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. Jim

    It is obvious that a lot of you did not do your homework and research the facts of what Bill said. If you go back to the transcripts you will find that what Bill took on is ABSOLUTELY correct and NOT distorted what so ever.

    "present" whine whine whine "present" whine whine whine "present"

    What do we really know about B.O. except that he was "present" and may, mayNOT have, or unsure how he would have voted. What a leader!!!!

    January 21, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  2. Jack ny, ny

    just want to add to this comment by Jack. There are plenty of videos of michelle obama on utube and see for yourself how nasty she is in attacking the clintons.
    jack January 21, 2008 12:28 pm ET

    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 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  3. Ken, Tucson, AZ

    It seems that what Clyburn and others want is for the Clintons to just hand the nomination to Obama.

    January 21, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  4. Kshama

    All comments above seem interesting. Everyone has forgotten 3 things:
    1. Fact-Bill Clinton helped accomplish getting the federal deficit balanced. What has Obama balanced?
    2. Hillary Clinton is running for President. She supported her husband when he was running and he has a right to support her, regardless of what you might think.
    3. Maybe the press, especially CNN and MSNBC who seem indirectly through some of their anchors, support Obama, ought ot ask themselves this question: who is best equipped to help end the war in Iraq, increase the value of the dollar, mend international relations, deal with Iran, social security, health care, etc.. The list goes on and on.




    January 21, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  5. Amy

    Wasn't Clyburn's intervention put a negative spot on Hillary and started racial remarks controversy? They simply wanted to influence the votes of African Americans, it was simply politics. Mr. Clyburn has his own hopes and interest in having Obama president.. and these interests are above any ambition that Bill Clinton might have to see his wife in the white House.

    Why does everybody insist on the "hunger for power" shown by Clintons and don;t see it on the other side ? the Clintons are already powerful, with or without Hillary's presidency. Meanwhile, Obama wants power.. Kerry wants to be somehow in the picture because he couldn't get it, and many others. Why don;t you think of them as capable to do anything to get it? what if the Clintons are the altruists.. they have money.. they have fame... what about Hillary wants to do something for this country? Based on what she says, I trust her thousands of times more than Obama (actually not hard, because I don't trust him at all).

    January 21, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  6. angelina_ MN

    He needs to step out, he is not running here, or may be, we are still unclear who is running. But this is the true Bill and Hillary, their colors are coming out, they use the minorities to their advacnement, and well now it shows very clearly.
    have they supported the AA and Latino people who are running for the highest offices in this Country, of course not, simply because they believe (HILL and BILL) are entitled to have that power not other candidates or other indviduals.
    As a minority and as a woman, it really discusses me how both Bill and Hill are playing dirty politics, bringing gender, race, attacking Senator's Obama's community work, his religion, his cultural background and everything.
    Please, please stop that, we are here all in one place to make it better for our children and such attacks and low comments are but cries of desperation on part of the HILLBILLYS...............

    January 21, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  7. Parkville

    Established Republicans hope and pray for Billary to win the Nomination. That would be the Republican ticket to the White House. Even Democrats would vote against the Billaries – never mind the Independent and the Republicans.

    Wake up Democrats ! Take Obama and run to the White House before you screw it up!


    January 21, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  8. Karen

    How unfortunate he must campaign and this wasn't just handed to him.

    January 21, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  9. Ken, Tucson, AZ

    Everyone's crying about Bill Clinton speaking out in support of Hillary, but none of you said anything when Oprah spoke out in support of Obama and said that she would not have any other candidate appear on her show. You Obama supporters have adopted the double standards of the Republicans.

    January 21, 2008 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  10. Lynne

    Congressman Clyburn churned up this whole mess before when he scolded the Clinton's about supposed "racially insensitive" remarks they made several weeks ago. Anyone who really listened to the entire quotes, and didn't just read the slanted media headlines, knew there was nothing wrong with what was said. That public scolding, and the comments about the Bradley Effect" that followed immediately after the N. Hampshire primary, were the 2 incidents I recall initiating all of the irresponsible remarks ever since. If he is not able to handle a hard fought politial primary season now, how can we expect Sen. Obama to handle a Republican in the fall? Bill Clinton has as much right to express his opinion as Michelle Obama, Congressman Clyburn, Usher, and anyone else who supports him. Besides, I'm sure if the Clintons aren't "playing fair, " the media will be sure and dig that up for him. Ridicule experience as much as you like, tthere are a lot of us 'has been baby boomers' (who still actually have enough energy to go vote) who have lived through layoffs, cuts in pay, medical crisis, insurance problems, exorbitant interest rates, and much more who support Hillary Clinton for legitimate reasons other than sounding fresh and exciting. The Senator's campaign needs to quit complaining about not really losing in NV and being ganged up on by the Clintons, and make your case based on facts. I think it interesting that a few weeks ago, Obama supporters were ridiculing Hillary for saying she was ganged up on by Edwards and Obama, but now he is whining about being ganged up on by 2 ClintonsI! I used to think a Clinton/Obama ticket would have been unbeatable, but I have lost a lot of respect for the way his campaign is being run as a result of all of the double standards being played out in the press.

