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. Kim

    Obama has stayed above the flay the at Clintons started. Now the media mixed them up with all these. I hope this doesn't make me not vote for Hillary which I am about to do!

    January 15, 2008 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  2. James, Houston,TX.

    Rep. Charlie Rangel, while your quoting clarifications are You Latino or a Brother?
    Are You inspired by MLK or Ceasar Chavez ?
    Many of the "Illegals" are also confused with places like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Las Cruses, Yuma, El Paso, Laredo, San Antonio; to them its just another Papagallos. Whats say, Charlie?

    January 15, 2008 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  3. --Joe

    I'm a liberal Democrat from Pittsburgh but if Obama doesn't get the Democratic nomination I don't see myself voting for anyone else in the Democratic field. I'll switch and support McCain before I vote for Hillary. Not a gender or race issue. It comes down to trust.

    January 15, 2008 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  4. Joeley Reno, Nevada

    Rangle is right.

    Obama's propensity to disregard a comment simply exemplifies his inability to stand up for a position.

    He doesn't understand...wah wah wah...he understands, he just doesn't want to get into a dialogue he knows he can't win. That's not leadership, that's duck and run (his mouth).

    He was against the war, then he was for it, now he's against it...now he's calling his initial OPINION, which counted for NOTHING, better judgement than anyone elses!

    Give me a break!

    Obama's rhetoric is as empty as his Illinois voting record was pathetic.

    To facilitate CHANGE, one needs to understand that actions precipitate change, not wishes.

    Hillary Clinton is the real change agent in the Democratic Race not Barack Obama.

    CLINTON 2008!

    January 15, 2008 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  5. Truth

    Robert Scott

    I respect what you're said but please give me one specific policy that help blacks that didn't equally help whites or any u.s citizen while Bill Clinton was in office, especially since some of the most racially motivated people in this country are southern democrats

    Scott below is an article from
    DeWayne Wickham's "Bill Clinton and Black America

    I want to ask you what pieces of legislation you think he got passed to help the black community, but I'm also curious: How important is style? What impact does that make and does that mean more than a politician's legislative record in some ways?

    They're both very important. In some ways the legislation is far more important to those who are close to the process. The vast majority of African-Americans aren't close to the process, have little if any knowledge about the legislative process or which legislation is in the hopper. But what they get on TV, whether it's about Bill Clinton or any other president, is a lot more style than substance. We see presidents walking across the lawn outside the West Wing with a head of state, or making a brief statement. Or they give a State of the Union speech that's 45 minutes long and covers 25 or 30 issues - they're only giving a fleeting notice to any of them - and all you get is style. That's what you measure. When you measure that, you come to some estimation of who this person is.

    I don't think that he was without substance. When you look at the lengths to which he went to put African-Americans in significant positions of authority ... those who understand the legislative process know that billions and billions of dollars flowed through the controlling hands of these appointees. It would literally take a political anthropologist, if there is such a creature, to figure out the real impact of the flow of that money.

    For example, Ron Brown, the secretary of commerce, redefined his role - something he called "commercial diplomacy." He really wanted to be secretary of state so he found some way to merge the two. This whole thing about commercial diplomacy allowed him to go to Africa and to talk, not only about commerce, but also about politics and how the United States government could help reshape the political map of Africa.

    Did you notice not one piece of legislation, black are enameled to Hillary because of their attraction to Bill. During his presidency, all he did was appeal to blacks without delivering anything not 1 piece of legislation that blacks felt would prevent prejudicial barriers that prevented them from being treated as equal to whites.

    You might be reading this and saying that stupid but you know what you're right. The legislation has already been passed The Civil rights act of 1964. No president can prevent business from racially discrimination, that's done through courts. No president can say white man give black man their dues then enforce it. I'm embraces to say that if you're black and you like Hillary because of Bill Clinton then you are very misguided their attraction with no substance. Blacks have this unbridled loyalty to the Democratic Party, since Bill Clinton appealed to blacks more then any U.S president, blacks have this unconditionally loyalty to Hillary.

    You need to vote for the president whom will best service America not black America or white America but America. I would add further that Bill's biggest legislation that affected our nation NAFTA did more damage then good to blacks...

    He speaks of Africa but what about his failure to act in Rwanda.

    Scott like I said I respect what you wrote but you are misguided.

