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. John

    Charles Rangel is not an idiot. Hillary that the MLK's dream was realized when LBJ signed it into law. (Is that racist?) There is nothing negitive about that statement.

    Like I said before if Hillary had a drug problem as a teenager that wouldn't be an issue?

    Don't question Senator Obama I guess that is the anwser.

    January 15, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  2. Todd

    And could someone explain why Obama shouldn't have to answer for his drug use in the same way that every other political candidate who has used or is suspected of having used drugs must face the music? Why isn't it a legitimate issue? You may decide it's not important enough, and that he should still be president, but why shouldn't he have to answer questions about it?!! Why does he play by different rules?

    January 15, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  3. sanjay

    What happened to Obama that African Americans are not approving him. Or is this the same thing in America that they wait you to go up then they bring you down. I think Barack was leading in polling and being voted for by his own merrits and credits not by what Dr. King did. He just invoked the words to get people inspired and I personally don't see anything wrong with that.
    Go Obama!

    January 15, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  4. ezasomo1

    Did G.W. Bush had experience when he ran in 2000? He didn't even know the name of the president of Pakistan. Did J.F.K had experience when he ran for the presidency?
    Being the wife of a president and sitting in the while house for few years will automatically give you experience???? She became an elected official only after becoming a senator, so how long is Hillary has been an elected official????

    January 15, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  5. Brian Kearns

    I am livid at this latest cynical broohaha started by the Clintons over MLK and LBJ. I will not vote for Hillary Clinton under any circumstances, even if she wins the nomination. I hope this blows up in their faces and they lose the vast majority of the black voters, lose South Carolina, and every other state thereafter. It is an old political trick of throwing the hand grenade and then accusing the other side of over playing the controversy. It distracts everyone from the enthusiasm for Obama, characterizes him as a black dreamer and a "former" drug user, and calculates that any negatives she gets will be offset by the advantage of taking the wind out of Obama's sails. It is cynical, divisive, and not worthy of anyone who puts themselves forward as potentially the next President of the United States. This is worse than Imus to me. We all knew Imus is a racist blowhard. But Hillary and Bill put themselves up as so pro-black he has been considered by many in the black community as the first black president. Then, they resort to this? This is like throwing the black community under the bus, just so they can win an election. It's the dirtiest of dirty politics. I hate it. And I hate the Clintons for doing it.

    January 15, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  6. Joanna

    Obama's remarks were probably one of his first really bad moves of this race. Bill and Hillary Clinton have been tremendous allies to and supporters of minority rights. Many people refer to Bill Clinton as the first black president. Obama was out of line and frankly devisive with these comments – which I have to think is why he quickly called for a truce.

    But let's stay on point here. It is so easy to get caught up in the personality squabbles and lose sight of the goals. Who do you want in office? Who will speak for you and your agenda?

    I keep seeing "Moderate Republicans" chiming in here saying they will vote for Obama, who's stance on social and economic issues are clearly very left of center. Hillary Clinton is a centrist – more conservative fiscally and more liberal on social issues. But more to the point, the Republicans are not going to be voting in these primaries, so you really don't get a say here.

    Republicans do have the option of voting for a centrist, Rudy Giuliani who is the only Republican candidate who's more liberal on many social issues and more fiscally conservative. He sure helped NYC turn around after the disasterous Dinkins years. Or go for MacCain, he's a social and fiscal conservative but not a hard liner. He's one step to the right of Guiliani.

    Now if you've ruled out the Republican candidates because they remind you too much of the current administration or they're too hawkish, then the next candidate that embraces a moderate Republican's ideology is Hillary Clinton. She's the only centrist in the Dem bunch. Love her or hate her, she will give you a voice in government.

    But if you like Obama's more liberal agenda, great. I suggest you switch parties.

    Finally, let's vote the issues this time around, people. Put race, gender, and personality aside. Vote for the person who is going to cut or raise taxes how you see fit, who is going to end the war how you think it should be concluded, who is going to fight or foster global warming in the face of an economic recession, who is going to come up with the right fiscal policies to spur economic growth and create jobs in America, who is going to protect our borders the way you think makes sense. That means reading the newspaper and watching the debates – really listening to the substance, not the spin. It's hard, but given the times we're in it is so VERY important.

    January 15, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  7. jim, chicago, illinois

    two words for you charlie, "SHUT UP!"
    let's get back to the REAL issues of this election year, and not the color of a candidates skin.

    January 15, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  8. Adalberto, california

    I might disagree with Obama on issues but I think Hillary is going way beyond what it should be for American President. We want a uniter not a devider. I am latino with all family members voting for Obama.

