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. Christina from TN

    Obama and his one last desperate attempt to play the victem...Grow up!

    January 21, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  2. Jim

    Clyburn said to CNN over the weekend he had promised not to make an endorsement yet. REALLY???

    January 21, 2008 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  3. Patrick


    I have been reading comments from all of the camps over various articles on this website regarding the campaigns for the last several weeks – and this long back-and-forth is illustrative of what i usually see: Many Clinton supporters resort to "No... YOU chill" or "Barack's a crybaby" responses – not very convincing that they have put alot of thought in the controversy or issues of the day. Although Obama supporters occasionally stray into similar simple retorts – they do so much lest oftern – and generally present a more useful discussion.

    I think that we all would agree that comparing and contrasting candidates is perfectly fair by both sides. However, it is clear that former President Clinton (more often actually than his wife, the actual candidate) has resorted to serial and severe mischaracterizations of Sen Obama's record of opposition to the war in Iraq and of his statements regarding the Republicans of the 80s and 90s being the party of ideas (something first uttered in 1979 by then-Sen Daniel Patrick Moynihan D-NY – whose seat is now occupied by Sen Clinton – and repeated as recently as 2002 by former President Clinton himself!). Notice Obama did not say they had "good ideas" or that Reagan was "good for the country" – he simply stated that Reagan took the nation in a new direction after 1980 – an indisputable historic fact. He clearly meant that Democrats cannot win by just being AGAINST the Republicans and Bush – but we had to make our case to the American people with NEW, clear ideas of our own!

    More important than this recent dust-up is one unassailable fact: ALL THREE candidates are excellent, intelligent leaders whose differences are MINIMAL on ALL of the issues of the day (except for the war – which I believe Hillary is a bit more hawkish than Obama or Edwards). So the real comparison is about STYLES of leadership. These contrasting styles are evident in their campaign performance and rhetoric thus far.

    MOST important is to decide WHO CAN WIN in November.

    Remember, the Republicans are a fractured party – with the leading candidates ALL carrying significant baggage in terms of social conservative, fiscal conservative or national security conservative credentials (or lack thereof) – manifesting in the form of a signifacant (and often different) block of the Republican base being AGAINST each of them. Whoever they finaly nominate, it is clear that a large number of unensthusiastic Republicans may simply chose to stay home in November.

    The only thing that would change this Republican apathy and defeatism is Hillary Clinton's nomination as the Democratic candidate.

    Neither John Edwards nor Barack Obama have the built in negatives that will DRIVE Republicans to the polls in November like a Hillary Clinton nomination would. This anti-Hillary fervor from an otherwise dispirited Republican electorate coupled with the loss of many independents and even some Democrats who are simply tired of the Clinton Family Dynasty and stranglehold on our party – and who might chose to vote for a McCain or even a third party candidate such as NYC Mayor Bloomberg (who many are convinced will NOT jump in UNLESS it is Hillary who gets the nomination) could result in a shocking LOSS in an election that we should not only win in November – but win in a manner that will allow us to consolidate and improve our margins in the House and Senate.

    Swing state and Red state Democrats already know this – which is why Governors and Senators from North and South Dakota, Missouri, Nebraska and Arizona are endorsing Obama. They know that only he can carry their states in a general election and, perhaps more critically, enhance the chances of "down-ticket candidates" – those vying for national or statewide legislative or other elected office.

    Bill Clinton in his Charlie Rose interveiw a few weeks back was right about one thing – that the nomination of one candidate represents a risk – or in his words a "roll of the dice." However, he was wrong about which candidate was the risky one.

    The real "roll of the dice" for Democrats over the next several weeks and months is NOT support for Obama or Edwards – but rather the continued support of Hillary Clinton, who has the LEAST chance of leading the Democratic Party to victory in the Fall.

    January 21, 2008 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  4. Manuel Buenaventura

    Just like the african-americans , we are also the minorities here in the US but in my opinion even Obama will win this primary election and will be the Democrat's Party standard bearer, I'm pretty sure, really sure he won't be the next President simply because America is not yet ready for a colored president though we want to see someone who is consider as a Washington outsider but as whole our nation is not ready to take him being the head of a powerful country in the world.