    January 15, 2008 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  6. aware

    Gender is the big issue in this election! Misogyny/sexism is a major evil in the USA and all over the world. It transcends ethnicity!

    The dehumanizing of women that we allow produces violence – prostitution, savage beating, murder, rape, pornography, sex trade/sex slaves, ridicule of young women/exposure..., and all of this is covered by the media – sometimes obsessively, sometimes as humor and often without human respect.

    In this country we still have a male establishment. There are a few exceptional woman who fight the battle and gain a voice! However, the only real change we have are the ethnic males who have been let in the club. This is true in politics, in the church and in our culture. It is an ego/power/control issue.

    If you want real change – healing, unity, peace..., get out of the silly attack mode and challenge the real issues – make a difference – not just a noise!

    January 15, 2008 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  7. wyane

    I don't think Obama has ever brought the race issue up. Hillary and Bill have and have well succeeded doing just that. Isn't this the old kind of stuff that we are refusing. Now you can see what experience does.

    January 15, 2008 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  8. doro, USA

    Tara G. Right on. This is a tried and true strategy also employed by the British Empire in all their colonies – divide and conquer.

    The Clintons knew exactly what they were about. Their divide and conquer strategy in this campaign will only bear fruit if voters do not think critically, label their game publicly, and vote for true leadership, unity and prosperity for the majority of Americans. Obama and Edwards do indeed have what it takes to lead this country to a better future.

    Beneath Hillary's seemingly innocent comments re: MLK/Johnson/Civil Rights, Bill's "fairytale" angry taunts, and their attack team are indicative of a Hillary Clinton Administration's tone and modus operandi should she win the election.

    Now that I've witnessed her in action she has lost my vote if she becomes the nominee unless she publictly apologizes to Obama and African Americans for injecting racial politics into this campaign. (No, I'm not African American).

    January 15, 2008 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  9. RK

    Clintons will slice and dice this country so badly. Just what people don't want! If you vote for Hillary, you are guaranteed Bush third term. They shamelessly do that because you know they don't go through what ordinary people are going through in this country.
    Vote Obama or third party candidate if He doesn't get nominated!

    January 15, 2008 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  10. KOJO

    It was Oprah who injected race into Obama camp, when she went to SC to tell the black people that this is the moment to vote for a blackman because of his race to fulfil MLK dream. I am a black man will never trader the Clintons over any black man. The Clintons are hated bye white America because they are too close to blacks and minorities in very issue. Oprah with all her money what has she done for the black people, when she gave out cars , how many went to blacks in her talk show. How many blacks get tickets to her show. All the so called blacks who are speaking out for Obama, how many are still leaving in the hood.
    Clinton setup his office in the hood Harlem, my recent visit to NY, Harlem has changed and is a nice place to be.

    What I know is that when Clinton was in power I had respect and a good paid job, when he left office in 2003, I was forced to trained a white guy to take over my job. in 2005. All the black men in my company including myself were fired. In my case it was so difficult for them that they created a new position for me anf after six months it was dissolved.

    January 15, 2008 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  11. Naomi

    Johnson, after all he is the person that brought us BET, which is a total disgrace and a step down from Porno; BET is Garbage.

    January 15, 2008 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  12. Ginny, Ca

    Obama started playing the race card first, early on in the campaigns, and has done so at every opportunity. He should never have tried such a disingenuous tactic. In the long run, he'll reap what he's sown.

    January 15, 2008 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  13. Sig, Los Angeles CA

    TX Democrat,

    Well done! You said exactly what I wanted to say and why THIS is an issue amongst African Americans.

    And I'm still waiting to see where Obama mentioned race... anyone???? If you can't produce – take a chill pill.

    January 15, 2008 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  14. j Haley

    Here is a thought that should stir the pot a bit more. - LBJ would not have been able to pass the Civil Rights bill with out the support of the Republican Party. The Democrats would not and could not have passed it on their own even though they had majorities in the House and Senate.

    Charlie, Hillary, and Obama chew on that for a while.

    January 15, 2008 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  15. JJ in NY

    The upstate economy in NY is so much of a disaster that our Democratic governor has proposed a multi-billion dollar incentive package..... and Hillary was touting her success in helping the upstate economy? What a fairy tale .... this is worse than her failure to change national health care .