    January 15, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  9. David, ft. meyers,florida

    Now you see what experience will bring to this country. This is the kind of porilization that we all just don't need in this country. I hope people will vote like Iowans who stood up with this kind of divisiveness. Time for change!

    January 15, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |

    The people who are saying "lies from the Hilary camp" need to read the article. Nothing that was said in the article was untrue. Smearing a respected Congressman simply because you do not agree with him is not the way this country should operate. It makes you sound like a republican.

    January 15, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  11. Rich Orl, FL

    Our country is finally waking up to the fact we need major changes in our government if it is truly going to be for the people by the people. The movement has already begun by first voting out many Republicans that are seen as untrustworthy amongst the electorate. Our next step should be to remove the members of our own Democratic Party that reflect negatively on our efforts to have an ethical and positive government in the future. I believe Congressman Rangel and Senator Byrd should be at the top of that list. Both of them seem more interested in political games and wasting money on pet projects simply to have their names on it. Democrats have a wonderful opportunity to clean house and get our government back on track for the American people again. Let’s do it right this time.

    January 15, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  12. Tyler

    Derrick January 14, 2008 10:54 pm ET

    This whole comment about Race came from Hilary Clinton , Obama never mention race and did not want to comment about the stupid remarks that Hilary said. Hilary is bought and paid for by Washington and God forbid if she get the nomination.

    Found this comment here...this is WRONG. Obama said Hillary brought "race" into the discussion. He said the word race. No where did she say race. She just said Dr. King couldnt do it by himself.

    January 15, 2008 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  13. Leslie, PoliSci Major

    Here's something to ponder:

    Last Sunday, BET founder Bob Johnson praised Hillary Clinton for being "deeply and emotionally involved in black issues." If Hillary is so in touch with the African-American community, then, why hasn't she apologized to the people who found her Martin Luther King comments offensive?

    I initially gave her the benefit of the doubt in that I understood the point she was trying to make. She was saying that actions speak louder than words – that it's one thing to talk about change, but it takes strong, committed leadership to make it a reality. That is true.

    However, I felt she could have made that point without using the Martin Luther King reference. After she received criticism for it, she should have paused to think about why her comments were offensive to some people. Of course, because Obama was one of those people – who just happened to express his opinion on the matter – she took it as a personal attack.

    Hillary's response to the backlash has been "That wasn't what I meant to say" and nothing more. She avoids any acknowledgment of the undeniable fact that people DID get offended. By dismissing this fact, she runs the risk of being seen as insensitive. Just because someone doesn't agree with you doesn't make their opinion any less valid. I feel that if Hillary really wants to reach out to the African-American community, she needs to admit that she did offend people, show that she understands their side of the issue, and sincerely apologize to the people she offended.

    I am glad that her and Obama stepped up and agreed to put an end to this issue before it gets out of hand. Of course, Rangel – a politician nobody cares about for obvious reasons – just HAD to cash in on his fifteen seconds of...well, not fame, more like a reminder that he isn't dead yet. I didn't remember him before as the guy who advocated the draft (thanks to those who brought it up), but it makes sense. Some people will say anything for attention. Hillary got over it Rangel, why can't you?

    January 15, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  14. David, ft. meyers,florida

    Robert M Scott

    Hahahahaha, I was heartbroken at first when I read your first paragraph till I finished and understood what you were saying.
    And yes we do need Barack to save this country from tyrany.
    Obama supporter.

    January 15, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  15. Alain James

    Liz L. said

    "Hillary is the one. She has experience and why is it that so many people are afraid of her???"

    Because she is a woman – and the boys (and some girls like Arianna and Maureen) feel more comfortable having a beer with a male of the species.

    At a McCain rally, someone calls Hilary Clinton a "b-tch" and gets chuckles all around.

    At an Obama rally, Chris Rock calls Hillary Clinton "that white woman" and gets laughs all around. (Not a peep from Mr. Obama.)

    Can you imagine the faux "liberal" outrage if someone called Obama "that black guy" at a Clinton rally – and got a big laugh – and Clinton stood idly by?

    January 15, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  16. TX Democrat

    To those of you who say that Senator Obama started this whole "race" thing...can you please show me anywhere that Obama made any statements about HRC's comments? I have been researching...and the most that I can find is him saying that it's ridiculous to say that he brought up the issue, when he hasnt made a comment one way or the other. And then, him saying that he doesnt think that HRC is racist and that she has been a championing African American causes for years. But that her comment were "ill-advised." (and I agree with that statement) And then, of course, his call for a truce.

    What you dont realize is that Obama didnt raise this issue with African Americans. African Americans raised this issue with HRC. We dont need anyone to tell us when to feel offended. To say that we are offended does not mean that we dont respect the previous works of Bill and Hillary Clinton. It means that you cannot tell us that we are believing in a "fairytale" when we believe in the renewed hope that Senator Obama gives us. As Americans, we have a right to that hope. It does not negate what we feel about HRC.

