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. Cesar

    Rangel better hope that Hallary wins in order to get a job. As a black man, I will actively campain for whoever runs against him in the next election. I am sure people know that he is doing the dirty work for the Clinton's machine taking down the hope of the black race to change the status quo.

    January 15, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  2. Jonathan Lim, DC

    Hillary Clinton made an excellent point, about the fact that it was the enaction of legislation which secured Dr. King's legacy legally. She did not belittle his achievements.

    Obama, in my opinion, made a mistake by misleading people into thinking Hillary Clinton was belittlting Dr.King. He knew she was not. He was trying to make the black community think Clinton was undermining one of its respected leaders, one of America's respected leaders also. That's what was dishonest.

    But enough, let's concentrate on the economy, and the health and strength of the american nation.

    January 15, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  3. MRS New York

    Is all of the US population stupid and does not realize that these fights will not help the country to move forward. We have 2 intelligent candidates going for the nomination and we the people should determine whom is best suited for this position. Does experience no longer matter in American society; Would we not want to have most the most seasoned and experienced person occupying the highest post in this country.

    Is Obama untouchable of criticism because he is black; Would we all react differently if the person was of a different race or gender. Having seen the NBC Meet the Press whereby Tim Russert relentlessly hammered Hillary Clinton and and to know surprise she held her own. How about bringing Mr. Obama to the program and ask the tough questions and lets see how Mr. Obama performs..

    I have to admint that I was going to vote for Mr. Obama initially but am so disllusioned how he and his camp have conducted themselves since their Iowa win. I still haven't made up my mind for whom to vote, but I know I will vote for the person that can best run the country regardless of political affiliation, race or gender.

    January 15, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  4. E

    Democrats need to wake up. There are large numbers of moderate Republicans ready and willing to vote for someone to replace the current guard. They need to put a candidate in place that is ELECTABLE and will bring us moderates out. Hillary Clinton is not really electable, no matter how much I admire the thought of a woman President. She is too polarizing and if the Republicans play it right and put a moderate as their candidate, we will vote for him.

    January 15, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  5. Rick

    I have to say I was very disappointed by this comment by Obama, "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. ."

    It's ridiculous, did it ever occur to him that when we read his statement we would go back and read exactly what Hillary said and say, hey, he's twisting the truth for his own gain.

    I'm still undecided between Obama and Hillary, but I admit the scale is starting to tip.

    January 15, 2008 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  6. Greg in OH

    Again, why isn't talking about the NH recount scheduled for tomorrow?

    January 15, 2008 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  7. Connie Douglas

    Enough is Enough!!! To all of the prominent and not so prominent Clinton Supporters/Surrogates, rest assured that Black America is very grateful of Hillary and Bill's contributions to black issues and civil rights. I have much respect for the Clinton's. However, as an African-American, no one "owns" my vote!! If the Clintons or their supporters/surrogates think and believe it is owed to them for their work on behalf of blacks, then they are truly wrong!! There are many other whites who have champion the causes of blacks and should also be noted, yet have not asked us for anything. Wake up Black America – we were all given the right to vote and make our choices based on the issues of candidates whose views are closely related to us as individuals and as a people. Someone forgot to tell me that right was only given to me in order to vote for the Clinton's!! I am a pretty savy person and will vote for a candidate on the issues and for whom I think, feel and believe would be the best for this country and who can help heal this nation. It is very unfortunate that these so called prominent black leaders supporting Bill & Hillary's bid for President AGAIN, are not prominent enough to stand up and say in their own right "that enough is enough". It is enough that the media is keeping this race thing going, it is now black on black hate that is continuing it!! My vote belongs to me and I will excerise in the way I see fit!

    January 15, 2008 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  8. Rodney Dallas TX

    Of course Obama through the race card in there. That's what black people do when they are not getting what they want.

    January 15, 2008 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  9. Adam, Sacramento

    I'm going to do waht MLK suggested and judge a man woman in this case by the content of her charachter.

    I find it lacking at this point. The intentional playing of the race card by a politician of my party is destructive to all the advances we have made. It say's I put my interests above the nations the peoples and all that our party has previously stood for.

