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. Eva

    I'm with Rangel. King was a courageous man with a vision. And, having the guts to sign the bill into law does make Johnson great. No reality bending tactics in the world can change those facts.

    Obama may claim not to have used the race card, but he has since he declared his candidacy. He does not mention that until his twenties, he lived the life of a white man with the priveleges that come with it. I am not sure that he is a black man, regardless the color of his skin. Dark skin and curly hair do not make one black any more than white skin and straight hair make one white. Culturally, Obama is a white man and he is using his presumed race as his ticket to stardom – yes stardom. How else would you classify someone applying for a job he does have the experience to do and creating a rock star persona to convince so many that he can do it? Oh, yes, the other term would be egomaniac.

    January 14, 2008 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  2. barbara

    come on, you know exactly what hillary speech meant. i am black. there is nothing to slightly suggest race. to obama, hillary, voters and myself i say,
    "a soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger." proverbs15:1
    "a fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.." proverbs 29:11."
    How long will the Clinton's have to pay for Bill mistakes? i thank my God that he is a forgiving God. I can not thow the first stone, second or third because i too have sin in my life. i know everyone will not love me but God love me.

    I love Hillary and Obama. I have not decided which way i will vote

    by the way, i know my english is poor.

    January 14, 2008 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  3. Bridget

    As an Edwards supporter I am appalled that Barack would try and hit below the belt. I had a very hard time choosing between Barack and Edwards but the past few weeks have certainly made my mind up. How many times must we hear Obama complain about the remarks Hillary has supposedly made. As I have always heard if you can't stand the heat stay out of the kitchen.......

    January 14, 2008 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  4. Lawdog90

    Clinton and Rangel just can't let it die. What happened to the truss? Huh? Are you going to just keep this trifling cat fight going and overlook the real issues and the solutions to them. There are bigger issues about race, like its relation to the ecomony, justice, housing, farming, labor, education, crime, health.

    Speak louder, John Edwards. The people will hear you, eventually. Clinton seems to think you're a leader. First she followed your lead to introduce legislation to raise the minimum wage. Now she has followed your lead to infuse some cash into the economy to overcome the recession. You are the clear leader. Now, help bring Obama and Clinton back to earth!

    Go John Edwards!!

    January 14, 2008 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  5. Gracious & Logical

    Vincent, Tamaqua, Pa

    Actually, the Clintons have done NOTHING for the black people in America except pay them lip service in order to pacify them. However, to be fair, the Clinton administration did nothing substantial for any group besides lobbyists and the Clintons themselves.

    By the way, it might have been ‘upsurd’ if ‘upsurd’ was actually a word.

    This just reiterates the disparity between the Clinton supporters and the rest of us commonsensical and literate folks.


    January 14, 2008 10:25 pm ET

    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.

    January 14, 2008 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  6. Ann Aloha, PA

    Ist the media stirs the pot
    2nd the supporters blasts each other
    3rd the candidates spar and exchange words
    4th the supporters continue the bashing
    5th the media stirs the pot some more
    6th the candidates explain their position and their remarks
    7th the supporters deny the truth(ALWAYS)
    8th the media gains ratings and is laughing at everybody(all the way to the bank)

    Poor misled people
    We should demmand objective reporting to avoid this "Stirring the Pot" tactics by bias media coverage
    Watch Reliable Resources and be sure to be objective or you miss the lessons in their reports and commentaries

    January 14, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  7. George, Billerica, Mass.

    Only 22 days until I vote, and it's getting less likely every day that my vote will go to Obama or Clinton. They're acting like young children. They should both take a timeout. Not a bad idea, really. All three candidates should take one day off and settle their petty differences in person... privately.

    January 14, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  8. Dana

    Charlie Rangel is like a child diaper full of urine...the diaper is no long able to do much except spill the urine over. In order to make the child comfortable, the diaper has to be change. Similarly, change for the people of NY is very necessary. Charlie Rangel has not done much for the people of NY and you can't tell me any legislation sponsored by him only that has passed. So, don't take his comment seriously as he is a symbolic figure in Congress or the "Status Quo". We the people will just have to remove him from the office and change some diapers in Congress in the next election.

    January 14, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  9. Friends don’t let friends post drunk

    These undoubtedly, calculating allusions to race by the Clintons only serve to isolate Obama from white and other non-black Americans. It is evident considering the history and the prejudice that is STILL prevalent in this country that discussions of race would only facilitate ignorance and ultimately hurt the Obama campaign.