    January 21, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  5. Jim

    Let us all come together and challenge CNN to do a fact check on what Bill put forth and see if it was really distorted or not! That is assuming you want the truth and not just hear say.

    All in favor – say – yea

    January 21, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  6. Bibian

    I can't believe Americans want to BE ruled by the Clintons once more. It's the biggest mistake! As an outsider I can see this being the biggest mistake you will all live to regret. Bill Clinton will still tell Hillary how to run the country if they get another chance to live in the whitehouse. Give someone else a chance, CHANGE IS WHAT AMERICA NEEDS!

    January 21, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  7. Linda

    The Clinton Campaign must feel extremely threatened by Barack Obama, or Bill wouldn't be making these comments. And so they should feel pressure, Go Obama!

    January 21, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  8. Jersey Girl

    What a phoney Clyburn is, I know what candidate he is backing..... You will see blacks will soon follow. Bill Clinton did plenty for the blacks I guess they forgot. And If Obama can't take heat from Bill Cllinton, how can he handle the pressures and the heat of the rest of the world. He is not qualified, never was. Do anyone of you Obama people remember how WONDERFUL this county was when BILL was President? Does anyone see the horrible mess Bush left us in? We need a very strong and smart leader with experience...........he is not at all strong and has no experience he can't be a good leader if he cries because of Bill. Just look at his own state of Illinois, really look at it, a complete mess.
    No jobs, problems every where . So where was he? If he cant even fix Illinois how is he gonna fix this country? She is stronger than he is and if Bill can help, let's let him. He did a hell of a job when he had office. HILLARY FOR PRESIDENT
    She is for the people all the people.

    January 21, 2008 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  9. Dee

    Black woman supporting the best candidate, seems to me he has manned up and is showing that he can and will take on anybody that comes after him. Yes, he will even take on two if he has to. Hopefully, he won't spend too much time doing it. We as his supporters do not want him to get bogged down with those two. There is so much more positive things for us to focus on. I am sure he will only address them and their ways for only so long before he resumes his rightful place of honor and dignity.

    January 21, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  10. Brian Des Moines, Ia

    If they are trying to stop the infighting at this mans request, why is he rehashing it? Did a new poll come out that showed Clinton in the lead in S.C.? So now what play the race card again!? This will only cause whites to side with Clinton and Blacks to side with Obama....sorry to say but whites out number blacks in the democrat party, coupled with the recent showing of Latino support for Clinton; maybe just maybe Obama should stop sending attack dogs after Clinton and start sharing his ideas to get this country back on the right path!!

    Logic of why Obama will lose if he keeps this up:

    Michigan was the first "contest" after the last "race" issue, everyone said Clinton was in trouble...she got 63% of the white vote to 31% for uncommitted made up of Obama and Edwards supporters; and she only got 30% to 68% for uncommitted made up of Obama and Edwards supporters. So what does this tell us (if this is to be believed), that Clinton will get 63% of the white vote, and 30% of the black vote. Then through in the Latino vote which she won by a land slide....who will win the Primary!!

    So since I am a Clinton supporter....Please keep it up Obama because you are only sinking your own chances!!

    As for President Clinton saying stuff on the trail, Mrs. Edwards and Mrs. Obama were able to talk a lot on the campaign trails...so why can't he!? Double standards I think...or is it that he knows what the job takes and he isn't on the team of who you think should win!?

    January 21, 2008 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  11. JD

    Bill and Hillary Clinton will divide the Democratic party much like they will divide tBill and Hillary Clinton will divide the Democratic Party much like they will divide the entire country if we let them. They CANNOT win the Presidency without Obama's support and everyone should know that. If they continue to create ill will within the party, no one will win. Go Hillary, America will see another GOP in office. It’s time to move on America, no more lies, scandals, and all that comes with the Clintons. Anyone that thinks Bill will not lie or stretch the truth has their head in the sand…he entire country if we let them. They CANNOT win the Presidency without Obama's support and everyone should know that. If they continue to create ill will within the party, no one will win. Go Hillary, America will see another GOP in office.

