January 21st, 2008
12:45 PM ET
14 years ago

Congressman to Bill Clinton: 'Chill a little bit'


Watch Clyburn on CNN's American Morning.

(CNN) - House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, whose criticism of Hillary Clinton’s recent remarks on Martin Luther King Jr. helped fuel a heated back and forth between the New York senator and Barack Obama, said Monday it was time another Clinton watched his words.

Bill Clinton’s attacks on Barack Obama, Clyburn said in a CNN interview, were unfair because a former president’s viewpoint “carries with it extra weight.”

“I think they would say in Gullah-Geechee country, he needs to chill a little bit. I hope he understands what that means,” Clyburn told John Roberts on CNN’s American Morning. “I can understand him wanting to defend his wife’s honor and his own record, and that is to be expected. But you can’t do that in a way that won’t engender the kind of feelings that seem to be bubbling up as a result of this.”

“I think he is a former president of these United States. He is revered in many sections of the African-American community, and I think he can afford to tone it down,” he added.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, the South Carolina congressman had said he was disappointed with comments from Hillary Clinton that some took to suggest President Lyndon Johnson had more to do with passing the Civil Rights Act than Martin Luther King, Jr. He also expressed frustration over Bill Clinton's recent remark that the characterization of Obama's record on Iraq as consistently anti-war is a "fairy tale."

“We have to be very, very careful about how we speak about that era in American politics," he told the New York Times. "It is one thing to run a campaign and be respectful of everyone’s motives and actions, and it is something else to denigrate those. That bothered me a great deal.”

Last week, Clyburn said it was time for both Hillary Clinton and Obama to move on. He said Bill Clinton had called twice to explain what he meant by his comments — most recently, an hour after the congressman returned to the United States from a trip abroad. He also said he'd spoken to Hillary Clinton about the issue, and has accepted both Clintons’ explanations of their comments.

"I don't think we ought to be so politically correct about everything that we say every time someone makes a mistake, 'throw the person off the campaign,' or something of that sort," he said. "I think what we do is accept their explanation as to what they meant by what they said and go on. A lot of people who work in campaigns get very excited sometimes."

Clyburn, one of the most powerful African-Americans in Congress, has continued to insist he will not endorse any presidential candidate, upholding a pledge to the candidates and to the Democratic Party that he would stay out of the race ahead of his state's key January vote.

Related: Watch Rep. James Clyburn, D-South Carolina on American Morning.

–CNN's Rebecca Sinderbrand and Alexander Mooney

soundoff (343 Responses)
  1. aware

    Yes, Bill can Afford to chill. However, Bill didn't go over the line – Barack did! 🙂

    Let the media confront obfuscating Obama. Keep doing your job CNN and MSNBC!

    Barack is killing himself with his materially paltry attacks and premature run. It is arrogant and presumptive of Barack to use the race issue to further his little ego/power/control game. He has had every advantage in life, and yet he is totally without respect or common decency. What a pretender! America will never have Barack for president unless he does some serious growing up in the next few years.

    Hillary 08

    January 21, 2008 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  2. Steven N.Y

    Really the Dems are about to win back the white house and what do they do? They hit the self destruct button like they always do. All they have succeeded in doing is to get -Poor Whites to fight Poor Blacks to fight Poor Latinos. Now its Poor Latinos not liking Poor Blacks who in turn are not liked by Poor Whites.
    Doggone I need a score card to keep up with this. As long as we keep this BS up the pension funds will continue to get raped, folks will have to work until they are 80 so they can have health care, the jails will continue to fill up with the offspring of all of the above named groups and Wal-Mart will get all the ones not in jail to work in their sweatshop for 8 bucks an hour and no healthcare.. Guess we need some more prison reality shows. People around the world really scratch their heads at how we vote. We never vote our interest we vote our hatreds. Time for another party to emerge. A party that will allow people like who they like a party that will allow folks to dislike who they dislike. A party that will have a common goal of helping everyone. Whether we love each other or not. This pollyanna crap never works.

    January 21, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  3. Paul

    A prominent black Clinton supporter, Black Entertainment Television founder Bob My Way News states:
    "Johnson, criticized Obama and seemed to refer to his acknowledged teenage drug use while introducing Clinton at her next event.

    "To me, as an African-American, I am frankly insulted the Obama campaign would imply that we are so stupid that we would think Hillary and Bill Clinton, who have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues – when Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood; I won't say what he was doing, but he said it in his book – when they have been involved," Johnson said.

    Obama wrote about his youthful drug use – marijuana, alcohol and sometimes cocaine – in his memoir, "Dreams from My Father."

    Johnson later said in a statement released by the Clinton campaign that his comments referred to Obama's work as a community organizer in Chicago "and nothing else. Any other suggestion is simply irresponsible and incorrect."

    Truth or Lie?

    January 21, 2008 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  4. Please, TN

    Hillary tell Bill to keep on going. If Mrs. Obama can ask for votes by playing the race card , then Bill should be able to use Obama's records to get support for you. In a fair world experience and ability should go a long way. Bill has the advantage over any of the other spouses, on the job experience, and knows how far we have gone backwards. When Obama and Edwards threw punches at Hillary she kept debating the issues. Now that Obama doesn't like what is being said he boo hoo's and has to have his buddies fight for him. Give me a break Obama, man up. Stop jumping off track-we are voting for President of the USA. Fight your own battles. You look weak when they take up for you.

