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. jack

    people, read some of the speaches that Ms. Obama has given to some of the church groups that she has addresed. If they don't hint of the race card then I will eat my key-board. how can you muzzle one and not the other maybe Bill and Michelle should debate each other as the spouses of the candidates. Will that satisfy people or is that unfair, you know they are still the spouses of the candidates. Eric what a good and insightful piece

    January 21, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  2. Lynn Mulholland

    Bill Clinton had his time and disgraced our country with his actions while he was in the white house. He needs to stay out of the race. If Hillary is a strong enough woman to run for President she should stand alone. I just hope to God that she does not win. We don't need another Clinton in the office to disgrace our country once again.

    January 21, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  3. african AMERICAN

    So Bill distorted the truth a little bit, he's not the one running for President! He's backing his wife up, and he has the right; its called freedom of speech people! I don't see why Hillary should get the ding for it. She's smart for having him say it and not her. She's not playing dirty, he is. And as for Bill hovering over her presidency, please! If you haven't noticed by now, HIllary has a mind of her own.

    If Michele, and now Clyburne, can defend Obama, then why should Clinton get heat for defending Hillary?? And as far as the MLK comments go, she's absolutely right. As much as we all love and respect the KIng, if it wasn't for LBJ, the civil rights act would have never happened. He would've been preaching to the choir. I'm tired of the black card being played. That's the only reason Oprah supports Obama. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for the "black" candidate, but for all you Oprah fanatic followers, stick to her book recommendations, not her candidates.

    January 21, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  4. Me Too

    Hillary hopes that Bill Clinton's "weight" carries her campaign, just as Barack hopes that Oprah's "weight" carries his campaign. What is important is whether the parties and their representatives of all capacity speak the truth. What is even more important is that the parties strengthen their candidacy by clarifying their platform, not by the non-stop bickering and attacking the other side.

    January 21, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  5. Ray

    For someone who has not "endorsed" Obama, he sure is defending him a lot.

    This is an election. If Obama cant take it now, he better drop out.

    January 21, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  6. Randolph Monroe, Chicago

    Hillary put her own foot in her own mouth, why would she mention LBJ and the passage of the Civil Rights act of 1964, when in 1964 she was a Goldwater girl and Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights act of 1964, But I guess I already know, she has already stated she has a tenancy to vote for laws but hope they don't pass (ie Bankruptcy Bill of 2001 and Iraq War Authorization Act) and that's the person that some of you think will make the best leader for this country?!?!?

    January 21, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  7. Sherry R.

    What former President Bill Clinton needs to realize is he is the former President. No other candidates spouses are out campaining and interfering like he is for Hilary, which gives her an unfair advantage or disadvantage, depending on how you look at. If Hilary Clinton wants to be President, the first thing she needs to do is stop letting Bill fight her battles and lead by example. Bill do like the other potental first mates, stand in the back, keep your mouth shout and look pretty.

    January 21, 2008 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  8. Henry

    Although I understand what Clyburn means with his statements, I feel he is wrong. If he wanted to express his concerns why not just call them, and do it privately. It is inappropriate for him to do this in public, and act as if he has the moral high ground.

    It is not unusual for a past president to campaign for a given candidate. Bush Sr. did it for Bush Jr., Regan did it for Bush Sr., it is nothing new.

    I don't feel the statements that Bill made about Barack are incorrect. He has characterized Obama assertion that he hasn't supported the war as a fairy tale. What is a fairy tale? A Fairy tale is a exagerated story that normally promotes some moralistic lesson. To say that Barack has never supported the war is an exageration. Although he didn't explicitly vote for it; he has not stopped the money from flowing into the war chest.

    The LBJ comment was completely correct. MLK could not pass the civil rights act. He was not a member of congress or the president of the united states. The president signs bills into law from what I understand that is based on the constitution. Acknowledging LBJ's actions do no denegrate the memory and accomplishments of Dr. King.

    Beautiful lies will never mean as much as the ugly truth.

    January 21, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  9. james

    People are missing the bigger point here.

    This IS NOT PRESIDENTIAL! Former presidents dont do this! Even Bush Sr. did not go around in 2000 throwing mud at McCain on behalf of his son.
    Clinton is disgracing his office...Again!

    January 21, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  10. JT

    WHAAAAAAA, boohooo.....what a whiner. He wants to be the leader of our country and he is complaining about Bill working to help get his wife elected. How is he going to handle it when multiple word leaders are aligned against him on an important issue? Is he going to whine to the media that they are ganging up on him?

    Who cares about the gender or color of a candidate? I care about their character. Obama seems like a whiny complainer. So what Bill and Hilary are campaigning against you. Did he not expect that? Get over it.

    January 21, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  11. Sam Rechi

    I think we are making too much fuss about Obama. He has started to think too much of himself, he is just a new kid in the block. Go complete your first term as a senator before running for the president. Gosh unbelievable...

    January 21, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  12. jenny

    What would happen if Presidents of Iran, Pakistan, Russia start picking on Hillary Clinton if she becomes President?
    Answer is, Bill will come to her rescue and we will be the laughing stock of the world. Please Bill, you ar NO LONGER president. Stop this dirty play.

    January 21, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  13. Tim

    I've skimmed many of these posts and I think it's great that there are so many individuals interested in the campaign. However, I think we can ALL CHILL a little bit (actually a lot) and focus on what really is at stake. The views of these three candidates are all very similar. Yet the media has stoked the fires with "he said this and she said this". They love it when the can get the masses to light and carry the torches and track down the fictional Frankenstein. As a people, we have a lot more in common than we do in difference. Let's refocus this campaign to be positive and look for good solutions to our problems, even if the media would have it another way.

