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. Jose Card - Independent

    Had we had a Constitution Amendment that limits presidential terms for the same couple, then a former president using his wife to run for the third term wouldn't have happened.

    If we let the same couple stay in the White House for too long, they will think they own it and all the furniture inside, and worse, you.

    January 21, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  2. Robert LaShay

    Everyone I talk with and I ask who they think should be our next president agrees that "Anyone, But Clinton" is going to be their choice...and they won't forget your ABCs in November. Most people have had enough of the Bill Clinton lies when he was President...and they don't think much of any woman that would stay with a Cheat like him. We the people do want to take a chance could end up back with a maid or servent having adulterous Sex in the White House...especially when it would be with Hillary's consent.

    January 21, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  3. Jason Smith

    I wonder why the Obama camp didn't tell Hillary to go home after her crying jag in NH???

    Maybe because they are above her mudslinging tactics.....

    January 21, 2008 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  4. Judith, Ridgewood, NJ

    I have decided that if Clinton wins, I will vote Republican. It is so past time to move past the politics of descruction. If that's the only way Clinton HIll and Cinton Bill can win the nomination, they will not have my support.

    January 21, 2008 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  5. Dee

    So I suppose you are telling me that I cannot comment here? What is the issue. It is really unfair that I would be discriminated against for speaking my mind like any of the other comments that you have accepted. I have alway defended CNN. This is disappointing to be treated this way.

    January 21, 2008 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  6. Jason - Detroit, MI

    I don't understand the flood of comments calling Obama a "whiner" and "unable to stand the heat." I also do not understand the view of the people making those comments that Clyburn's statements are so pro-Obama. I don't think they are.

    It seems to me that Clyburn, along with Sen. Kennedy and Rep. Emanuel, see that the sparring between Sens. Obama and Clinton weaken both of them and disenfranchise the supporters of both candidates.... possibly to the point of not voting for the opponent even if (s)he wins the Democratic nomination.

    Clyburn calls for easing up on the attack tactics, but his quotes are hardly Obama-biased. Take for example the quote,

    "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."

    This pretty much absolves the Robert Johnson comments and gives an out to the Clinton camp. I think he's doing what he said he would– staying neutral, however, he is calling for an end to fights that could cost whoever wins between Clinton-Obama votes from some Democratics/Independents who may be turned off by the mud and vote for what looks to be McCain in November.

    January 21, 2008 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  7. RuthieM

    Bill Clinton needs to step out of this. Like Rep Clyburn said, as a former president he carries weight and so he is no match against the candidates. He is not a candidate, he has been president 2 terms. He needs to step back and let his wife fight her own battles and let her run against the other candidates but Bill Clinton should be ashamed of himself because he is not on the level of candidates and he is taking clear advantage of his former presidency status. This just tells me what a wreck another Clintons white house would be. OBAMA '08!!!

    January 21, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  8. Rodney

    I cannot believe that people are comparing the advocacy of Oprah for Obama to former President Clinton for his wife. Bill Clinton has been president as has a lot of clout in the political arena. Oprah is an entertainer. As for whining, Bill Clinton has been whining everday about the media coverage, the election process, and reporters questioning him. I will not support Hillary if she receives the nomination. I want off the "Clinton" plantation unlike some black folks.

    January 21, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  9. Jack, Arlington, Tx.

    Senator Obama, I salute you on your courage and daring to hope for change. I feel let down that Senator Clinton just stood by while Bob Johnson made his foolish utterances. I understand that Mr. Johnson has benefited tremendously from making lucrative cable television deals in Africa, especially on his trip to Ghana with the Clintons. This explains alot of things.
    President Clinton is right to defend his wife like any married man. However, he needs to do it truthfully and stop making up false accusations. Please listen to/watch yesterdays "Meet The Press,"with Tim Russert where the former President' accusations were analyzed. I am now convince that the Clintons will do and say anything to get elected.
    Should senator Clinton win this battle with senator Obama based on her "vast experience and being able to lead on day#1,"how would she do against senator Mccain? If based on experience and ability to lead on day#1 she is sure to lose to Mccain ,especially with a fractioned democratic party with most African Americans abstaining from voting after this slash/burn policy of the Clintons.
    All parties need to move away from race and talk about their vision for the country. Folks, our greatness as a nation is at stake with a weakened dollar and fear of recession. Lets talk issues please !!!!!

    January 21, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  10. GaryO Virginia Beach

    It's time for Obama and his baby sitters to stop whining. If Obama has anything substantive to say, I would love to hear it.

    Obama would be crushed by the Republicans in the general election. Hillary is clearly the most viable Democratic candidate, and even Edwards would have a much better shot against the Republicans then would Obama.

    Hillary in 2008!

