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. mb

    Who listens to congressmen? The House reminds me of a bunch of monkeys at the zoo throwing poo at each other.

    January 21, 2008 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  2. get truth guy

    Clyburn is this racial tension initiator, he should not dictate Amearican to express their opinion freely, just like we don't limit his right to support the Hussion Obama...

    January 21, 2008 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  3. Tiffany tx

    I'm very cocncered that Obama can't handle the white house if he can't take the heat from President Clinton what is he going to do when he has to go against the republicians. Cry out saying there being unfare. Give me a break. After Nevada he didn't give a speech he had his campaign speak in his behalf. I'm worryed and you should be to he is another Bush in the making. Think about Bush said i'm for change look what his change has done to our country. I hope you Obama supporters research him listen to him when he is asked a question he has not rehearsed does the same as bush uh well he doesn't answer. Edwards , Clinton answer with a clear answer.

    January 21, 2008 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  4. Susan

    Bill Clinton needs to shut up. He is a degenerate and his wife is a liar and a fraud. The Clintons don't care about anyone except themselves. Bill wants a 3rd term and he will be the defacto president. Hillary is a puppet. If anyone can't see that they are truly blind.. Hillary cannot bring this country together..she is one of the most divisive politicans in the country..let's face it so many people really hate her. I use to be a supporter but not anymore..I saw her true colors this past month and it was my wake up call. Her husband is a degenerate.


    January 21, 2008 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  5. jim

    TO: All supporters of the CLINTON's (she's not just running, her husband is as well and most of his past actions are as questionable as her supposed 'accomplishments' over the last 20 yrs.)

    You had your "day" in power (actually, if you count the Govenorship, much more).

    And what did your beloved Clinton's really do with that? Let's see they:

    Lied, cheated and enriched themselves and friendsfrom the time they got into office in Arkansas thru the White House yrs '91- '99, and continue on to the present day.
    (sound familiar, can you say the Bush family?)

    Manged to accomplish nothing domestically, except ride the bull driven economic wave of the 90's. Failed more miserably than anyone re: Health Care Reform.

    Managed to set in motion the movement we all know now as Al Queda with some poorly construed foreign policy that bombed the group randomly that did nothing more than "stir the hive."

    Changed their 'message' more times than Cher changes wigs. If Hillary's most recent 'about-face' just before New Hampshire didn't show her supporters what a crock her whole act is - it is any wonder why our country continues "to change only the position of the chairs on the Titantic" and not anything of lasting value?

    and on and on ...

    Be supportive of change, Americans, but don't continue to whine about the state of American Politics and the problems in this country when all you want to do is
    ignore the past and vote for someone who has a "greater record of experience" than her opponents - that's true - SHE'S GOT THE BEST RECORD FOR A LOSER/LIAR/CHEAT than any of her opponents. Yeah, she'ld make a great President. What lunacy! (btw, I'm all for a woman president – but someone with integrity, not a female version of a disgraced former President.).

    We are not a nation of Red states & Blue states - we are a nation of people who:

    – condemn the past, but don't learn from it
    – ignore the past and don't learn from it
    – think that 2 wrongs make a right

    either way, this is why, I believe, we as a nation cannot affect true change and progress in our own country. Every chance "we" get, "we" show our own ignorance and stupidity by not learning from the past, but repeating it over and over.
    Unfortunately, humans are much less intelligent than they think they are.


    January 21, 2008 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  6. darrell

    Black woman supporting the best candidate

    as named Above

    Man up like Clinton???

    I don't think so

    Obama is possibly being aheld to a higher bar by black Women who have a problem with him. Sisters have a voice.

    by the way Clinton Did not Man up to GOP. That's why hillary said in 2006 Bush had great charisma

    obama 08

    Or Bloomberg, and the Dem split vote will guarentee GOP win again

    January 21, 2008 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  7. Sarah L, Fayetteville, AR

    Bill is entitled to defend Hillary, but he ought to be careful about how he does it. I am a white Democrat from Arkansas and I am a strong supporter of Senator Obama. I think many people look on the Clinton administration through rose-colored glasses. As an Arkansan, I know, firsthand, how polarizing the Clintons are. I wasn't old enough to vote for Bill, but I supported his presidency. I can say that I will not vote for Hillary in the primary or general election. We've had 20 years of Bushes and Clintons and it's time to move on. I've had it with the negative campaign tactics and partisan crap. If that means I have to vote for a Republican to end these dynasties, then so be it.

