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. matt

    obama is an idiot and i would never vote for him. Go Hillary!

    January 15, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  2. Johnnie R

    This is ridiculous. At first, we (Black America) were all rooting for Obama. Winning the run for the Senate made black history. Now, he is all of a sudden this bad guy.

    Come on. . .

    January 15, 2008 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  3. Rebecca,

    Charles Rangel is a great American who has served his country admirably and honorably both in the war and then in congress. Yes, he has proposed the draft. Why? Perhaps you should actually look into this before you defame and ridicule him. He rightly believes that the Iraq war is being fought by the poor in our society. The military families are carrying all of the sacrifice and have been for the last 5 years. He is trying to make a point. Does he believe it would become law? No, of course he doesn't. He has said as much. He has been trying to raise the topic to a national discussion. A reasoned debate. Not the knee jerk disrespectful rantings I have been seeing by many of the Obama supporters. I used to be neutral on Obama. If he was our nominee, great, I would support him. Not now. I have seen many great Americans savaged recently. It seems any of our older Americans who have contributed so much to our past are being denegrated by surrogates of this campaign. I am done with Obama.

    January 15, 2008 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  4. Marty K.

    For all you you saying that Sen. Obama's comments were "absurd", please go back and read them more carefully! Senator Obama made a very intelligent and carefully measured response to comments by Senator Clinton.

    Who campaigned for Civil Rights for YEARS before LBJ was even in office?
    Who led marches and organized peaceful protests for Civil Rights?
    Who spoke eloquently about Civil Rights on innumerable occasions?
    Who twisted the arms of the politicians in power (including LBJ) to get the bill signed?

    Did LBJ do that – NO Did Kennedy do that? – NO Did Martin Luther King do that – YES. While he wasn't the person to sign the bill, he's the arbiter and powerful force that pushed the concept and idea through. THAT is what Obama was saying in his statement.

    I don't care if you favor one or the other in this campaign, but please get your story straight before you decry either candidate's comments.

    January 15, 2008 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  5. Joy

    It's not that the candidates or campaigns disagree, it's the manner in which it's done. Clinton's and their followers seem able to disagree only by using insult and denigrating statements... slams and slurs. I remember a hostile couple who whined, cried, attacked and blamed everyone - the Republicans... the media... the right wing conspiracy... anyone but themselves, for Bill's immoral indescretions... Well, THEY'RE BACK! Using ruthless attacks offensively and defensively is what has always defined them, even more than the good things they did do for the Democratic party and America, and if she wins, it'll be by using meanness and pettiness to attack another person's intelligence and character (though Bill and those in her support who minic these same negative tactics). Why should I believe this makes her more able to bring unity to our party and the Congress, or to have the diplomatic and social skills, including common respect, with foreign leaders for the sake of diplomacy? Very divisive. Very disappointing behavior. I won't vote for Hillary. I'm a 59 year old college educated white woman in mid-Missouri, and I have a 19 year old son. We're both for Obama for the work he has done, his job experience in Chicago to improve lives of the underprivileged and his work in the government. And for the vision he has and can articulate, even through a time of conflict and insult, with wisdom, decency and fair play.

    January 15, 2008 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  6. diane

    i will vote for obama

    January 15, 2008 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  7. brian

    Charlie Rangal is an idiot; I don't understand how NY votes can continually elect such an ignorant space consumer.

    January 15, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  8. rw

    It is disgusting how some Nobama supporters are disparaging Charlie Rangel. He is an American politician with a proven record on minority causes and the plight of the poor. Shame on them. Rangel is a statesman, while Nobama is a political punk with the rhetoric of a preacher.

    January 15, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  9. Allie

    I feel like I'm taking crazy pills...doesn't anyone else see that Clinton is a woman?!?

    January 15, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  10. Jon Jay

    Can you imagine four years of this race baiting nonsense with Obama in the White House?