    January 15, 2008 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  16. Angela Marshall

    Congressman Rangel is wrong about this one. Just like he said he encouraged Obama to run for president but he will not win, and he is supporting Hillary. Congressman Rangel will be wrong again. Congressman, be objective.

    January 15, 2008 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  17. Emmanuel

    MSNBC has the EVENT TIMELINE on their website. Read through it and then identify where Obama brought race into it. Trust me, every African-American knows when it happened and where it happened.

    January 15, 2008 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  18. Sabrina


    She and her husband and her camp LIED ON OBAMA and HILARY MADE RACE AN ISSUE. This Rangel person is LYING and Bob Johnson is absolutely reviled by anyone who'd been disgusted with BET's earlier programming in particular.

    I'm an independent who'd liked Edwards, Obama, Clinton and McCain for various reasons, but Sen Clinton has made my decision that much easier. I will not vote for her.

    She's screwed up so bad here that she's given hopeless Republicans hope. Obama may be able to pull this if he can go on about his business has he has been doing - and bring better listening and decision-making skills to the White House. Too bad more haven't rallied behind Edwards – either will do for me just fine. Much more class and fairness, tempered and smart toughness where needed.

    And why is CNN reading like a tabloid these days instead of reporting all sides of issues in a balanced way? These last two stories on this issue read as if you allowed Hilary herself to edit them, with your misleading captions and headlines and giving so much room for her slimey friends' doing the typical attack dog dirty work - when seeing some other pubs who report more thoroughly that Obama never said the things Clinton's people claimed. She put her foot in mouth, blamed him for others being taken aback and couldn't clean up her mess efficiently.

    Am I consulting CNN or Fox News here? Aren't you supposed to be the objective and thorough? You've got 24-hour-a-day to get it right and your viewers and readers expect better.

    January 15, 2008 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  19. cheree

    I believe the media participates in damage control for the candidate of their choice. Mr.Obama's campaign never commented – except to dismiss blame. I ve watched every speech and meeting for each candidate Obama does not once bring up HIllary's name. I must say the majority of HIllary addresses are abouT obama. Wake up People – there was not argument The Clinton's were wrong.

    January 15, 2008 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  20. Blake

    Poor poor simpleton. I don't think Rangel got the point. Yes, we know that Dr. King couldn't actually sign legislation, but legislation is just a stamp of approval, the content of that legislation was inspired by civil rights activists. That's the whole point.

    Hillary is stupid to even bring up that point. That would be like someone saying that the only reason the Colts won the Superbowl last year is because they were handed a trophy.

    I think my point is made, can we subtract a point from the Hillary machine and move on now?

    January 15, 2008 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  21. dave

    If Hillary were running for President of the NFL: "The Colts wouldn't have been Superbowl champions unless someone handed them the trophy." Who cares? If they hadn't played the way they did they wouldn't have one.

    If MLK hadn't inspired so many Americans to push for change, it wouldn't have happened.

    Posted by: Blake Foster | January 15, 2008 8:49 AM

    January 15, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  22. Winfield G. James

    I have always found it rather amazing that relatively unintelligent men attain relatively high levels in American politics. Charles Rangel is no exception to this generally accepted phenomenon. This only happens in America. In other countries for a relatively unintelligent or dispicable character to get to a level like a position on par with Rangel's he would have to be part of a dictatorship.

    January 15, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  23. Robert


    Why are you weighing in on this with more partial information? It was not Obama who brought up the problem with the word "race". Clinton brought up the problem with the way she phrased her comment about Dr. King and LBJ. What Obama said was her comments were ill-advised and unfortunate. And they were. She clarified them partially, then had another foot shoved in her mouth for her by the idiotic comments of Bob Johnson.

    Obama was reasonable to call her out. He was also the first to call a truce to the matter saying it had gone far enough.

    For you to distort the nature of the argument and conclude that Obama is dumb...well, let me offer you a mirror.

    January 15, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  24. charles

    Well, since Obama never said anything about this, in fact remaining silent, Rangel is either stupid, or a liar. And since we know he's not stupid....

    January 15, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  25. Phyllis

    I moved back to New York than two years ago and now reside in Rep. Rangels
    district. I felt very good about that, but I must say I am extremely disappointed
    in his latest comment. Surely, he should be a leader who would help to dampen
    down the recent commotion like others of stature have...including Obama and
    Clinton. We have too many big issues and problems that would be better
    addressed by Mr. Rangel.

    January 15, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
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