    January 21, 2008 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  8. Jermaine

    The comments here have allot to be desired for America. There is so much racism, and biogotry on this site. Hillary and Bill will loose if they ever try to run a CLEAN CAMPAIGN. OBAMA has character,he is an individual who is BOLD, and has shown that he will not back down from the Clintons. Bill CLINTON is running for President, it is so odd because I think the constitution bar him from doing so? Bush 41 never campaigned for Bush 43, because he wanted to ensure he ran his own campaign and play by the merits of "DO IT YOURSELF". There is so much Hillary supporters here it sad, because they are very racist and I do not think the REPUBLICANS will do half the mean spirited thinks the Clinton Campaign and there surrogates are doing to derail OBAMA.
    Clyburn is correct BILLARY better be watchful, the DEMS cannot win the PRESIDENTIAL without black voters and at the rate the CLINTONS are going they will loose because blacks in the end will either sit out the GENERAL ELECTION come November or vote REPUBLICAN. If it wasn't for JFK the blacks would be voting REPUBLICAN. The time has come to vote for the best choice.
    Also, so may here say BLACKS are voting for OBAMA because he is black, well isn't that the same for the CLINTONS? It is such a rediculous notion that blacks can't see the issue, is that what you are saying here? CLYBURN choose to stay out and not endorse so as to have a clean and fair campaign, the CLINTONS strategy was to inject race so as to limit OBAMA's appeal. He won fair in IOWA and almost upset HILLARY in New Hampshire however she played the "crying game" and won.
    OBAMA will WIN South Carolina, Georgia, Missouri, Illinoise, Vermont, Montana, South/North Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington State, DC, HI, AK, MA OH and the entire Southern Corridor (except AR). He will do very well in CA, NY, NJ, CT, PA, VA, WVA, NC, AL,...He WILL WIN THE NOMINATION.

    If in the end he do not win, it will be because the CLINTONS DERAIL him by playing ROVEING TACTICS that CLINTON so like to impune when she use the same slash and burn on those within her own party. Campaigning is about strategy, EDWARDS need to stay in to the end. In doing so, he deny CLINTON delegated which he can later pledge to OBAMA at the convention, thereby ELECTING OBAMA as the Candidate and he edwards the VP!

    OBAMA-EDWARDS 2008, "Se Si Puedo...YES, WE CAN",...ans WE WILL"

    OBAMA-EDWARDS 20090120!

    January 21, 2008 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  9. Jose Card - Independent

    Bill and Hillary don't mind taking down the party on their way to the White House, because they are just using Dems to go home – the White House.

    Being an Independent, I still want the Democratic Party to stay in good shape for decades to come.

    January 21, 2008 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  10. darrell

    not about a women or Black man.

    it is a Question of do we want more of the dame fighting in washington.

    Hillary has a problem with the GOP.

    But not voting for a war with Iraq and 2007 Iran

    not a hard choice.

    Obama 08

    As Bill said in 1992, the Same old experience is irrelevant today, as a reply to Bush sr. boasting his washington experience..

    No way around it, Bill's argument is the same as Obama's

    A need for change

    Obama 08

    January 21, 2008 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  11. Sarah L, Fayetteville, AR

    As an aside, maybe all of this is a good thing. The two party system is stupid and there is clearly division in both parties. Let the establishment candidates continue to divide this country. Maybe we'll see the emergence of a third party that actually cares about this country and its people.

    I do wish that Clinton supporters would take a step back and look at what's happened in this election. We started with the possibility of a truly historical and groundbreaking president and now have been reduced to squabbling within the ranks to the extent that no Democrat is going to get elected. This all started after Hillary lost Iowa. She allowed for the election to remain dignified until her support began to fade. Now, she's done nothing but try to drag Obama down to her level.

    If Hillary gets the nomination, we can make stickers that say "Clinton '08, the lesser of two evils."

