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. French

    I dont know who is stupid here. Obama never talked of Johnson, this was Hillary's idea to try to diminish the power of hope and speech. Along the way she deep dived into controvercy. She should have owned her word and said sory but instead she pushed it to the oponent and it then became a hulabaloo. For Rangel to say that Obama, a consititutional professor, said Dr. MLK would sign a prez order, is another spin from a 'stupid' Clinton suppoerter. Obama doesnt want race to be an issue because he does belong to both races, white and very balck.

    January 15, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  2. Nyari,nyc,ny

    I dont know who is stupid here. Obama never talked of President Johnson. This was Hillary's idea to try to diminish the power of hope, words and speech, because she can't challenge Obama on oratory. Along the way she deep dived into controvercy. She should have just owned her words, said sory and moved on. But instead she used the old politics books by pushing it to her chief oponent. It then became a hulabaloo. For Rangel to suggest that Obama, a consititutional professor, said Dr. MLK would sign a prez order, is another spin, a 'stupid' spin. Rangel as an employee and suppoerter of the Clintons should have played a better role in advising them how to deal with it. By just spinning it, definitely it goes no where in the black, it stick. Obama doesnt want race to be an issue because he does belong to both races, white and very balck. The high road he took make him a more attractive candidate to end the old politics and surely looked very presidential.

    January 15, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  3. john

    Hillary Clinton's husband admitted smoking pot. Now we get Obama doing it.
    So what? Clinton still won, didn't he? Hillary Clinton by her MLK remarks,
    shows she's not above playing the race card if she has to. What's shocking
    to me is that only 15 per cent of Hispanics are supporting Obama; while
    three times that number of Hispanics are behind her. This reality suggests
    the race card being played more and more and not going away.

    January 15, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  4. all for hillary

    Barack thought that he was going to take NH and he didn't. I'll admit that it was noble of him to pay congrats to Hillary, however, he is worried and grasping at straws with the race thing. Hillary has been working with minority women and children all her life. I think that Mr. Obama understood exactly what she meant, however, this is his last efforts to gain all the black votes that he can and try to turn race into the issue when there is no issue. I do admire Barack Obama and think that in another 4-8 years he will be ready to lead. I just do not think it is now because he lacks the experience. With all the problems facing our nation right now, we need someone who can start on day one and begin mending and fixing the problems we have had left to us from GWB. Everyone wants to say this or that about Bill Clinton and how we don't need another Clinton in the white house, but lets think about how much better the economy was and jobs that were available then along with the huge budget surplus and how easy money came back then. Get real people, who cares about the name, lets put someone in there that can get us back to that. Please people think about it, we need someone who can fix the problems and bring hope back to the world. She is strong and smart and exactly what we need right now. So please lets put someone on capital hill who cares. If you are wondering what she stands for go to "wikipedia" and look her up. Her efforts and all the good she has done in the world. She is the one we need, and yes she is a woman but she is a woman with strong conviction and a good heart. She is our ticket and we should buy it.

    January 15, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  5. Alex,canada

    Put me down in the camp that thinks Rangel is an idiot.

    January 15, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  6. Dragon horse

    Obama did not call or imply that the CLintons were racist.

    He said the comments upset "some people" not him specificially and he said they were ill advised.

    That was the only comments he had. He never said the Clintons were racist or against civil rights, etc.

    That is all media spin.

    January 15, 2008 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  7. Bee

    For the first time in my life, i felt stupid to have this idiot represent me in the congress. For Charles Rangel to suggest that Obama started the whole thing is mind bugling.

    FYI: The Clinton can do damage control all they want. I have made a decision not to vote for Hillary Clinton Inc. be it primary or general election.

    I am sick and tired of Politician who thinks they are God.

    January 15, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  8. Joseph pierre

    Does anyone wonder why it's always the Clinton campaign getting mired in controversy?
    That should tell you something. It's pretty clear they're running scared and know they'll lose. If it wasn't the crybaby incident(trick), she would have been history.So much for the strength candidate!

    January 15, 2008 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  9. Ken

    The more Clinton talks about Obama, the better it is for Obama. Why they cannot understand that is beyond me.

    As for the MLK/LBJ, both of their contributions were crucially important, but MLK's had to come first. In short, no MLK, no civil rights legislation.

    Lastly, did you EVER think you'd live to hear a top-tier Democratic candidate compare themselves to LBJ?


    It's a wonderment, I tell you.

    January 15, 2008 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  10. louis.s.c

    This has to be the most ridiculous controversy in political history. I suggest that everyone commenting here go out and buy the book Judgment Days: Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Laws that Changed America." It's a detailed, compelling history of the relationship (and lack thereof) between those two great men, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Nick Kotz. It demonstrates how both of these men contributed - in very different ways - to the amazing political victory that was the 1965 Voting Rights Act. And, yes, it leaves little doubt that both men were equally essential to this monumental advance in our society - King with his inspirational rhetoric and grassroots awareness campaign and Johnson with his arm-twisting political strategy. They represented a rare and winning synergy. Instead of arguing about this non-issue, why not seize this opportunity to learn something about our history, something that will make us all better equipped to fight the battles for equality and social justice that are still upon us and those that are yet to come?
    Obama is soo right.
    I am just tired of this politics of divisiveness!

    January 15, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  11. GW

    This is one issue that Charley Rangel, and all of the Black politicians who line up to support Hillary Clinton and are defiantly opposed Barack Obama should leave alone. What is left out in the MLK/Johnson discussion is whether or not the dream has been reached or is still a work in progress. If the dream were realized already there would not be a "Black Caucus" waiting to pounce on every Black issue. If the dream were realized then we would judge these candidates on the "content of their character" and not their gender or race. If the dream were fulfilled then race would not have taken center stage in the political discussion.