    Every time someone criticizes him or his policies, he'll have his minions like Sharpton out there turning it into a racial issue. You either worship him and agree with everything he says - or you're a racist. Pathetic. Nobama. No way.

    January 15, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  11. Unknown

    I think Rangel is scorned because Obama is getting the chance he wish he had.

    January 15, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  12. bobby

    You people accusing Obama of playing the race card are just idiots. Yes the Clintons have been on the right side of many racial issues over the years; however, Hillary made a comment basically belittling what MLK did for this country. That is what started this entire ridiculous BS. This outraged some in the black community, Obama himself just said he was "baffled" by the comment and never said anything about the Clintons being racist. That was exactly my response, I was just well baffled.

    At first, I thought it was just a gaffe by the Clintons but after this comment by Rangle, I think this is all very calculated on the Clinton's part, these people are professionals. They want to force Obama run more as a black man and to either alienate white voters if he comes off too strong, or black voters if he isn't seen as standing up strong enough. They seem to want to remind the voters that Obama is even black, which they seemed to forget in Iowa, and bring back up questions of electability.

    They also know that whenever the issue of race comes up, it takes the focus off where the Obama camp wants it to be, which is on Hillary's lack of judgment in helping to get us into this quagmire of a war which Obama was against from the beginning despite Bill Clinton's attempted distortions.

    January 15, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  13. Richard in TN

    Why is everyone bickering about these two? Both Clinton and Obama both made the “Ten Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians” for 2007.

    Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY):  In addition to her long and sordid ethics record, Senator Hillary Clinton took a lot of heat in 2007 – and rightly so – for blocking the release her official White House records.  Many suspect these records contain a treasure trove of information related to her role in a number of serious Clinton-era scandals.  Moreover, in March 2007, Judicial Watch filed an ethics complaint against Senator Clinton for filing false financial disclosure forms with the U.S. Senate (again).  And Hillary’s top campaign contributor, Norman Hsu, was exposed as a felon and a fugitive from justice in 2007.  Hsu pleaded guilt to one count of grand theft for defrauding investors as part of a multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme.

    Senator Barack Obama (D-IL):  A “Dishonorable Mention” last year, Senator Obama moves onto the “ten most wanted” list in 2007.  In 2006, it was discovered that Obama was involved in a suspicious real estate deal with an indicted political fundraiser, Antoin “Tony” Rezko.  In 2007, more reports surfaced of deeper and suspicious business and political connections  It was reported that just two months after he joined the Senate, Obama purchased $50,000 worth of stock in speculative companies whose major investors were his biggest campaign contributors.  One of the companies was a biotech concern that benefited from legislation Obama pushed just two weeks after the senator purchased $5,000 of the company’s shares.  Obama was also nabbed conducting campaign business in his Senate office, a violation of federal law.

    January 15, 2008 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  14. Rob

    WOW. You members of the Obama Cult have LOST IT!!! No One can harm your Obama? No one can talk about him? You cant bring up his past. He copies MLK quotes and speech's and thinks he is today's MLK? How, Why? He is open game. Just because he was not leading in any polls the last 12 months no one talked about him. They were bashing Hillary. Well guess what, They are tied now and GAME ON!!!!! If you or him can not take it, then you need not be in the race!!!

    Then to top it off you say if he is not the nomination, you will vote Republican. So who is splitting the part now? Obama Cult = CRY BABIES!!!! I guess you guys are the same people who say you will never watch a reality show like American Idol again when your favorite gets voted off. Well guess what? Your there next week watching. Get a life. Game on!!

    January 15, 2008 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  15. Ken Phillips, Jersey City, NJ

    Mr Rangle,
    Your STATEMENT is LAUGHABLE and outrageous; The CLINTONS and their HACKS started and continued every day with these SLURS and SLEEZY attacks ever since Obama won in Iowa and you accuse the Obama campaign of indulging in it ??!! The Clintonians and the Bushies use the same SMEAR TACTICS on their opponents. I wonder why? – – –
    There is only one word to describe your behaviour and that is 'I-N-S-A-N-I-T-Y' !!!!!!!!!