    January 21, 2008 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  5. James D.

    Update: ...now Ted Kennedy and Rahm Emanuel have called Bill Clinton...also telling him stop the dishonest attacks on Obama. The conversation with Ted Kennedy becoming "heated". The Clinton campaign is a disgrace.

    Robo calls and dishonest push polls against Obama are happening right now in SC. The Clintons clearly learned a LOT from Karl Rove. Disgusting.

    The saddest thing is that Hillary *is* a very qualified candidate, but has revealed a lust for power and willingness to do *anything* to win. No thank you, I will not vote for her. EVER.

    January 21, 2008 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  6. Steven N.Y

    What is the race card. When Hill tells u she talked whoever was her guardian to take her when she was a child to her MLK speak. Was that not the race card. Hill going to a Black church and doing her best round the way girl accent is not the race card? Bill doesn't play the race card he plays the race deck. If Barack was second coming of Christ folks would find something wrong with him. Race sets on America like a two gallon hat. Anyone telling u it doesn't is fooling themselves. Will Barack win hell no. Just look at the comments here. How Dare him and young folks dare to dream that thing could or would change. The poverty pimps of the Black race are just as scared of Barack as they are of the guys in sheets who like to burn crosses on the front lawn. If things changed the poverty pimps would have to find a job. No one really wants the status quo to change.

    January 21, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  7. Mike in Kentucky

    I have to smile when I read these posts about how former President Clinton's remarks in support of his wife's campaign have hurt her.

    The former President is widedly regarded as a gifted political operative. It would be hard for me to believe that he could be out of sync with the tactical and strategic thinking in the HIllary Clinton campaign. If you don't know how to win, you won't win.

    The tactics are apparently paying off...

    Know your opponent: Did Obama really think he would not be facing the former President on the campaign trail? Really!?

    To tell the truth, most of the posters who put forth this idea are obviously Obama supporters, who understandably want to marginalize the ex-President as a campaign asset, or are Republicans.

    For Rep. Clyburn to suggest that President Clinton should censor his advocacy in support of his wife's candicacy is frankly ludicrous: I haven't heard him call for Elizabeth Edwards or Michelle Obama restrain their rhetoric in any way.

    January 21, 2008 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  8. Mike in Kentucky

    I would go on to suggest that Rep Clyburn openly endorse Barack Obama, as it appears that here is where his political sympathies lie, and not continue to "softly" attack the Clintons under the guise of impartiallity.

    January 21, 2008 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  9. J.K.Jefferson

    Are we ready for A Black or Woman President?

    January 21, 2008 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  10. J.K.Jefferson

    Health Care, where is it going?

    January 21, 2008 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  11. J.K.Jefferson, South Carolina

    We need to take of Our own first. Health Care.

    January 21, 2008 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  12. Steven N.Y

    Are we not ready for a black President. Or a woman President. Oh forgive me we are ready for a recession! I think we are ready for a smart president. Are we ready for Clintons Third term? Guess we better get male interns if clinton returns.

    January 21, 2008 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  13. J.K.Jefferson, South Carolina

    They are now talking to each other and not at each other.

    January 21, 2008 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  14. Angelina

    More people need to tell the BILLARY to chill out, they are so hungry for power, that they will do whatever it takes , including calling individuals to personally pour dirt on Senator Obama

    January 21, 2008 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  15. Bill Lowe

    Four years of Hillary will be like 40 years of hell in our country. Her Canadian style health care will destroy our health care system. Clintons will do and say any thing to get elected.

    January 21, 2008 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  16. Jake

    "President Lyndon Johnson had more to do with passing the Civil Rights Act than Martin Luther King, Jr."

    Boy, was that a slap in the face to Martin Luther King, Jr.! MLK paid with his LIFE for that civil rights bill. His LIFE, people,... blood, sweat, tears. That was a horrible thing to suggest. President Lyndon Johnson and America had no choice! MLK's courage and righteousness and influence gave LBJ no choice. You know, if you think about it, if we had had a black President at the time of MLK, we wouldn't have even needed a MLK. LBJ would have done NOTHING if it weren't for MLK.

    Shame on Hillary, shame, shame, shame. It's all about her,... her, her, her. She will never give honor to anyone else including MLK. She thinks she is the greatest,... the greatest, of the greatest, of the greatest. That's who Hillary is. It's ALL about her.

    January 22, 2008 01:54 am at 1:54 am |
  17. Lisa, Texas

    I agree. The Clintons need to let it go. But, they are doing what comes natural.

    January 22, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  18. Steven N.Y

    Really who cares anymore. The clintons will do whatever they feel they have to do to get another shot in the whiye house. Bill disgraced himself when he was there before and now we are ready to give him another shot. Does anyone remmeber why Bush beat Gore in 2000. We all must be playing Memories. With the economy doing so well with the races loving each other with the don't ask don't tell policy in effect. Why did Gore lose when it should not even had been close. Been a life long dem. I think i would vote McCain or Huck – the dems are really stinking

    January 24, 2008 05:59 am at 5:59 am |
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