    January 21, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  11. Marilyn Bryan, Taylor, AR

    A Republican Congress used a lie about a sin to impeach a president. That did
    not constitute a threat to the welfare of a nation or an impeachable offense.
    Clinton-haters sing the same tired old song over and over about the presidential
    lie and use it to discredit his wife. Never mind that she would be criticized
    whatever her action might have been. All the next-in-line resigned rather than
    have their sins brought to light. Even the most venerable among them led a
    "double life". How soon and how conveniently is truth forgotten.
    Now we have a president who had lied repeatedly about reasons for going to
    war/invading Iraq which has/will cost untold billions in treasure, thousands
    of American lives, and uncounted numbers of lives of innocent Iraqis along with
    far fewer of the actual enemy. In fact, our enemies now outnumber those in the beginning and grow with every loss of innocent life.
    That old song about fighting over there so our country can be safe will not always be the theme song when our dollar becomes even more worthless, our economy tanks, our influence abroad is a mere shadow of our former respect, our troops
    cannot be replaced without a draft, and the chickens of failed internal and external policy come home to roost.
    The failures of this administration will be the subject of historical analysis by scholars for years to come despite the failure of current politicians to act in the best interests of all the nation.

    January 21, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  12. Patrick, New York,Ny

    Wow Clyburn, way to turn this into a race based election! You need to shut up and chill a little bit!

    CLINTON 08!

    January 21, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  13. J Lewin

    Obama knew he would be running against both Clinton's when he entered the race. That's a reality that can't be changed by Clyburn's statement that sounds like an implied threat .. Get out of the way Clyburn, you just add to the turmoil surrounding Obama.

    January 21, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  14. Tim Stidham

    People need to remember even though blacks make up 50% of the vote in South Carolina whites make the other 50% and they have some say so too.I'm sick and tire of the news media trying to blow this race card way out of proportion .Obama is not the only minority in this race .We have a opportunity to elect the first woman president to .Who cares about the polls saying Obama must win this % of black vote .Didn't we learn anything from New Hamshire .SC is a real primary and when voters pull that curtain no one knows how they will vote .We might just have another surprise heck Edwards might even win I think that would be great !!!

    January 21, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  15. Jim

    "Surplus" again anyone?

    Barbara sining "Happy days are here again" anyone?

    January 21, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  16. Awaiting Moderation, USA

    Is it possible for you to post something that is THOUGHT PROVOKING instead of completely BIASED?????

    January 21, 2008 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  17. Black woman supporting the best candidate

    I agree with most Obama need to get a backbone and man up. If he's crying about the Clintons what will happen if he did become president. I really don't think he's ready to be Commander and Chief he's acting like a punk. As for those who got on Hillary for showing a little emotion and felt she was acting like a typical women so what that's what she is a women who cares about America and it's future. So what is Obama acting like( A big baby) he has everyone fighting his battles for him and I guess Congressman Clyburn is his daddy now.

    January 21, 2008 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  18. Reggie

    The truth – – that is what is at issue here. Bill Clinton has shown time and time again who he is. He was impeached for being who he is. The fact is that there are surrogates of the Clinton campaign that sold out – – they were promised something for their support.

    Bill is only paying his debt to Hillary for staying with him after the behavior he exhibited while in the White House and yes even before.

    January 21, 2008 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  19. tina

    Hillary is the beast that we have for a win in noveber so i hop evry budy will supot her and not that crybay Obama.What her husben did is not what she did.She was good for standing up for what she belived in her mriage and stade with her husben good for her.If Obama gest in i will vote republican in noveber i cant vote for smeone how dont have know bake bone.

    January 21, 2008 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  20. Black woman supporting the best candidate

    Dee, we also don't need Obama crying to others when world leaders gain up on him it goes both ways. Man up Obama!!!!!!!!

    January 21, 2008 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  21. James Brown ( Independent )

    The DNC is about to drop the hammer on the clinton campaign.

    January 21, 2008 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  22. Iowa 4 losers and NH for winners

    IF history repeats itself. Why all these fight. The fight should be over by now.

    Iowa votes 4 losers and NH for winners. You figure out the rest 🙂

    January 21, 2008 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  23. RealityKing

    If lying to a federal grand jury is not a high crime, then nothing is... Not to mention the finger waging lying to America's face..

    January 21, 2008 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  24. Chris

    Bill Clinton has endorsed Hillary. Plain and simple. Other politicians have endorsed Obama and defend him and speak out so Bill can do this for Hillary. Looks like she has the better person behind her.

    January 21, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  25. Kim Simmons

    I may be a bit callous, but I think Hillary stayed with Bill to further her own political career. I think she ran for senator from New York because she needed a stepping stone to facilitate her political career and the field of contenders for the New York senate race that year was weak. Bill is doing his best to hold up his part of the bargain; which explains his anger when he sees she could lose to Obama.

    January 21, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
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