    This race is about issues not genetics. About improving our nation not dividing it along the lines of Hillary's childhood.

    January 15, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  10. Wayne

    This is not a battle between 2 campaigns. Obama camp is not involved. THis is HRCs bad comment was poorly received by black people. Obama has chosen to stay out of the fray. He only became involved when Hillary said " I think the Obama camp is pushing this".

    Obama..even though he didnt start the contraversy, even though he didnt do anything to keep it going was the better man and calmed the tensions down. He is an amazing man and would make a fantastic president.

    January 15, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  11. Jim R

    I heard Hillary's comment about Dr. King, and how anyone could misinterpret what she meant is beside me. She was simply trying to get people to understand that, if elected, she will be a president who will work with our nation's leaders, both political and social, to get things done, just as Dr. King and President Johnson worked together to bring about the Civil Rights Act. Everyone in America knows that Dr. King was the "drum major" for civil rigthts, but he was not the president, and it is the president who signs bills into laws. All Hillary was saying was that it takes a "cooperative" effort to bring about change in this country, and that is what she intends to do, if elected.

    January 15, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  12. WintonyMay

    It seems that Mr. Rangel has forgotten what his mother must have explained to him why he (yes, even a politician) has two ears, but one mouth.
    Clearly, he, like the rest of Washington, continues to underestimate the brilliance, judgment and honesty of Obama. Only a dishonest person, a shill, or a fool would characterize the Illinois senator's response in the manner of Rangel.
    So sad.

    January 15, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  13. Sal......Illinois

    It is unfortunate for a uniter like Obama to look like a divider on this issue....

    January 15, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  14. Greg in OH

    Why is Fox New's Murdock a fundraiser for Clinton?

    January 15, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  15. james

    No wonder we are not going anywhere. People like this will always keep African Americans down. Thank God young African Americans are not gonna follow stupid people like this one!

    January 15, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  16. Maurice, Iowa

    Why are people accusing Obama of playing the "race card"? From the very start, it was asked "was he black enough?". Now that it appears that he is black enough, he is being criticized for something he did not start. All of this started from the Clinton campaign and the media. The man called a truce and today, another one of Clintons supporters AGAIN, fans the flames. Who is playing what card? You even have political analysts saying that Clintons camp started it all. It appears to me that the Clintons want to play in the mud and then question why they are getting dirty...

    January 15, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  17. Marc-Anthoni


    January 15, 2008 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  18. Yellowdoggie

    Okay, people, you can argue with what Rangel has said about Barack and Hillary or what he didn't say, or with what Obama said, or Hillary originally said, or what they meant, 'til your little heart breaks. But get one thing clear: Rangel proposed reinstating the draft ONLY so those who support the war but aren't sacrificing anything or anyone would think again. He was trying to get our attention. His point is that if America wants to fight a stupid war like the one in Iraq, then every young person who can serve should do so. Just imagine Romney's support for Bush's war in Iraq if his sons had to serve. So argue this race thing all you want. Just don't use Rangel's "modest proposal" as amunition to dismiss him. Sheesh! When you read Swift, let me warn you: he doesn't really think the Irish should eat their children.

    January 15, 2008 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  19. Chris

    OK, I am going to throw in my 2 cents on this, first of all, everyone seems to be questioning Obama's expierence. How much expierence did our founding fathers have when they built a nation from the ground up? and it seems pretty obvious to me that W didn't have any expierence handling diplomatic issues, ( i still can't believe people voted for him twice). The problem with washington is we keep electing these people with "expierence" and thats why it will never change, everyone wants to blame the canidates, or the officials, I blame the people.. WE THE PEOPLE, are the ones who did this to ourselves because we keep electing these officials who are "expierenced" at running this country into the ground. Its time for a change and if that mean choosing the inexpierenced canidate, then thats what I am going to do. Because it seems pretty obvious to me whats going to happen if we elect the same old cronies.