    January 21, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  12. jp/michigan

    MIchelle is standing up to those picking on her husband, the same way Bill is supporting Hillary. Michelle plays the race card so Barak doesn't have too. No one tells her to chill. Read a few of the articles the press ran on her.

    January 21, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  13. TAN.

    I am an educated black man who was not offended by Mrs. Clinton's perspective on the role of Dr. King, but I was insulted by Obama's suggestion that her position was "…ill-conceived." The Obama camp clearly played the race card, and the evidence is that it has worked so far; note the significant black support for Obama since that issue. But now Obama is set to learn an important lesson, you can't expect to run as the candidate who just happens to be black, appeal to people's basest instincts, and then not expect to be seen by white America as just another black candidate. If I had the opportunity to advise Obama, I'd tell him to spend four to eight more years in the senate, pad his resume a bit, then try again. The issues facing America right now are too serious for on-the-job training. More importantly, any minority candidate will be that much more scrutinized than a white politician. Were Obama to win, the love affair with him would die very quickly, and some of the very people who are currently most enamored with his vision of change will be the first to chew him up as just another black man who reached beyond his personal level of competence. For those of you who would suggest that my outlook is negative, I offer as evidence my own life as a forty-six year old black man in America – one of only two black men in a small town in Illinois, and now my experiences living and working in Gwinnett County, GA. Obama can win by losing, but WILL lose by winning.

    January 21, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  14. Charles

    People I believe we are more civil and enlightined to know the good politics from the bad one , The thing about Oprah and Mitchelle supporting Obama is what we can really call good political support, When last did you see Oprah or mitchelle discriminating the clintons or edward. they talk and focus on how the economy can be develop, but all I have been hearing from Bill is discrimination not even one uniting message. A supporter is limited to some distance, Bill has already gone past the border line. It suprises me that a former Us president would belittle himself, lie,says things and prove he didn't just to get his wife elected. this really disturb me.
    Bill its time to return Home
    And Hillary: Come on,Stop been the Holy innocent, it won't work this time, when you say things stay by them instead of blaming others for your actions.

    January 21, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  15. Steven

    Kerry ducked when he was swift boated. he stayed above the fray. we know the outcome. If Bill had of campaigned this hard for Gore we would be Bushless now. To those who call Obama a whiner because he is standing up to the Clintons. Where were they when Bill was complaining about the raw deal Hill was getting. Guess when Bill whines it is alright. Obama is suppose to take it like a man.-Give me a break! I am leaving a space below for someone to list all Hillary accomplishments that she claims to have done over 35 years. Talking about getting a free pass.

    January 21, 2008 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  16. Jermaine

    Mike,...you are all the others who believe what you posted

    "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."

    Do some research and educate yourself, OBAMA is a Christian and so what if he was a Muslim or a Jew? That fear that Hate produce,...it started with the CLINTONS, OBAMA is the only one who can end this AMERICAN nightmare!

    January 21, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  17. TAN.

    My fellow Americans, particularly those whose melanin supply has been genetically rationed, I am heartened by your overwhelming conviction that America is ready for a black President. I am equally encouraged by your show of support for the charismatic, urbane, and inspirational Barack Obama. Unfortunately, in your rush to support the brightest black star since Dr. King, you may have overlooked the inconvenient fact that he's just another politician – admittedly slicker – but a politician nonetheless. While the sentiments evidenced through your support of Obama's candidacy are heartwarming, I would like you, in good faith, to offer a more practical gesture: don't change neighborhoods when I move in, and please, don't move your kids because mine are attending the same school. It is my sincere view that these two simple gestures will go a long way toward ridding me of the skepticism that your embrace of Barack Obama has engendered.

    January 21, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  18. Marcus

    Just a thought. Since Obama is so much for bringing the parties together, what IF the Repub. nominee thinks that too and ask Obama to be his Vice....if Obama isn't the Democrat nominee?...........think about it, Republican President and Democrat Vice! Just a thought.

    January 21, 2008 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  19. Mary

    I believe it's wonderful on the strong possibility for a 1st Women or 1st African-American President. I've been reading articles and watching new media reporting , and I find it extremely odd & prejudice that there is a pattern of “protecting” Senator Obama whenever his credentials or Senate voting record is called to question.

