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

Congressman to Bill Clinton: 'Chill a little bit'

CNN

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. Thomas, NV

    Hillary supporters are getting desperate. Hillary is losing the support of the African-American population, as well as women. Voters are recognizing that this race is about the Clinton Legacy vs. America embarking on a new path and losing the baggage of the 90's and early 21st century.

    Obama doesn't need the help of Clyburn to point this out. He isn't whining about the good cop / bad cop regimen of the the Clinton's. He is simply pointing it out to you voters who don't recognize what is going on. The truth hurts...

    Obama has been pointing the positives of his campaign, stating he was 24 points down in Nevada and came within 6 points of a win. He is gaining steam and now you Clintonites are worried.

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

    Let's show Hilliary about being honest – IF SHE WINS THE NOMINATION – WE NEED TO GO INDEPENDENT AND VOTE REPUBLICAN. The LAST laugh we BE the BEST LAUGH!

    January 21, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  3. JC

    maybe instead of hail to the chief, the marine corps band can play god save the queen. the clintons are turning this thing into a Restoration.

    January 21, 2008 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  4. GaryO Virginia Beach

    I think it's wonderful that so many people are willing to help babysit Barack Obama. They say it takes a village to raise a child. Apparently, it takes the cooperation of the press, members of Congress, and a good percentage of the American people to make sure Barack Obama does not have to address any difficult issues as he is escorted through the primaries and into the general election.

    If Barack Obama thinks he is being "swift-boated" by the Clintons, just wait until he meets the real swift boaters in the Republican hate machine. If Obama becomes the Democratic nominee, then a Republican administration will once again dominate us for another four years.

    Obama has too many weaknesses the Republicans can easily exploit. Hillary on the other hand has been attacked by the Republican right for years. Hillary is still around because she has proven her resilience and her effectiveness.

    America needs Hillary Clinton as President.

    January 21, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  5. Bob

    I am currently in the military and if Clintons get in I am getting out. I allready did my 8 years under the Philanderer In Chief Bill Clinton. Because of his awsome pay raises my family and I were on food stamps and I will constantly deployed because of his "Downsizing of the Military" No thanks..... I will not even attempt to stck out the final 3 years for retirement.

    They are the laughing stock of the military and will be lucky if she pulls 5% of the military votes.

    January 21, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  6. Jack K., FT Myers, FL

    I know the Edwards camp is snickering.

    Watching Obama and Clinton camps falling over themselves to garner the ultra-lib legislators, and the women, blacks, hispanics–looks like a couple of girls struggling to gain Prom Queen Votes.

    I really hope the real people in the Democratic party are looking closely. If either of these two get the top-line on the Democratic ticket.....thousands of Edwards supporters, independents, and GOP swing voters–are going to drift to the Republican Party just like they did when we were "dumb" enough to put John Kerry on the top of the ticket. Could there be ANY other rationale reason why George W. (call me loser) Bush one the popular vote in 2004?

    Why do we constantly let the special interests in our party, and the ultra-left wingers distract us from the broad diversity and fiscal discipline we preach of?

    January 21, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  7. David: Charlotte, NC

    Clyburn's comments are inappropriate. How hypocritical to play this game after vowing to not endorse either candidate. It has been obvious for weeks that Clyburn has used his rhetorical bully pulpit to show that he is endorsing Barack Hussein Obama. Hypocrite! I am tired of seeing how the undercurrents of race are used in this campaign - and it is from the Obama camp.