    January 15, 2008 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  20. Robert

    Finally in all this someone got it right and that person was Charlie Rangel. I am a fence sitting southern moderate Republican and at 61 watched intently through all the civil rights period. As a political science major at UNC I was fortunate to see history in the making and that period shaped my life as a civil rights advocate in the south. Representative Rangel, as a schrewd and practical politician, knows what it takes to get landmark legislation through our system so wisely set by our forefathers.
    Senator Obama was probably just out of diapers when the Civil Rights Act passed. To bone up on his history I suggest the series of books by Robert Caro on Lyndon Johnson. He was the most forceful, effective and most likely corrupt President of the twentieth century. Nobody said no to Lyndon when he grabbed your label and got in your face. He had something on everyone. JFK wouldn't have come close to getting that legislation passed or any president since when put in that time frame.
    I consider MLK 's "I have a dream" speech the second best any American has ever given second to the Gettysberg Address. MLK was the agent of social change but only LBJ could have got that bill through congress and signed into law.

    January 15, 2008 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  21. Santa Rosa Al

    All this continuous senseless bickering is making my choice very clear. Edwards in 08!

    January 15, 2008 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  22. Bacusla

    Congressman Rangel has just poo-pooed his – and by necessary extension his heirs' political significance by descending inot the muddy galary and taking sides against Obama. Here is my humble take on it; Obama has upstaged Rangel inspite of his political experience – jealousy has beclouded the man's judgment and the man cannot help himself but bleet.

    This is called a SELF-CURSE. The mindset is one of "I cannot ..., therefore no other member of my race ought to dare to ..." – Rangel may be viewing this in the near term, but posterity will judge him and more. Long after the steam over Obama's bid for the presidency of this country, Rangel or one of his children will seek "to be" anything.

    It is only then that 'rangel' will take full responsibility for this wickedness. We the people will wait – patiently.

    January 15, 2008 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  23. Dennis

    Unemployment is rising... people are being evicted from their homes... the rich are getting a little bit richer and the middle class are getting poorer... and america is still afraid of another attack from the outside, and that's just the beginning of '08. We have another year before a new president takes office, and each of us can be directly impacted, significantly, by the creation of the current administrations policies... and we're bickering over the color of our skin.

    January 15, 2008 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  24. ryan

    Clinton supporters have to be the stupidest people in the world. Get you head out of your +++ and try to educate yourself. Clinton's did wonders for blacks in this country?!? Are you nuts? What did they do, but pander to them so they would get more votes?!? Idiots, every one. Did Obama ever say anything about race? NO! Did Clinton put her foot in her mouth, AGAIN? YES! Someone said, "why is always Hillary's fault?" Anopther example of how stoopid Clinton supporters are. It was Obama's fault all summer long, REMEMBER? And who is the idiot that can't decide between Clinton and McCain? There is a real winner. I am not even an Obama supporter, I am voting for McCain, but Hillary has BLANTANTLY LIED already!!! Take some of your free time that you are using to pamper your backside and listen to what she and her lying husband say. They distort and lie constantly. One of you Clinton supporters, JUST EVEN ONE, tell me how this was distorted by Obama. He said she made an ill-advised statement, and obviously from the backlash it WAS ILL-ADVISED. That doesn't mean he said she was RACIST, it mean she said something that could have been said better another way. And you are all even more blind if you can't see she is doing this to stir up race as an issue. "I didn't want this campaign to be about gender and certainly not about race." Oh yeah?!? Then why does she constantly and consistently talk about the glass ceiling. The only time Obama has alluded to race is when he has won or in reference to his high polling numbers, stating that it says a lot about America for him to be in that position. Hillary, however, brings up the glass ceiling and how wonderful it is that a black man and white woman are competing for the nomination. WHAT A LOAD OF CRAP.

    January 15, 2008 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  25. Judy M.

    I never thought I'd see the day when I agreed with Representative Rangel. Today is the day! Mrs. Clinton should have phrased her MLK comment better, but it was not disrespectful to anyone. Before assigning 'messiah' status to these folks (candidates), we should remember they are politicians. They are not going to save anyone. They can't hold a candle to Dr. King.

    January 15, 2008 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
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