    January 15, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  16. Neil

    As a legal resident of the U.S. WITHOUT the right to vote I have been watching the election process and following along the debates with great interest. It would appear to me that campaign funds on both sides of this argument are being squandered on defending what I can only describe as internal 'bickering' within the Democratic Party, using semantics to try and stir up media sensation to influence the voter. Quite frankly, it's a pathetic strategy unworthy of a future President and I hope the bar of professional integrity can be raised to another level in the DP to avoid such destructive and personal remarks in future. Let’s not pretend that anyone, especially Obama has any reason to truly believe this garbage. For a person with even moderate intellect, which I believe Obama has an excess, you would only need to look at Clinton's record on her Civil Rights work to establish NO credibility in the accusations. Obama and Clinton, stop listening to your campaign ‘spin doctors’ looking to score points and clamber up the next rung on the political ladder and start listening to the people of America. We want a serious candidate that can stand above this nonsense, so stay focused on the task in hand and getting the best Democratic candidate for the job to White House and stop letting your egos get the better of you.

    And message to the media, put your political agenda on the hold and try to be responsible and report the 'real' and important stuff. The focus on civil rights issues and race is on the streets in every city in the U.S. where violations take place every day of the year. Point your cameras and journalist at the world outside Washington for the real stories.

    January 15, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  17. charlotte

    to Tom Dedham, Kerry supports Obama, you bonehead.

    January 15, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  18. Jack K., Florida

    Would you like your President to be in the pocket of this man?

    Nuff said.


    Unbeholding to anyone but the people of America!!

    The one true...perhaps last chance to redirect our out of control government and it's mad experiment with trickle down economics and ischemic management of the U.S. economy in a global marketplace.

    Time for a leader who will "just say no".

    January 15, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  19. Jake

    Wish everone one would just get along and just talk about the problems our country has.{ 8 years of George W. Bush }

    January 15, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  20. Martin

    Senator Rangel where have you been!! It must be time to return some favors for your political friends. Just give it a rest! Both candidates need to concentrate on the real issues that are effecting American's; health care, education, out sourcing, jobs & the Iraq War. Please give the word experience a break… If George W. Bush can be President then anyone else can too.

    January 15, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  21. John, Kansas City, MO

    Obama/Paul in 2008!

    January 15, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  22. Robert Derrick

    Who’s zooming who? Obama’s claims he has been consistent in opposing the war was undermined his votes in favor of funding for the war effort. But Obama, like Clinton, regularly voted to continue funding for troops in Iraq until last year. Obama also waited more than 18 months after his 2004 election to the Senate to deliver a speech against the war as a sitting senator. This guy is a major con man.

    January 15, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  23. heartlight 3, Maui, HI

    I don't get it. This issue was being bounced back and forth for days before Mr. Obama said anything. My understanding is he did not comment on it until Sunday. I'm sure I started reading articles about it in the middle of the week before. So how is it that Mr. Obama "attacked" Hillary? It seems like the press and "supporters" are the ones that are perpetuating this. It looks like a distraction to me. Trying to get everyone in a tizzy and focused on irrelevancies and trivialities rather than the issues. Looks like it is working.

    January 15, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  24. Winfield G. James

    Charles Rangel speaks more like the Clinton's butler than like a sensible politician. I wonder how a decent person like Nancy Pelosi deals with this fool!

    January 15, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  25. Steve

    It's apparent that all the 22-year old Obama supporters are flooding the internet because they have nothing else going on. Some of you have no clue what you are talking about, and you listen to his empty rhetoric about "change" and "hope". How about demanding something a little more intellectually substantive?

    He clearly did try to manipulate Clinton's words to play the race card. What is incorrect about what Rangel said? Stop following like sheep. And a little hint: voting for a black person does not make you progressive, per se.

    January 15, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
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