    January 21, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  8. sunnyday

    This man is making it appear as though black folks can not hold their own ground. Obviously, like so many others, he did not understand Mrs. Clinton's remarks regarding MLK/LBJ. , Mr. Clyburn read the facts @ history.com. They jointly worked together to get the ACTs passed after the death of JFK. No one can ever take away the sweat, TEARS, pain, death, and success that is related to MLK and all of this will be in vain if this race issue continues to surface and divide this country. Why didn't you back Mrs. Clinton when she was accused of tear jerking if you are so not bias to Obama. You need to chill yourself Mr. Clyburn

    January 21, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  9. Connie

    America has many smart women that can lead the country...Can someone tell me why Hillary Clinton has to be the one? She is nothing but a propaganda and come out very weak and has no class. I read a lot about her and her husband and I do not like what I have read at all. So far , I found nothing about Obama. I am not supporting Obama but his campaign has more dignity then Hillary's campaign. As NPA (no party affliated) ...I am considering voting for Obama or Republican. I love integrity.

    January 21, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  10. J Ottey Boston, MA

    "Boo Hoo" Barrack ...Let me play victim...Maybe I'll win on sympathy votes just like McCain...If McCain was such a respected hero and sooooo experienced and qualified for this job..why wasn't he elected the last 10 times he's run (I'm exaggerating a bit)...instead those majority morons elected this great disaster we're stuck with...TWICE!!!! Sympathy isn't gonna get you many votes Senator Obama...so if you want to be PResident of the Greatest Nation on the face of the Earth I suggest you put on your gloves and get ready for the next knock down drag out rounds because it's not gonna get easier..you know how they test metal? Through the fire. That's how strong we know it will be and how it will hold up..by going through the worst heat. So you know, I was a bit undecided up to this point which Democratic nominee was tough enough for this job and Barack Obama...You just proved to me you just don't have it....What a whiner....What's next? "Oh Al Quaeda, Mr. Bin Laden Sir stop picking on us...you're so unfair, we didn't expect that attack"...Give me a break...People picking this guy because Oprah said it's ok to do so?

    January 21, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  11. pjonathan

    After 9-11, I not only read about how black and white Americans were coming
    together, reaching out to one another, but felt it in a tangible way.
    Obama continues on that path.
    Bill and Hillary can get back into the White House only if they destroy that
    advance and continue on their path of polarization.

    By winning New Hampshire in the destructive way they did, they already may
    have succeeded in their efforts. Their attack machine may have destroyed
    Obama but it has reinvigorated the racial and other polarizations that are
    sapping the energy of our people, white and black, and of our country. They
    really have destroyed hope for a better future in their attempts to go back
    to a more polarized country. It may have destroyed any real opportunity for
    the democrats to repair the destruction of our county and our way of life by
    Bush-Cheney-Rove-Rumsfield-Gonzales.

    January 21, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  12. pjonathan

    I think someone should write a book about Bill Clinton's role in Hillary's campaign. Maybe call it "Third Term".
    I think his campaign is the best story of the 2008 election. News articles, editorials, Op-Ed pieces and blogs are full of Bill. If you started researching now and started with only web searches you would probably need a year full time to get everything before some of it disappears from the web.

    I agree with George Will's comment: "Speaking of the boomers' inexhaustible fascination with themselves, Bill Clinton has transformed his wife's campaign into his narcissism tour. As the New York Times dryly described a New Hampshire appearance the day after her Iowa rejection: "He talked about his administration, his foundation work and some about his wife.""

    However, it talks only about tactical campaigning. There is something of more concern.

    Running to redeem a father and now, a husband, is a story worth writing.
    Much has been written about George W running to redeem his father's "failure" to "go to Bagdad".
    Some has been written this time around about Senator Dodd running to redeem his father's failure-ethical lapses- and Governor Romney running to redeem his father's failure-his brainwashing comments.
    The press has been nibbling around the edges of Hillary running to redeem Bill and herself. That story, however, is the most intriguing of the bunch.

    In addition, an article written about all of these "redemption" runs would probably convince us that voters should never vote for a presidential candidate who is related to a president or presidential candidate. I think with just my information it is fair to say that redemption runs lead to poor judgment in the political decisions of a campaign and in presidential decisions, clouding both. An experienced political writer or writers would be able to fully research and present clearly the results of that research.