    January 21, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  11. Will

    From what I have read thus far (comments above), it is obvious that a segment of our American society continues to struggle with feelings of insecurity and hurt. I say this in reading the responses to Clyburn's remarks. Do we really believe Obama is looking for special treatment? When has America ever given special treatment to a black male. Which leads me to ask the question: "Is there a fear of an intelligent black male (which equates power)? Insecure and hurt people only know how to hurt. By achieving what he has thus far proves he has the stuff. He is a survivor. Progressive Americans (not the insecure) is ready for true change. Not politics as usual. History shall be made regardless.

    January 21, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  12. Jason

    Which one is running...Bill or Bill's wife? Everyone knows she wouldnt have a FAT chance of winning without him. I think Obama has a point....He shouldn't have to run against Bill and his wife. Notice, I never mention her name because she's nothing without Bill.

    January 21, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  13. MKH

    JT, who said OBAMA is complaining about Pres. Clinton; the voters are complaining. We have had enough of this being so one sided with the Clintons and their people attacking and Obama trying to stand above the fray. I think Obama needs to get a little dirty, everything he does is attacked, he needs to start attacking back.

    January 21, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  14. Dan

    Its absurd that the Democratic leaders are going to throw away the opportunity to take the president by giving Hillary "Her Turn" for the white house. She will never be elected in the General election. She is the most polarizing figure in America. She could not win the general election if she ran against Dick Chaney. The american people demand change and if that means depriving the Clintons of Hillary's long awaited trophy for being supportive, then the people will speak at the polls and unfortunately it will be to the Republicans advantage.

    January 21, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  15. bacalove

    The Clintons have intentionally distorted Barack Obama's record on a number of issues. Example, Hillary's recent statement she made on Meet the Press in which she said: "Sen. Obama's chief strategist accuses me of playing a role in Benazir Bhutto's assassination." When in actuality David Axelrod never made such an accusation. He said former Prime Minister Bhutto's death will "call into issue the judgment" of "taking the eye off the ball and making the wrong judgment in going into Iraq." Then recently Bill Clinton completely distorted Obama's remarks he made about Reagan and Republicans and twisted it to say that Obama had said no Democrats had any good ideas. And Obama's opposition stance on the Iraq war, that he has been against from Day One, while Hillary had voted Yes. And, are these people of high principal and moral character and want to run the White House?

    The American people are tired of politicians who lie and distort their opponent's records to gain the edge. Our politicians should be held to a higher standard. We should have politicians who are honest and above tactics that are unethical, irresponsible, misleading and dishonest - who lack principals and are willing to do anything to win. After all most of us teach our children to be honest, ethical and not to lie. How can we have trust in our leaders to be frank with us when they have not been honest and ethical on the campaign trail. Politicians who intentionally lie, distort and mislead are in all honesty not honorable people, and basically unethical - not the kind of people we should want to run or represent our country.

    I can only hope that Barack Obama will not stoop down to their level while trying to set his record straight, which he must, against the lies and distortion their campaign are trying to get into the American psyche. These tactics are old time party politics and should be a thing of the past as we move towards the 21st Century, towards cleaner air, cleaner water, cleaner politics, towards a more holistic way of living. It is a greater duty and in the best interest of the country for Barack Obama to continue to stay positive and hopeful while attempting to bring this country together and lift it up from fear an a distrust of one another - to continue to show the American people and the world there is another way to run for office other than smear and fear. That is why Obama and Huckabee are so appealing. They are authentic and each in their own way are trying to lead the Americans away from dirty campaigning, lies and tricks. How can a country be blessed after all that ugly and dirty fighting, it can't be. And too we have to ask ourselves as a people, why do we allow this behavior to be acceptable and reward this kind of negative behavior, when we would not accept it in ourselves.

    January 21, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  16. Eric, from THE Republic of Texas

    I think everyone needs to lay off Hillary. I mean, if we all keep bagging on her, she may not actually get the nomination. And I as a Conservative want her to be the Dem nominee.