    Are there special “coddling” rules for Obama that apparently don’t apply to Senator Hillary Clinton or Senator Edwards? No one is complaining when these two candidates are questioned/

    January 21, 2008 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  20. Steven N.Y

    The question of is America ready for a president that happens to be black is insulting.
    America was ready for Black men to fight in every war since 1776
    America has been ready to send Black men to iraq to fight for their right to vote
    Wonder how i would feel if i was a black trooper in iraq if i heard the idiotic question asked. Is America ready?

    January 21, 2008 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  21. Kitty, Denver, CO.

    He is absolutely correct! I am so sick of this I could just spit. Never mind who won this or that primary, it does not matter anymore. It does not matter because of the comments that began with and came from the experienced Clinton camp.

    I was so excited and ready for a change and real choices in this election. That has been destroyed by the Clinton camp for me. I could care less now, and it takes all I have to listen to CNN, read headlines etc. about the election.

    We were doing so well, then after Iowa it was all dragged through the mud. I hope people will stand up and say that this is not the change they want.

    January 21, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  22. jim Scottsdale AZ

    Anyone that thinks the Clintons care about anything but themselves should really seek help. The Man has no character or morals has been cheating on his wife forever and she put up with it.

    Bill Clinton and Hillary will do anything to get her elected no matter what. These are sick people that think they are a King and Queen. They have nothing to offer this Country but more debt.

    Bill did nothing during his term. the 90s with Y2K and the interenet boom. was not Mr. Clinton. The first thing he did was raise capital gains taxes . My Lab could have been President and the money would still come in back then.

    I feel sad that the American People do not understand the economy, or what these people represent.

    I am not a Democrat and the Republicans other than Ron Paul don't have a clue, but I would at least give Mr. Obama a chance and don't let Bill do his snow job. That is the same tact he uses to get his girlfriends.

    January 21, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  23. Dennis

    As an African American male, I am getting pretty fed up with the coddling of Obama. I am proud and happy to see him with a real opportunity to win the presidency, but I am supporting Hillary. but if he gets the nomination, I will happily support him, but he has to stop the whining.

    As African Americans, we ask to be given the the same opportunity as others, and be judged strictly on our abilities. We can't now say that Obama has to be treated differently, he has to be subject to the same scrutiny as anyone else, politics ain't beanbags. What does he think will happen when the Republicans start attacking. If he wants to play with the big boys, he has to man-up and stop whining.

    Black people need to show a little more loyalty to the Clintons, they have been there for us over the long haul, and I for one won't forget that and automatically support Obama, just because he is black. I have not heard one thing from either Bill or Hillary that I disagree with, regarding "racial comments". As a matter of fact, Colin Powell on the "View" today, echoed the same statement that Hillary made regarding MLK and President Johnson, I guess he is making racist comments as well.
    Wake-up Black America, and be fair, that is what we have always asked for, it works both ways. I am hoping for a Clinton-Obama ticket.

    January 21, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  24. Todd

    I can understand a Hillary or even Obama ticket, but what I can't understand, being a North Carolinian, is why ANYONE in their right mind, would want JOHN EDWARDS as a president, a vice president, heck, even a personal friend. I will not even go into all of the truths and half-truths on this man.

    He is a FAKE!! Vote Hillary, Vote Obama, but for GOODNESS SAKES don't vote Edwards.

    January 21, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  25. ddt

    Cylburn, you hate the Clintons and that is a fact. You criticized senator Clinton about the comment she made about putting the civil rights act into law. That was a fact withouth president Johnson acting, they would't have been a civil right act. There was nothing to indicate any race but because of you, the african americans believed in you and they started criticising the Clintons. What Bill Clinton said of Obama is true. Obama opposed the war when he was a senator in Illion but came to Washington and Funded it. What difference does it make to oppose and then Fund the war, Mr Cyburn? They Clintons have a right to bring it up because Obama has used the war as his major point to be the president. He also voted present 135 time as a senator in Illion. He says he has judgement why didn't he have judgement on those bills? You are pushing the buttons about race Obama can't win that war. Tell me where he will win after SC? People who vote in the general elections: 66% are white, 15% Hespanic, only 12% are black. Cyburn, I'm a black man myself, you must be shamed of your comments.

    January 21, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
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