    January 21, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  14. Jonathan

    I'll tell you why it is innappropriate. It degrades the office he once held. But, OOOP! I guess he can degrade it all he wants. He is an unreconstructed sexual addict.... where do you think all that rage comes from? The Clintons have already proven they will degrade the office in order to get ahead. They will continue to do it until the American people say, Enough! We want true chane. Not the same old recycled addictions and dysfunctional behaviours thest to offer up.

    January 21, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  15. Greg Johnson

    How can everyone think that Obama is the sensitive one here?? Isn't Hilary the one who started crying on the campaign trail?? Hilary would not even be in this race if if wasn't for her husband. She uses Bill, and the power his words have (despite his near impeachment), to tear Obama apart, while she plays the role of the innocent one. Bill Clinton needs to stop this garbage. If Hilary wants to rip Obama, then why doesn't she get out there and do it? Is she to scared? Will she start crying if Obama fires back? Anyway, if Hilary is our next president (I'll be living in Canada) what is she going to do about the country's next crisis, like a possible recession? Start crying about it?

    January 21, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  16. Amy

    I would very much prefer to hear what each candidate plans are regarding the issues not their interpretations of other candidates plans, past, present or future. This should be a positive race not a negative race. Each candidate can explain THEIR OWN past records during public debates.

    January 21, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  17. ing

    Sen. Obama called Sen. Clinton Bush-lite and many other names. He also belittled President Clinton comparing with President Reagan who created thousands of homeless, annihilated unions and piled up trillions of deficit. Sen. Obama was attacking Sen. Clinton the whole year last year and media even asked him to attack much more.

    Now when Clintons responded with the truth he cried foul. His supporters accused Clintons of being racists after NH primary and during NV caucuses. They even ran a TV ad saying Sen. Clinton is against Hispanics. From the beginning, he decided to run his campaign with the sour grapes from President Clinton's presidency. All those people who are complaining here relax and think what you will say if your spouse is accused of being a stink racist and liar. It has nothing to do whether you are a former president or a jerk.

    January 21, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  18. Jim S

    Hillary, Please tell him to back off….to president Clinton

    January 21, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  19. PW Va

    Let me get this staight...who is actually running for President. Hillary? Or Bill? 'Cause if it's Hillary, she needs to get "expereinced" on standing on her own two feet (sans Bill)!!! There have been so many instances throughout this campaign when Bill is speaking, he actually uses the pronoun "I" as if he's the candidate.

    Bill's place, at this juncture, should be as an adage that we teach our children from time to time..."seen, but not heard." His volatile, tempeteous behavior, is going to have a devasting effect (especially with the upcoming SC primary and Super Tuesday) on his wife's campaign.

    And the both of them need to stop their whining, everytime things don't go as they planned. Both of them have shown a colossal lack of maturity and statesmanship up to this point and needless to say this kind of behavior does not a president make!!!

    January 21, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  20. SHELLEY, london


    January 21, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  21. Jay Graham, Dallas, TX

    I absolutely agree and appreciate what this african american person wrote. People in general, the media, and the leaders should leave it to the candidates to fight it out as long as they don't go overboard and "swift boated". The comments from Bill and Hillary are not falsified. What will Obama do if he is attacked by "Rove" and "swift boaters" just like Kerry?

    January 21, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  22. ing

    James: Did you remember what George HW Bush said when it was revealed that his son was arrested for drunk-driving? There were many instances like that.

    January 21, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  23. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    The Clintons are leaning toward a legal law suit and they are being warned. They have more than once crossed the line and they know it. When they are called out on their lies they continiously come back and distort what they say the same way they distort what Obama says. The Clintons are sneaky and prove they cannot be trusted so why should we support their lies. How many times can they be allowed to get away with it.

    January 21, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  24. David Florida

    Senator Obama voted to continue funding for a war. How can anyone claim that is an action against the war ? Senator Obama is living in cloud cuckoo land if he thinks he can sell us a different story.

    The war in Iraq a success ? Why have gas prices gone up 300% at the pumps ? Why have thousands been driven out of their homes with foreclosures ? Why are house prices tumbling ? Why are health care costs soaring ? Why are fewer and fewer people covered by health insurance ? Why is unemployment rising ? Why are more jobs going overseas ?

    Because of those who choose to fund wars in the Middle East and neglect what is happening at home.

    We all have a right to question those who pursue warmongering with such enthusiasm, regardless of their race and gender.

    If you spend billions of dollars daily making war overseas then those at home suffer from poor spending on health and education, and from a failure to invest and create jobs.
    Senator Obama offers more of the same, the failed policies of the last seven years.
    A candidate with policies for change ? Now that is just plain fantasy !

    January 21, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  25. MB

    Who is Clyburn to tell Bill to chill? Seriously, Clyburn needs to just come on out and endorse Obama and quit scolding the Clintons at every turn. Not only is Obama a whiner, but he has all the black leaders starting to whine in his name. Enough is enough.

    We need to move on from this carping and get some answers about how the candidates think they can implement the changes they are proposing. Obama talks about change so much, but he's playing politics just like everyone else. How am I supposed to believe he will change anything? As far as race goes, Obama and his supporters don't seem to want to let this thing die.

    January 21, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
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