an African American, I am so sick and tired of these high ranking African Americans fighting like cats and dogs over these candidates comments . WE ARE HURTING OUT HERE. Healthcare, the price of gasoline, everhthing going up and our paychecks dwendling because of high prices. I am excited about both Hillary and Obama being catalyst for change but I hear very little about where they stand on the issues because everybody is fighting. What a mirror image it is of the division within our race! PLEASE, stop fighting for the good of hard working Americans who just need a break, a chance at the American dream. Shut up and let us hear where these wonderful candidates stand on the issues.

    January 15, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  9. Michael from CT

    Charlie Rangel is right the entire thing is stupid. I also think this has been taking away from talking about the issues, the problems this country has right now such as record high energy prices, those without healthcare, the fact that social security and medicare are in trouble and so on. MSNBC ran with this because they are so bias against Hillary Clinton and favor Barack Obama, that channel is bias and unfair. The ratings prove it, CNN is crushing MSNBC in the ratings.
    If anything the next time there's a debate Lou Dobbs should be the one asking the questions because he is the only one that would force everyone on both sides to talk about the important issues that matter most.

    January 15, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  10. Nir Jara

    Congressman Rangel is the consummate establishment status quo democrat. He shoudl be ashamed of his statement about Obama. What has he done for us? He got the coveted position he wanted in the House. The same old Al, Jesse & Rangel gang. Too much talk and finger poiting. No responsibility for uplifting us. Those who try are brought down. It is time for these co-opted politicians in our community to retire and make way for new ones–the likes of Obama.

    January 15, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  11. Jaik , chicago, IL

    Well, I guess 4 more years of GOP rule , thanks guys, well done.

    January 15, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  12. nancy sabet

    Hillary did not say anything wrong, that was all about nothing.

    January 15, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  13. Emily

    Us arguing about this now doesn't matter. This is going to be a brought up from now until Nov. when the Republicans can enter their opinion. No matter who gets the nomination there is going to be something said about Race or (wait for it) Gender. Have we all forgotten that Hillary is in fact female? This is going to be a topic that will show "true colors" as many of you have stated. There will be plenty of other statements made that will get everyone all hot under the collar. Just wait. This is only the beginning

    January 15, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  14. Bob in NJ

    Rangel is not helping here. Obama, not my pick for the nomination, is correct in this case. Hillary's statement (she's not my pick either) gave undue weight to LBJ and slighted the social movement that forced the government to approve the laws she references. Her view of politics is lopsideedly government-centered and, at the time this legislation became law, she was an ardent college Republican who probably wasn't paying very much attention much less understanding how things actually worked. However, she and Bill developed a very good track record on civil rights in recent decades. Time to cool this whole conversation.

    January 15, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  15. Roslyn Beckstead

    How come no one is telling Hillary to drop out of the race because of that comment, or would that be something only saved for a Republican candidate.

    January 15, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  16. Dennis

    I thought this thing had been put to bed. I thought Obama's remarks were the perfect end to it. Does anyone believe that the Clintons don't respect MLK and his legacy? Of course not. I feel bad for both Obama and Clinton. Obama got attacked, and now Clinton looks bad because it came after the issue had died down. Let's get back to issues, please.

    January 15, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  17. Sean

    Has everyone forgotten that it were the Republicans that pushed for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. LBJ had an extremely poor record on civil rights jumped and on for political expediance. Seem like Hillary leanred well from LBJ.

    Here's the vote breakdown: Also, look to see who held the majority.

    Senate: 77–19
    Democrats: 47–17
    Republicans: 30–2

    House: 333–85
    Democrats: 221–61
    Republicans: 112–24

    January 15, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  18. Sig, Los Angeles CA

    "I hope Hillary puts Obama in his place. Its upsurd to even question the Clinton's respect towards the Black Community— after everything the Clinton Administration has done for them."

    Um... exactly what have they done? As a Black American who voted for Bill Clinton twice, I am surprised that they are unchallenged when they go around touting that they have done so much for the Black Community. I want specifics! What is true, the Clinton's will use the black race to show that they aren't "liberals" when the opportunity rises; I remember the Sista Soljah issue.

    January 15, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  19. Charles

    Charlie Rangel is a empty suit. Nobody pays any attention to what he's said in years. I wonder why I'm even bothering to post this. It's time for him to ride off into the sunset with, the Clintons. He'd make a good house boy for them.

    January 15, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  20. adomani

    someone correct me here...a president is needed to sign acts into law, right? so who signed the very things dr. kings into law that dr. king died for?

    January 15, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  21. IvyGrad06

    Can Bill or anyone explain to me what Obama said – that made people think he was playing the race card? To my understanding he said that Hilary's comment was "ill advised" and was confused as to how people accused him of bring up race when he didnt' initially comment on what she said.

    January 15, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  22. nancy sabet

    What Charlie Rangel critisize about Obama has nothing to do with his reinstituting draft. Please stop this stupid discussion.

    January 15, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  23. Greg, OH

    Does everyone forget the NH recount will happen tomorrow? Why does no media mention it?

    January 15, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  24. charris

    Rangle is correct, good thing everyone is not Obamatized. They should get to issues at hand.

    January 15, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  25. Murali, MI

    I agree. It just shows that Obama is not as clean as he claims to be. When votes are at stake, he will do whatever is necessary to win. This is low for any politician and so for Obama as well. Missing to be in senate when important votes are taken and then claim he was right. We should all educate (or not educate) our kids to be like politicians. They seem to have best of both worlds. My message to all the politicians is – Have respect and moral standards atleast to leave people like Dr. King alone.

    January 15, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
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