    If divisiveness and bigotry is the order of the day, then well done Bill and Hilary.

    January 14, 2008 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  10. RTH, Bellingham, WA

    Obama was honest... it must have been to sell books! Rangel can't imagine a politician being honest for honesty's sake?

    Another good reason to elect Sen. Obama – he's not one of the "influential senators" that a little over 20% of us appreciate.

    January 14, 2008 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  11. Bryan, CA

    Rangel looks like a black mr. belvedere. but mr. belvedere was at least respectable.

    January 14, 2008 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  12. James Brown ( Independent )

    Rangel is pretty much a laughjing stock in congress anyway , very few people pay any attention to him.

    But i am fine with his comments , people like him and Bill are just making it easy for folks to get behind Obama.

    January 14, 2008 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  13. Arshad

    Mr. Rangel,
    You have sold your conscience to Clintons and become a hitman. Honesty does not worth anything in Clinton campaign. I can understand what makes you think the way you think.

    For your information, a man with a Ivy league degree who is hungry for money does not go to streets of Chicago to help people who are desperately in need of help. When he wrote his first book, he was not a celebrity. It was and is an honest account of a young bi-racial man searching for his own identity. A young kid abandoned by his own dad could feel a hole in his heart while growing up, could get involve in things like drugs inadvertendly. Please show some decency when you are talking about a United States Senator. He could be a million dollar attorney with a Harvard law degree who graduated first in his class. The man who said no to big money and became a civil rights attorney and constitutional law professor somehow made a story up in his book to increase its sale. How far down you folks will go.

    One thing is clear to me. Politicians like you and Al Sharpton who sell yourself to washington establishment to deliver African American voting blocs, you are scared by seeing that your days are numbered. You are jealous to see Obama reaching heights in American politics when you could not go beyond Harlem. People are smart enough to understand where your pains are coming from.

    January 15, 2008 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  14. Q.G. of Georgia

    The test here is for Clinton to come out and denounce Rangel's remarks as unfortunate and poorly timed. Will she honor the terms of Obama's truce, or will she spin it like Bob Johnson's comments?

    This must end, or the Status Quo will prevail.

    January 15, 2008 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  15. R.D.

    I have lost all respect for bill & hillary Clinton. I am a lifelong democrat, I never thought that the Clinton's whom I so highly respected would stoop this low. Hillarry will not get my vote. Not now . Not ever!!!

    January 15, 2008 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  16. Bobby K

    Another pitiful last stand by the old party elite to try and prevent some one who can unite the country from getting the nomination. Tell me, how much does Rangel, or any other supporter of Clinton stand to gain if she wins the presidency. I have no doubt that if Hillary wins, she will treat the White House as booty and spread patronage jobs everywhere, a true return to the "spoil system" by Jackson.

    January 15, 2008 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  17. Marj,Paso Robles, Cal

    Normally, Democrats would play the race/gender card against Republicans. It is amazing the division I see in the Democratic party. To draw a line using race and/or gender is putting this party down a slippery slope. The Clintons are a zero when it comes to Civil Rights, and Hillary's comments support this. Even though I disagree with most of what Obama says or stands for, he seems like a decent man. I feel sorry for him as the Clinton war machine goes after him.

    January 15, 2008 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  18. Charles in Salt Lake City, UT

    Isn't Rangel the pretentiously ostentatious guy who is so full of himself that he had the government pay some obscene amount of money for a portrait he commissioned of himself for "posterity?" Something completely useless that will end up being mothballed, eventually sold on eBay, and forgotten about? Yup, that's the same guy all right.

    It takes a magnificently undeserving ego to know (or support) one.

    January 15, 2008 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  19. Anonymous

    Charlie Rangel is nuts!!Obama has graciously asked that dialogue change from race and we return back to the issues at hand. The Clintons have no shame.They have been exposed. They are depicable and not trustworthy of the vote of the American people. The country is thirsting for unity and are frankly turned off by all thiese divisiness wedge issues and back biting.I am turned off by the Clinton campaign.Oh and somebody please tell Rangel to take a seat in the corner and join Bob Johnson with his dunce hat.No more DIRTY TRICKS, please for the sake of the Democratic Party and the nation.

