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. Rob

    And I bet you haters of Hillary on here are just Republican's on here trying to bring her down because you know you could beat Obama in the General Election.

    January 15, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  2. Thanks CNN

    CNN, reports on both sides of the fence. Fair and objective. Thanks!

    January 15, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  3. jfox

    Actually, Opra was the one who truly played the race card while on stage for Barack. Prior to her involvement, Barack was trying to avoid the black/white issue.

    As for Charlie, he didn't actually want the draft. He presented a bill that purposely would never get passed so the war discussion would heat up. He never wanted the bill to pass.

    And finally, for any of you who want to vote for a republican after watching what you can buy with your income dwindle, Exxon make record profits while gas jumps from $1.40 to $3.10 and up, while the entire world thinks we don't play by the Geneva convention (no Iraq did not bomb the WTC), and while a budget with a surplus turned to record deficits, you just go ahead and put your blinders back on.

    January 15, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  4. LL

    Barack Obama doesn't make " stupid" comments; Mr. Rangel is expecting favors from the Clinton Camp in exchange for his support.

    More importantly, Hillary is trying to be all things to all people; her goal is the power of the presidency, not the end of racial strife and bigotry in America.


    January 15, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  5. John

    This is getting old... I have no faith in either of them...I will be voting republican this year....

    January 15, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  6. Nell Kidd

    To all those supporters of Obama who claim that his camp and supporters don't use the infamous " race card" I want to repeat a comment from one of you. "saddest thing she sends out other blacks to attack anouther. They don't realize when you attack one you attack yourself" by ,SC. In other words–don't go by the issues facing ALL of us, just vote for anyone that looks like yourself. For me this is the saddest thing of all.


    January 15, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  7. georgia

    This is the first time in the history of presidential election politics that race is being discussed seriously. And, not from the direction of a white man's discourse. Bravo!

    FYI a race card is NOT being played here. Race is just as important as other "issues." Obama is an African American man, and racism in this nation is still a dicisive factor and did not end with the instituting of a civil rights act.

    The discussion of race within this election is an interesting and an educational phenonema, as it is bringing out many American's latent racist tendencies.

    we can only learn from this. And grow as a nation and as human beings.

    January 15, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  8. BMC

    It's a good thing that Obama followers weren't around in 1936 Germany....oh wait...maybe those kind of people were!!!!

    January 15, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  9. Denise

    Rangel should have kept his comments to himself. Isn't it enough that Obama is already campaigning against Hillary, Bill, Bob Johnson, etc. And he has maintained his eloquence and dignity in the face of their obvious distortions of the truth.
    Go Obama!

    January 15, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  10. Rich

    What has yet to be mentioned is that the Congress at that time in U.S. history was run by the Republican majority. Last time I checked, even the President hasn't the power to draft legislation and set it before "himself" for signature. What also is unmentioned is the predominantly Democrat opposition to that legislation and President Johnson's role in swaying the old southern Democrats to support civil rights for the black population.

    What say you?

    January 15, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  11. xtina - chicago IL

    does anyone care to get back to discussing the qualifications of these candidates, for example Mayor Guiliani got over 500,000 able-bodied people off welfare. That's the kind of leadership that would translate well on a national level. What similar achievements do Hillary and Obama have - something that actually reduced the size of government or made cuts in a budget?

    January 15, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  12. Maeistro

    America, please don't fall for the 'okey-doke'. Focus on the REAL issues we face. Leave it to white males to make a total mess, and expect a woman or a minority to clean it up. The Bush Administration has wreaked total havoc in this country (and throughout the world over) for the next 25 to 50 years. It will take at least 8 years just to sort through the mess of what we know he has done, let alone the untold years to uncover what we don’t know. The proof in the pudding is apparent when the office of the Presidency is no longer coveted by the usual suspects (i.e. privileged white males), and we’re left with a bunch of ‘wanna-be’s on the Republican side, and a more diverse group of hopefuls on the Democratic side. Be it an Obama/Clinton or Clinton/Obama administration in 08, it will be ‘business as usual in the good ole United States of America. They will blame the mess on the woman or 'the black guy'.
    As a minority I’ve decided to cross my traditional party lines and vote Republican. Let the Neo-con’s ‘contract with America’ play itself out to its logical conclusion of total disaster for the next eight years. Then we can give credit where credit is due, and the angry white males can clean up their own mess for a change with no one to blame it on but themselves. I just hope that there will be enough of the country left to salvage by then.


