The Fine Print
The call came at 2:15 a.m. on Jan. 27, 2008, awaking Rep. James Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina. He instantly recognized the voice on the other end of the line.
It was Bill Clinton and he was angry.
“If you bastards want a fight, you damn well will get one,” Clyburn recalls Clinton screaming at him, a moment the congressman recounted in his new memoir, “Blessed Experiences: Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black.”
“He was very upset,” Clyburn told “The Fine Print” of the incident. “His wife had just suffered a major defeat in the South Carolina primary, and I had not been involved in it, but Bill Clinton thought otherwise.”
Despite Clinton’s belief to the contrary at the time, Clyburn maintains that he played no role in Obama’s sweeping victory over Clinton in the South Carolina primary, having made a promise to the Democratic National Committee that he would stay out of the 2008 nominating fight between Clinton and Obama.
Since the time of their heated late-night phone call, Clyburn said his relationship with Clinton has healed somewhat.
“We got over that,” Clyburn said. “We met by accident several weeks later… we've seen each other several times since. In fact, I had a lovely breakfast with Hillary two to three years after that. I think everything's okay.”
So “okay,” in fact, that Clyburn is now excited by the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidential campaign in 2016.
“She would make a good president - an excellent president,” Clyburn said. “I hope she runs.”
As for the special committee that Republican lawmakers have called to investigate the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Clyburn said “there’s no question” the investigation is meant to damage the former secretary of state politically.
“She knows that, I think the whole country knows that,” Clyburn said, adding that these apparent attempts by Republicans “to frighten” Clinton from running won’t work. “I don't think anything will frighten her out of this race – nothing!"
Despite expressing tremendous admiration for President Obama as the first black president, Clyburn also opens up in the book about his disagreements with Obama. And when asked to give him a grade as president, Clyburn said he’d give him a “B.”
Clyburn writes about the firing of African-American Department of Agriculture employee Shirley Sherrod in Obama’s first term as a moment of tension with Obama. Clyburn spoke out publically at the time and was quoted as saying, “I don’t think a single black person was consulted before Shirley Sherrod was fired.”
Shortly thereafter, Obama requested a private meeting with Clyburn in the Oval Office.
“He wanted to talk to me about the comment,” Clyburn said. “The whole conversation was about his view of the world as opposed to my view of the world.”
“Barack Obama grew up in Hawaii, has a very cosmopolitan, even international background, and so we see things differently,” he explained. “And so sometimes we have to sit down and talk about those differences and how we can reconcile those differences.”
For more of the interview with Clyburn, including how he says things have improved for African-Americans in America in recent decades, check out this episode of "The Fine Print."
ABC News’ Alexandra Dukakis, Tom Thornton, Chris Carlson, and Vicki Vennell contributed to this episode.
- Politics & Government