    January 21, 2008 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  12. Mark, Washington, MD

    It is unfortunate that the Clintons want to lord it over the Democratic party. I am happy that John McCain is likely to emerge the winner of the Republican primary. This will help the country in two ways. First, it will stop dynastic rule based on Bush and Clinton families. He will peel off the Latino voters because of his stance on immigration. He will also get some black voters who will appreciate that Clinton has been taking them for granted in order to fulfill his ambitions and that he sees them more as reliable voting machines than a group that can produce independent thinkers and leaders to aspire for, contest, and win the presidency. Second, the Democratic party will sort itself out by purging the status quo politics and bringing in fresh ideas so that the party can go into the 2012 elections without the burden and hold on the party by Clinton. The Democratic party must purge itself of the Clintons before it can see a rebirth that would make it a formidable party acceptable to the electorate. President Clinton's overbearing influence on the party's nomination is in the best interest of the party, especially if his wife is nominated.

    January 21, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  13. Kathy

    For those of you calling Obama "a baby" . . . are you sure you're on the correct blog? You sound more like people that watch Fox, rather than CNN! And since when do you call someone a baby, because another is standing up for them? Good lessons you're teaching your children. I imagine you think you're "good Christians" as well. Try thinking logically for a change.

    January 21, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  14. mike

    This country is in serious trouble, if we vote for a man who WILL NOT pledge allegiance to the flag or place his hand on a Bible, you can't believe a word he says.

    January 21, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  15. David

    bacalove; Again the Obama supporter seeing and hear what they want. They have closed hears about something that may be true, but damaging to Obama. What Obama said about Regan it's not distorted in any way because it's on video. You
    hear what he saying, he praised Regan's presidentcy and dismissed Clinton presidentcy. As a democrate I find this a little strange. Regan was against union, did nothing for minorities. This is a person (Obama) who's looking for the support of the democratic party. Let's be real, he's not ready to be president.

    January 21, 2008 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  16. Desiree

    If he can't handle the Clintons he'll never be able to stand up to the republican party, they'll have him for lunch. The last time I looked this was a free country and Bill can campaign for his wife all he wants. Michelle Obama and Elizabeth Edwards both campaign for their spouses, if Bill Clinton was not out there for Hillary some one would be complaining about that as well. For some one like Clyburn to say he's neutral, he's always coming to Obama back.

    January 21, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  17. Bibian

    Hillary and Bill – it's not real love. I think Hillary stayed with Bill to further her own political career. Once a cheat always a cheat. Come on Americans you can do better than the Clintons again. Bill the Perve in the white house again? No way!

    January 21, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  18. Rima

    Oh Please, he said he is not endorsing, but it is so obvious that he has. I don't see Clyburn telling Obama's wife to stop her feverish rants.

    January 21, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  19. Another Steve

    Anyone and everyone I talk with says that Bill is causing Hillary to loose their vote. Come on folks, when is it ok for the Clintons to two time Obama. Bill Clinton IS NOT running for office. It should be very apparent that if he needs to do this while Hillary is campaigning then he will be needing to help her once in office. Is that really what American voters want. An incompetent President? One of the most polarized politicians in Washington. We are in serious trouble if Hillary gets the nomination even. I'm independent and would not under any circumstance vote for Hillary. She is too arrogant, self absorbed and has no interest in working with the Republicans and will only try to shove her socialistic ideas on us voters. Some of these ideas aren't much different than Obama's, but the effect of getting things done thru bipartisan cooperation is going to be very important and I don't see Hillary doing that. She does not work well with other, period.

    January 21, 2008 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  20. stephanie

    I think what the Clintons are doing are putting the democratic party at risk of not being elected in the november election. They are ostracising people who are Obama supporters, like me, when time to elect comes around we will probably not go vote or if we do, change our party to republican and vote for Ron Paul. I don't want this country run by someone who can't stand up for herself and speak her own mind. As a woman myself, I want my first woman president to be someone who doesn't run to her husband for help when she starts getting pressured, and someone who isn't afraid to talk about what she has accomplished (we still don't know what she has done that makes her so experienced!). This campaign really has shown everyone's character. The Clinton's are still in support of old political tactics and doing whatever they can to break him down, and Obama has never strayed from what he has said from the beginning. Think about it...if he takes Richardson as his VP everyone will get what they want, a leader who is an innovator and can move this country toward change, with a man with a ton of experience to back him up.