    I think that Hillary Clinton would still be leading if Bill Clinton had been kept in the background. What I am seeing and what I believe the press is starting to report is that Hillary's race is all about Bill redeeming Bill and Bill's legacy and Hillary redeeming Bill, Bill's legacy, and Hillary's legacy. Obama and Edwards have been clearly stating for a long time that their presidential race is about America or about the middle class or about the other America, not about them. Hillary in NH is just starting to say that her race is not about her. But she just said that the race for her is very personal, suggesting policy but in reality much more telling.

    I think that voters are seeing Bill Clinton as someone who rode the wave, not as someone who actively created the good times. The more I read and think about Bill, the more I see him as someone who wasted a fabulous opportunity to help the people of this country.

    January 21, 2008 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  13. Black woman supporting the best candidate

    Dee, okay you call it manning up I call it something else we are entitled to our opinion. Obama came into this race as the underdog and I am proud of him for coming this far. However after he won Iowa I really think it went to his head and he got a little beside himself. He wasn't speaking to black America he was speaking to all america, and then as things started getting a little rough. He started pandering to black america (I watch BET) and I have a problem with that, I think he feels because he's black we owe him. I don't owe him or any of the other candidates he have to earn my vote.

    In the ABC debate he acted like a real jerk that comment to Hillary your likeable enough that done it for me ( it was mean and nasty) . Also I didn't feel he was the strongest candidate then or now. I wish Obama did focus on the issues at hand great speeches are good when your in church on a Sunday morning but I need more. Education, heathcare, the economy is very important to me and I still don't know where he stands. Hopefully we can find out in the next debate. With that said good luck to the best candidate if he when I will vote for him because I am a democrat first.

    January 21, 2008 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  14. Jayson

    While were at it we can also set the record straight on one other issues in regards to the civil rights bill besides the fact that Johnson could in no way take majority responsibility for it and that Martin Luther King Jr. was the catalyst driving the move to finally achieve the views espoused in the Declaration of Independence. Primarily the fact that all men are in fact created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights by their creator

    "Yes-No" format:
    The Senate version, voted on by the House:
    Democratic Party: 153-91 (63%-37%)
    Republican Party: 186-35 (80%-20%)

    The vote totals speak for themselves despite the fact that the Democrats label the Republicans as having an over all goal to keep African Americans down and bring back the slave days. No matter how the Democrats spin it theirs is a party founded on preaching hopelessness, despair and outrage about being kept down. The Republican party is a party of hope and knowing that with hard work and perseverance many if not all dreams are possible.

    January 21, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  15. ing

    It is regrettable that Mr. Clyburn forgets what President Clinton has contributed for the victory of the Democratic Party to reclaim the House and Senate. He was the one who first challenged the republicans when many elected representatives of the Democratic Party cowardly deferred to the attacks of Bush, Cheney, Rove and others.

    You know how the Democratic Party's House leadership and especially Rahm Emanuel gracefully handed over the Majority Whip position to you. It won't happen that Presidential nomination is given outright to Senator Obama. It is a position too serious not only for Americans but for the whole world too.

    January 21, 2008 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  16. sri

    i dont understand Bill Clinton's role here. He should let his wife defend herself.

    What is next here? If Chelsea wants to become president, bith mom and dad going to campaign? Is this a family affair?

    It is time Hillary talk sense and tell her ideas, not her husband.

    January 21, 2008 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  17. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    OPEN UP THE CLINTON LIBRARY. WE STILL DON'T KNOW WHY FOSTER SUPPOSEDLY KILLED HIMSELF.

    January 21, 2008 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  18. Murry

    Thank you congressman Clyburn for calling it like it is. Why is Hillary letting Bill pull the punches for her? Bill is obviously owing his wife big time for all those extramarital affairs. He has only proven that she cannot fight her own battles. And why does Hillary promote her husband's work in civil rights more than her own. And she counts his political experience as her's too – that's how she added up 35 years. How embarrassing for women to have Hillary represent them.