    January 15, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  13. Joseph

    Obama is the only hope we have! Obama 08!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    There, seeing if this gives me any better luck since anything remotely negative to his campaign goes into a 6 hour queue for review before it is posted.

    My posts eventually do make it to the board, normally the next day. So much for a lively discussion.

    January 15, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  14. Truth

    Rangel and the entire Black Caucus is useless, a bunch of democrats they have contributed to the manipulation of blacks by constantly using the race card to increase the size of their pocket books. I'm a Black American don't give this hypocrite any praises he's worthless along with the other member of the Black Caucus. It doesn't surprise me he's in bed with Hillary. Isn't it funny, (we) black people surround Hillary like she's the next coming but Bush hired and appointed more blacks to his administration then Bill Clinton, including Powell and Rice who held two of the highest position by a black person EVER!!!! blacks who support Hillary are suckers you should be ashamed yourself you are getting played!!! Tell me one thing Bill Clinton did for Blacks, we were still getting convicted of crimes in record numbers and doing more time then our white counter-parts, still living in subsidize housing in record numbers (more blacks bought houses under Bush administration then any U.S. President), still making less in the job market compared to whites, still attended inferior schools. Oh I know the economy was good NEW FLASH IT WAS GOOD FOR EVERYONE NOT JUST BLACKS! I'm confuses why is it a white republican president has done more for us then your herald Bill Clinton who you fools label as the first black president ever did.

    January 15, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  15. The Truth, Anywhere, USA

    Hey, Hillary 08'

    Barak didn't swear in on the koran but he did swear in on the bible. The man who swore in on the koran was Ellison. I can't recal his first name but, please do good research before you post ignorant comments. Even if obama was born into and was raised muslim, he had no choice. He did have a choice however in accepting jesus christ as his lord and savior. What he was before that I could care less. Let me make this clear, no muslim who is dedicated to islam will convert to christianity just to become the president of the U.S. That is looked at as a disgrace among muslims and would gaurantee him a trip to hell according to the koran.

    January 15, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  16. Educated African American Woman

    Rangel is right. Obama is a politician that thinks all he has to do is give a good speach with no policy, unlike Clinton. When it comes down to it we as a nation is still at war, our economy is falling a part, the dollar is tanking, and terrorism is still a major threat. He has no experience in none of the above. That is why I am voting for Clinton. She is not just talk unlik Obama.

    Thank you Rangel for actualy bringing the country back to reality.

    January 15, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  17. Katherine

    Let me just state that Rangel amazes me with this comment. Obama didn't state that Martin Luther King, Jr. signed the act, he simply said (truthfully) that MLK Jr. had more influence in the Civil Rights movement than Johnson, and you would be hard-pressed to find someone who disagrees with that statement! You know that if Obama's campaign had paid Rangel more than Clinton's he'd be agreeing with Obama right now. This whole poll race is getting ridiculous, and they need to move off the race card now.

    January 15, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  18. Winfield G. James

    I know Charles Rangel. Although what he says is somewhat misplaced. Let us give the old man a break. He is obligated to the Clintons. He probably had nothing better to do at the moment he made the denigrating statements about Obama.

    January 15, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  19. Dave

    My friends and I started a list of change. If Hillary wins the democratic nomination we have a list of over 2,500 people that will be voting republican. Please join us. I'd rather live with their junk – then hers... The list is growing larger everyday. We just started this list 2 weeks ago.

    January 15, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  20. nikita

    We are a united nation but we are entitled to a divided opinion. Race and politics is a valid issue just as socioeconomic, social injustices and civil rights are legitimate issues. Race and gender are not invisible. Prejudice based solely on race or gender divides this country and should not be ignored. I want to know if Barak Hussein Obama would seek unfair advantages based on racial issues. I want to know if there are individuals who would not elect Hillary Clinton based solely on gender bias. Why hide bigotry? The Clintons have done a tremendous amount to eliminate racial divides in this country. The Clintons have invested their entire political careers to public office and undeserved criticisms because they have been always so visible. What have Romney, Obama or other candidates done? Romney hasn't stepped foot in Michigan in forty years. Where has Romney been? Ah, let us testify to our own prejudices and not be overwhelmed by the media. The candidate of your choice should be based on credibility, past performance, results and a vote that is unobscured by hidden prejudices.