    January 21, 2008 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  21. aware

    Cool it Fans!

    Obama's poor judgment in a premature run for president is obvious now. He chose to run against Hillary now. Team Clinton is more experienced than Team Obama in every way. Barack could have had them supporting him, if he had not sought instant gratification. He cannot expect any more free passes. His obfuscation is becoming obvious to more and more people. It is funny to hear him accusing Team Clinton of tactics he also uses. He is beginning to sound like a wimp. Shelack and Billary in the ring! Stick to the issues!

    January 21, 2008 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  22. Deleted User

    Shut up, Rep. Clyburn sir! Hillary needs all the support she needs after all the Obama endorsements from many Democract senators, congressmen and governors who all did not chill even a bit their exaggerated expressions of endorsement for Obama. Go Bill, go get em! No one, not even Rep. Clyburn, should dictate the course of debates, much less what the American people deserve to hear. And don't lie to the American people – you do not endorse anybody, BUT YOUR BODY LANGUAGE says you are not telling the truth! By their deeds, you shall know them. If you are sincere in not endorsing anybody, be CONSISTENT, do not make any appearances to the contrary, in short, shut up!

    Billl is accurately telling the facts. Obama is a ROLL OF THE DICE, because voting for one who according to the Las Vegas Review Journal LACKS EXPERIENCE and whose campaign programs are the OPPOSITE OF CHANGE is a BIG GAMBLE with the future of America in a constantly troubled world.

    "FAIRY TALE'" accurately describes Obama's campaign because of his INEXPERIENCE and empty rhetoric about CHANGE. He goes only to show how HUNGRY has his supporters have been about high-sounding speeches and rhetoric about "hope and change," as if America never had them at any time in history. We're with you and behind you, Bill Clinton. America needs to listen to you once more after you left the White House with a BIG financial surplus for America.

    January 21, 2008 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  23. stephanie

    BTW... I don't understand why the Clinton's think they are winning... Last time I checked Obama had more delegates. Isn't that what determines who the winner is? I cannot wait till super tuesday when this maddness will be over with.

    January 21, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  24. Steven

    Guess HillBilly really did a lot for women the last outing. Guess if your child was born during Bill's first term he is ready right now to become a statistic. More than likely not graduating from high school. More than likely not being able to read on grade level. More than likely ready for a place in the correctional system of their respective states. Really think the Clintons been real good to the children. Wonder where the village is that hillbilly used to raise these children. Great lets give them another term or two just think what they can do.Maybe we can resurrect Toni Morrison again. Maybe she can make us believe Hill is the first black woman president. In reality for us to quote that statement that Bill was the first black president is really insulting to blacks as a people. It says we are so lacking for talent that we had to adopt Bill. If i was Bill's stepfather right now i would say he deserved sometime in the woodshed.

    January 21, 2008 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  25. The Future of America

    If HRC can’t fight her own battles how can she be considered a leader? Quite frankly this shows she isn’t as strong as you all think, but rather her lying husband to fight her battles cause she cries when the going gets tough .And when the Republicans get started on her Bill won’t be able to help her, because his past will be the demise of the Democratic bid for the White House. For someone to have these 35 years of experience she sure hasn’t learned to speak for herself. This only shows her fear of failure. Does America want a person who can’t speak or stand up for herself to make decisions that will affect the future of this country? Are we to wait for her to confer with Bill or see what the polls say before deciding? Too many people seem to be more star struck than using common sense to believe anything will change from the past 20 some years. You people think that what ever Bill says is the truth, but your to ignorant to research the truth for yourselves. If there is anyone hiding the truth it’s the Clinton’s who refuse to let America see those papers in the Archives. Tell me why, is the reason we will see what a fraud HRC is perpetrating on America? The only change the Clinton’s can make is to destroy this country’s progress and divide this nation.

    January 21, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
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