    January 15, 2008 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  20. veronica

    Perhaps Obama should have not made an issue with what Hillary said. People say he's smart, and if that's so, then he knew exactly what she meant. He knew she would not ever denigrate MLK. She was pointing out the importance people within the political system play in getting dreams enacted into laws.
    But Barack wanted to incite voters, particularily black voters, and it could be because he has an upcoming contest in South Carolina he'd like to win.
    To all of you who think Barack is a golden boy, think again. He's just as calculating as the rest of them. Why else did he vote "present" so often within his brief senatorial career? Could it be he calculated that when running for president, there would be less votes he made to be brought up and used against him? Ah yes, a true "politician"….
    Oh, and in addition, I love Rep.Charles Rangel. And might I remind everyone that he has just as much right to express his views as anyone else (for example, those on this forum).

    January 15, 2008 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  21. tam/Stone Mountain.GA

    Thank God for Rangel. If all Obama campaign has is to call our First Black President and Hillary racist, his run for the Presidency is in trouble. Rangel's remark were right on and I agree with every word. I was beginning to take a look at Obama but after this display I see what we may be getting in the White house if he did win. I am disappointed in Obama response to this ridiculous claim. A little to late with the call for a truce. I guess he realized how stupid it was.

    Why not a draft? All you Patriots who like war and want to Support the Troops by sending more kids to die should have no problem wanting everyone to be required to fight. The best way to support the troop I guess would be to send more men(right) Maybe the threat of a draft will make people wake up and think about why we really went to Iraq in the first place.

    Thank God for the Clintons. Hillary you have my vote!!!!!!!

    January 15, 2008 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  22. Tony

    Rangel's stupid attacks prove once more there is a lot of garbage in Washington.

    January 15, 2008 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  23. gg

    I am african american male in my 30s, my mother in law was a hilary supporter until today. We kept telling her that Hilary was going to be the same divisive person she has always been. The Bob Johnson comments and Rangel comments have broken her straw. She is so upset at what she sees as a political tactic of sending prominent black members of the Clinton team to attack Obama that she is changing her vote. I believe the Rangels of the World believe that we as African Americans are stupid. Believe it or not, we will not all boo Hillary like what happened today at the MLK function in NY, however, when it is time for the voting booth, this type of campaigning will be punished. This goes to Hillary and also the surrogates who want to continue bashing another Democrat out of jeolousy, selfishness, and greed. I have only written one other time, however, all my young friends are so upset that we are only taking names. We note the following: The Clintons have decided they are going to lose SC, hence there is no need to cuddle Obama anymore. The poll numbers from NH showed them the talk of fairtale did work and there may be an underlying problem for Obama with the underprivileged white vote. They are going to try to divide the country into women and blacks. That is why even when Obama has never mentioned his race, it seems the surrogates and Clinton herself keep mentioning it.
    Has Obama ever mentioned anything about Clinton's being a female. The answer is NO.
    They are looking at Feb 5 for the white vote, hoping for a white backlash and also for the hispanic vote of which Clinton is ahead by 15% points. The funny thing is if there is a white backlash, but against the Clintons.
    Additionally, just to gauge the feelings, I also called my step mom who is a strong Hillary supporter. She is now reconsidering her vote and wants to see if Obama can give specifics in the debate tommorow. IF he can, he has her vote. Thanks Hillary, I hope your tactics pay off. You may win the battle, but you will lose the war. My wife has let her mom know she will never vote for you. She will sit out instead of voting for you or a Republican.

    January 15, 2008 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  24. Angela

    Wow, my gut says most of the Hillary haters( not the genuine Obama supporters) here and allot of other blogs are Republican shills. Because the Repubs will clean his clock in Nov. if he getsthe nomination.
    Be careful Dems, this latest round of spats has a real slimy feel to it – smacks of the real nasty crap the Republicans use.
    Divide and Conquer.
    Just a thought.

    January 15, 2008 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  25. undecided in L.A.

    I just find it interesting and sad, that people who support Obama, which I might, are being so divisive. One of Obama's greatest attributes is not engaging in the kind of attacking mentality so many of his supporters take part in (bloggers). Do these people really understand the power of Obama's unity message? They claim to want a change for unity, but do not act in kind. I would propose for all democrats, independents, republicans, Americans, that we be the change we wish to have...not just ask our candidates to be that change. I don't know where the intense hostility towards the Clinton's come from (other than fox news), but I think it's very sad, and I think the attacking by Obama supporters is actually helping her. It makes me feel solidarity with her, and looking at what happened in New Hampshire, seems to make others feel the same way. It is not only the responsibility of our leaders to act respectfully and with civility, it is the responsibility of all of us. As "Karen" said, please don't get so into winning the battle that you lose the war.

    January 15, 2008 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
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