    January 15, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  21. andrea goldstein

    What is really sad about these comments is that he is calling stupids thousands of african-americans who were offended by Hillary's words on MLK. She did not apologized for her vote to authorize the war in Iraq, and she will not apologize now. Also because she will always have people willing to support and excuse her no matter what she says.
    The fact that MLK gave his life to give a chance to a guy like this to become a senator makes the whole thing even more sad.

    January 15, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  22. Rastaman

    Just having a serious African-american candidate now, who is definitely a front runner with a great shot at the Dem. nomination, is revealing a lot of interesting things. Rep.Rangel & Bob Johnson speaking out against the first (in my opinion) real African-american candidate? That's wild! And personally, Pres. Johnson could never hold a candle to people like MLK, I don't care how you slice it. His actions & decisions concerning the Vietnam war(?) is telling enough. Diametrically opposed to the ideals of Dr. King. If we, the black (& white) people of the grassroots had not made SO much noise, do you think Pres. Johnson would have enacted a civil rights bill? Give me a break! It was the steady fighting back of those who were most impacted by Jim Crow & lynchings, beatings & injustice on an immense scale ( meaning BLACK people ) that forced the issue. And of course sympathetic whites also sacrificed & were even beaten, jailed & killed in the effort. But I for one am peeved when people insinuate that if not for the benevolence of " the great white father" in Washington we would not have gotten anywhere. I for one think Mrs. Clinton showed a little of this patronizing attitude in her comment. "Oh thank you Master & Mistress for freeing us po' black folks & givin us our civil rights. Ya'll are such good massas, we gon always be on your side!" Yeah,right. During slavery, we had field slaves & house slaves. Bob Johnson (although respect is due for making himself so successful from probably a humble beginning) & rep.Rangel have lost touch bigtime with the rest of us "in the fields". Sen. Obama was right in saying change doesn't necessarily come from the top down, but quite frequently from the ground up. Our government is supposed to be of the people, for the people, by the people. People like Mrs. Clinton may think otherwise.

    January 15, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  23. DC

    People need to wake up. The South-overall, will never vote a black man into office. There are parts of the south that are still too racially divided and old fashioned. The Race card is pulled all of the time in towns through out the south and people are tired of it. There are republicans out there that are truly unhappy with today's government and want change, but they do not want to see a Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton saga.
    As great as Obama and Clinton might be, they alone or together, will never win the south. It is time everyone looked at reality and did what was best for this country, and not themselves. The Democratic party has only one shot at regaining the presidency, and that is John Edwards.

    January 15, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  24. david

    Hillary and Rangel represent the old politics of division and hatred, just as much as Bush does.

    Obama can unite the country if we give him a chance

    January 15, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  25. Robert, New Yok, NY

    From today's LA Times...

    But Arnold figured that the words were calculated to bait Obama into speaking more about his race, thus distancing white voters.

    "That's what it is," he said. "She's trying to pick him clean."

    Experts, too, are trying to gauge how calculated the Clinton rhetoric is. David Bositis, a fellow at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies - a think tank that focuses on issues of concern to blacks - thinks the Clinton camp is sending signals that could alienate blacks but enhance the candidate's appeal to working-class whites.

    "Hillary's people would like Obama to be seen as the black candidate," he said. "That would help in terms of her appeal to white working-class voters. They are voters who represent a backbone of the campaign."

    Bositis, who is not affiliated with either campaign, said it reminded him of moves Bill Clinton made in his 1992 campaign that sent a message that "he was not going to be pushed around by Jesse Jackson."

    Bositis also mentioned Clinton's high-profile 1992 return to Arkansas for the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, an African American, and to Clinton's rebuke of black hip-hop artist Sister Souljah.

    January 15, 2008 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
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