    January 21, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  19. Dee

    Stephanie, you are so right. I am an Obama supporter and if by some chance – – I really don't feel or think she will – – she gets the nomination, they can forget it. I will NOT vote for her. I consider my self a conservative Democrat, yet the Democratic party can forget this vote and I know I am not the only one. The party will fall flat on it's face. And I know we are note the only two. Time and time again, people are saying they will not vote for her. So if they think this is helping them or the Democratic party, they are wrong. They are simply killing all chances of a Democrat being elected, it they push Hillary in there. They will see. So Bill and Hillary had better face fact. The DNC had also better wake up. They are about to loose this thing big time.

    January 21, 2008 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  20. Dorothy, White Salmon, Wa

    First of all, Hillary was correct in the remarks she made that it took a US President to get MLK's dream to become law. I believe that had the remark been made by a person of color, the reaction would have been completely different.
    I think the black community is too sensitive to any criticism of a black candidate if it is made by a white person. The Republican party will therefore be able to walk all over a black candidate. And, that is too bad.. Look what happened when the Republican Party put a horrible ad up against Harold Ford in Tennessee. That is what Obama is going to be up against and he and the Democratic party have to be prepared and quit crying over things little things like – MLK did have some help from a US President. Duh...

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

    I think that Mr. Clinton was one of the best president in the United States history and I don't see anything wrong with him trying to help his wife, If my wife would it have being running for president i would do the most within the legal standard to try to help her, Note i'm not going to vote for Hillary because they are thing on her view that i'm not agree with, But if i have to choose between Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton i would go with Mrs. Clinton

    January 21, 2008 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  22. Helen

    Guess obama had to call for help,his camp has played the race card all along,but got a free ride from the press,The Clintons are not the one s who started it..He has had people like Chris Matthews and others fight his battles for him.He puts down the Demoratic partys leaders & he wants us to vote for him. i think hes doing a lot of whineing lately.People like Clyburn are just stiring up the race
    thing. Obama today is MLK day can you not be a man like him.??

    January 21, 2008 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  23. Mauri

    It's understandable that Congressman James Clyburn has come to the aid of Senator Obama. But what is not understandable is why he does not bring his remarks to the attention of the candidate, Senator Hillary Clinton. President Bill Clinton is not the candidate, so why is HE being chastized by his remarks in defense of his wife? One has to wonder when the Congressman is going to slap the wrists of Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Edwards, Chuck Norris, Mrs. Mitt Romney, Cindy McCain, Janet Huckebee, and yes, Oprah Winfrey.

    January 21, 2008 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  24. Rod

    It's official... James Clyburn is in the Obama camp running interference for Obama with all his whining. Clyburn has lost any aura of neutrality. The Obama camp has used his whining about race as a chisel to chip away at the once solid support Clinton received from the African American community.

    Race was the card that Obama has played since he announced his candidacy.

    This racial play will back-fire on Obama after he leaves South Carolina.

    Obama has shown that he will do and say anything to win... even destroy the Democrat part unity, if he thinks it will get him elected.

    There is a reason why the GOP urged their folks in Iowa to go out and caucus for Obama. Wait until they let the real dirt fly. The whining about race won't work then. ASK THE TOUGH QUESTIONS BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE.

    January 21, 2008 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  25. California Lady

    To David. Did you know that Hillary's favourite President was Ronald Reagan?
    Get all the facts my friend before you start bashing Obama for his comments. At least he is honest which is more that I can say for Hillary.
    I am so sick and tired of the Clinton's. I used to like Bill Clinton but he has turned me completely against him and also Hillary. If Hillary's husband was not Bill Clinton she wouldn't even be running for President because she knows she wouldn't have a chance in hell in winning.
    Wake up America – you are only voting for Hillary because you liked Bill,. Look more closely at the two of them and ask yourselves Are the in this because they truly care about us or do they just want to make history with the first husband and wife as Presidents. This is way too scary for me.
    Barack Obama is another MLK in my opinion and he is what we need now.
    Obama all the way.

    January 21, 2008 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
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