    It means that HRC cannot negate the contributions of MLK and not expect an outcry from African Americans. True, LBJ signed the Civil Rights ACT. But it was a RESPONSE to the movement. Do you think that without the movement started by MLK and thousands of others' LBJ would have brought forth the Civil Rights ACT on his own? WIthout those tireless, fearless activists...it wouldnt have happened. How do I know? Look at the history. Before the grass roots movement started by MLK, African Americans were 2nd class citizens for hundreds of years. Is it coincidence that the Act was signed only AFTER the works of MLK? I think not. It did not take a president to get the Civil Rights Act passed. It took the works of MLK and thousands of others campaigning and protesting, fighting and dying to motivate LBJ to pass sjgn the. So give all due respect where it is warranted.

    So while I appreciate the works that Hilary and Bill have done in the past, I chose to look to the future...and give my vote to the first politician who has ever sparked this much hope for change in my heart. No longer am I apathetic about the politcal process in this country. I now believe that change is possible. Whether or not that happens with Barack Obama as president....at least I now have hope. And that is no fairytale.

    January 15, 2008 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  17. LM

    I am so tired of hearing how Obama is the voice of change. How is he going to change things? I can tell you that I am going to change this country & how its time for a change. No one would let me get by with it, sooner or later some one would ask me "HOW". Just saying it doesn't make it so!

    If this is not about race, why did Oprah get up and say the time is now?
    What did she mean?

    January 15, 2008 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  18. AJ, IL

    Hillary could have squashed this whole race baiting issue from the start. The Hillary camp has been very clear to point the finger at Obama for "race baiting". But why? The ill-advised comments where made by Hillary Clinton. The influential black leaders (and others) who took issue with her comments responded to the media. Hillary and her campaign were careful not to denounce the responses of Jim Clyburn or Dorothy Brazille about Hillary's own comments. The Hillary campaign attacked Obama. Hillary directed accused Obama and his campaign of "race baiting" on MEET THE PRESS without offering one shred of proof. The news media just ate it up looking for any opportunity to create sensational storylines on Politics and Race regardless of truth.

    January 15, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  19. Sheila, Houston Texas

    All you blacks that think the Clintions are the best thing that happen to blacks. You need to read Bill's full record he signed the Crime bill in to law .That have destory many young blacks men they are in prison. The Clintions do not have a record on Civil rights for blacks in this county they used us to get into office. What we need to do is take a step back and look at the Clintion record. He new when he signed the Crime bill regarding rock Cocane and Powder Cocane that Blacks used rock cocane and white used powder he also new our young black men were going to be the ones going to prison while powder cocane user whites would get probation. I say again Bill was not a civil rights President. All they wanted was our vote to stay in office. Obama did not start this mess he was only getting to many whites vote . Black people we need to vote out any black that's supporting and pushing this mess. We need to ask Charlie (NY) and Sheila Jackson-Lee (f Texas) why they did not tell the blacks that Bill signed that crime bill that has place our young men in prison. That not the only bill he signed that was negative on blacks that need to be addressed. Ms Clinton said she has 35 years what have she done show us the beef. We need to ask her to release her records from when her husband was in office. Obama have had more years in in elective office than Ms. Clintion. Charlie is acting like a slave he has not gotten the word yet we are free we do not have to used to carry water for any one Dr. King is turning in his grave I hope( NY) show him the door and also Sheila Jackson-Lee need to be put out of office.

    January 15, 2008 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  20. katbunny

    I will never vote for Hillary Clinton. NEVER!

    I will never vote for a woman who allow her husband to abuse her
    over and over and over, again. Why would I want a woman like that
    for my president!

    January 15, 2008 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  21. blkjazz

    Rangel and Johnson are both just Clinton house "boys" (to be kind). Charlie has not had a real clue to what is really going on for years. Johnson's BET has done more to hurt young black folk than almost anything else.

    And we wonder why we can't work together.

    January 15, 2008 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  22. Sennen Conte

    Stay positive Senator Obama, do not stray from your campaign, trust me,those who are truly listening believe and trust your messages of change and that you are the only person to lead our country! Not to mention you you are the only candidate that can pull 100% of support from your party but most of all independents and some republicans that are on the fence.

    January 15, 2008 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  23. Dazed and Confused in DC

    Stupid is as stupid does. Rangel called it right here.

    January 15, 2008 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  24. d

    Race got into the forefront when Oprah stumped with Obama.

    CNN its obvious you are a Obama supporter!!

    January 15, 2008 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  25. 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 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
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