    See, if she wins the nomination and then is beaten SOUNDLY, SOUNDLY in the general election (and we all know that's what will happen with a candidate carrying 50-plus percent negatives this early in the election season), maybe these Clintons will simply go away.

    (Then again, that may be like wishing for the moon... the Clintons are simply so arrogant and so filled with a sense of entitlement, they'll likely NEVER fade away like anyone with a shred of decency or humility would do. Asking a Clinton to be humble is like asking a fish to ride a bicycle, it's simply not in their genetic make up.)

    Honestly, Senator Obama seems like a genuinely nice guy and I do not wish the guy ill will. But I also don't want him to get the nomination. If he gets the nomination, he'll be beaten in the general election and then we'll all have to hear for the next four (or eight!) years, "Well, Hillary would have won!"

    I want her to be beaten soundly and put to bed historically.

    January 21, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  17. Please

    Oh please, Bill can attack Obama all he wants, if he can't handle it, he shouldn't be ruuning. Are we going to have to put special gloves on to deal with Obama just because a black leader tells us too. pfft!

    January 21, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  18. Dee

    Kshama correct so we don't need her giving in to fatigue and hormones and bursting into tears in a international summit with other world leaders – – that is the break I will give you.

    January 21, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  19. Rollo

    As a man, Barak Obama can't afford the luxury of shedding a few tears which, as history has shown us, could turn his campaign around lickety split. This internecine skirmish is distressing to an independent who wants to see the Republicans defeated in '08, but pales in comparison to the swift-boating of John Kerry, John McCain, Al Gore, Michael and Kitty Dukakis, et al. If you get worked up about this, you'll be a mess after the general election.

    Obama has a huge advantage in that, should Hillary prevail, he won't be perceived as damaged goods should he make another run in '12. Nobody expected him to get as far as he has to date. The same could hardly be said about Mrs. Clinton. As for Bill Clinton, I lost all the good will I'd built toward him when he started hawking pardons in his final days in office, but his excesses certainly haven't demeaned the office of the Presidency anywhere near the extent it's suffered at the hands of George Bush.

    I hope the Dems are working on a response to the likely scenario that Bush will invade Iran at some politically motivated juncture, and the implications that will have for their electoral standing. Bush certainly has a vested interest (in both a historical AND litigious sense) in seeing the Republicans prevail and it's not realistic to think he's going to stand by idly as Election Day nears. An invasion just might hand the Presidency to John McCain, who has already demonstrated his lust for power and subservience to the Bush machine.

    January 21, 2008 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  20. carol

    Tell Obama to stop lying and no one will have to say a word! Otherwise, shut up and stop telling people to correct his inuendo and lies.

    January 21, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  21. John

    If Hillary wins the Whitehouse will her vice President have the guts and balls to tell Bill to go fly a Kite or stuff his head up his butt.

    January 21, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  22. Stacey

    What's with all this ridiculous crybaby Obama talk? Bill Clinton is lying and distorting statements made by Obama; it's so obvious, it's laughable.

    January 21, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  23. Sabrina

    Please, tell me why it is so different for a president to campaign for a V.P. or for his wife? Everyone has to stop handling Obama with kid gloves and start asking him some tough Questions. He also has a lot of bad cops out there that go after Hillary, so he can stay above the fray. Look at the republicans, now that is messy!!! I do not think he is ready. He is a great speaker but you need more than just words, maybe next time. Go Hillary!!!!!!!

    January 21, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  24. David

    What did Clinton distort? I’m sure many of you don’t real know. The fact is that he just cleared up the distortion make by the Obama campaign. The media distorted most of the truth, which is causing all these racist problems. The problem is the Obama’s could say anything they want, it’s OK. But if the Clintons defend themselves they are distorting the truth. Do you think that the Republicans are going to stop talking about the possibility that Obama could be a Muslim, that his church honored Louis Farrakan? We need as a country to start treating each other equal. That means that the truth is the truth whether you’re black or not. That if something is said about a black person that doesn’t make you a racist. The double standard’s is over.

    January 21, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  25. GaryO Virginia Beach

    Well, it looks to me like Clyburn is NOT upholding his pledge to stay neutral. That loudmouth needs to just shut up and do what he promised to do . . . stay neutral.

    OK, so he's a powerful Congressman, but Clyburn's mouth has already caused way too much division in the Democratic party. And now he wants to censor Bill Clinton's words. That's ridiculous!

    Clyburn, if you want to censor someone, censor yourself!

    I wonder . . . is Clyburn taking money from Republican interests? His comments do nothing but weaken the Democratic party.

    January 21, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
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