    Hillary did not come across as expressing a deep revelation about the historical events, but she obviously was making it a political attack against Barack comparing himself to two legendary men with the gift to inspire people through their oratory. She was trying to bring him down. What does that say about her character?

    The bottom line in the whole political debate is whether White people are still afraid of Blacks, and vice versa, and whether America can get beyond the artificial divisions. Barack Obama has clearly outdistanced the old guard civil rights leaders, who's raison d'etre is girded in old fears. Their support for Hillary, while mainly politically based, is also based on fear – the fear that they will be accused of being racists themselves if they backed a Black candidate.

    January 15, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  12. Inquiring Mind


    January 15, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  13. Holly

    Reply to both TX Democrat and other Sen. Obama supporters.

    Many of you are obviously so new to campaign tactics, most likely due to never having had the opportunity to care enough to become involved in politics until there was an opportunity to jump on a ground swell.

    Senator Clinton made remarks with regard to Dr. King, the Obama camp ( campaign managers & strategists ) then saw an opportunity to "Spin" this and play the race card. Of course, TX Democrat didn't see or read a remark directly from the mouth of Sen. Obama, DUH!!!

    Come on get real for a moment, everyone with half a brain (yes even the Obama Campaign Mgrs. ) knew what Sen. Clinton meant, don't be so naive, the Obama camp was opportunistic & predatory ( really desperate) to play this wild card regarding HRC's comments because there is not much as they can do right now.

    If you all had been following politics and not just pretenders you would already know that HRC has been a freaking huge proponent of Civil Rights & womens rights (United Nations Speech in Beijing, 1995 ...on Chinese soil no less) but I don't expect most of you to have researched anything beyond CNN Headlines, sound bites & You Tube.

    I am glad more people are involved in the political process this time, however having read & participated in some blogs it's become obvious to me that many of you blogging just blow whatever direction popular consensus happens to take you.

    This election is important enough that many espousing change & requesting change are going to get change alright if the wrong candidate gets in, but it won't be the change you had wished for.

    GO Hillary!!! NOBAMA in 2008

    January 15, 2008 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  14. carol

    If "youthful indiscretion" is a defense – wouldn't you all agree that there are a few million people in our prison system right now for their "youthful indiscretion" that need to be immediately released?

    I know I would like to be reimbursed for all the money I spent in 1978 and 1981 ($15,000) on attorney's for my sister (went to jail for 16 months) and brother (a Vietnam Veteran on probation for 5 years) for doing drugs. Also, my ex-brother in-law that spent 8.5 years in jail for drugs while he abandoned his 2 children to my sister and her family to raise for his "youthful indiscretion".

    Illegal activity is still illegal activity for some of us that made better choices but paid the price for others. It is important and those who say otherwise are ridiculous.

    January 15, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  15. Vancouver

    I agree with KOJO. I have faith in African Americans to see through the Obama hype that Oprah started – and the on-going accusations from the Obama camp against the Clintons. Let's get the candidates answering the hard questions. So far Obama hasn't done or said anything substantive.
    GO HILLARY! We need a real agent of change next door to Canada.

    January 15, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  16. SGC

    Bottom Line is Hillary and the entire Clinton team will lose the general election by several points when its all said and done....the democrates could be peaking too soon and that is bad for America and this World!

    January 15, 2008 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  17. Mary, Michigan

    Obama and Clinton have called for a truce. How about the surrogates and the media doing the same.

    January 15, 2008 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  18. jamleck

    This issue between hillary and obama,about who is a better candidate can be resolved if you look into the republican camps. Hillary is just mentioned en-passe. they are asking the voters to select someone out of them to stand up to obama. Obama is considered to be the real threat to their nominee.

    Rangel is so irrelevant in my eyes!

    January 15, 2008 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  19. Dj

    Mr. Rangel should shut up, He just kissing up to get a cabinet position. I tell you, if Clinton is the nominee I will vote republican. I'm a diehard democrat. People need to understand Clinton will not win. It not because she is woman because I would support a Woman candidate, she and her husband would tear this country apart

    January 15, 2008 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  20. made

    I cannot think of a better expert on stupidity than hillary. She personifies stupid, ignorant, unqualified and moronic. Maybe that should be her campaign platform:

    What these old folks don't know is that People are more educated now than when they started running for office.
    Vote Obama anytime!

    January 15, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  21. Jay

    They are going to use the Hispanic votes as they did with the black votes, to win their elections and dump them after their done with them.

    January 15, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  22. Rob Collier

    The theatricals and symantics are all typical distractions from the real issues, leave the Democrats to it. Mitt Romney is the professional if you want to get serious about straightening out Washington, get serious with Mitt Romney. He is the one with the economic track record and the outsider from those that have got the country into a mess – Mitt your country needs you NOW !!

    January 15, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  23. carrol

    The thing that is really stupid about of this is that the Clintons were trying to say that Obama tried to compare himself to MLK and therefore their comments were fair. However, the real truth of the matter is that obama was stating that MLK's vision and JFK's vision were seen as empty hope at one time. His point being, was not to let anyone tell you not to hope (like the clintons were doing). Here is a person running for the highest office and one who held the highest office who just doesn't get it.

    Posted by: Blake | January 15, 2008 11:23 AM

    January 15, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  24. dave

    you people are stupid. never once Obama has commented on race or played the race card. It's other Black leaders who are jumping on the Clinton comments, not Obama. It's being turn around by folks to portray that is all Obama's doing. Seriously, y'all don't read enough of the news, and just take folks at face value too much.

    January 15, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  25. ben

    why are these people dividing our country?

    January 15, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
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