Saturday, April 12, 2008

Will These Words Haunt Obama?

In a moment of candor, Sen. Barack Obama recently shared some opinions about small town Pennsylvanians at a fundraiser which could haunt him the balance of this campaign. Here's what he had to say:

"You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them," Obama, an Illinois senator, said.

"And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations," he said.

Not surprisingly, both Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. John McCain are already using those words against Obama. "Pennsylvania doesn't need a president who looks down on them," she said told a rally. "They need a president who stands up for them, who fights for them, who works hard for your futures, your jobs, your families." An aide to McCain thinks Obama's comments were "remarkable and extremely revealing." "It shows an elitism and condescension toward hard-working Americans that is nothing short of breathtaking," said Steve Schmidt, a senior adviser to the Arizona senator. "It is hard to imagine someone running for president who is more out of touch with average Americans."

This story breaks just as Obama is criss-crossing Indiana on an extended bus tour. I suspect Obama's comments won't play well here in Indiana where he is already behind Clinton according to several polls. This might be that pivotal, turning point Clinton has been hoping for to rescue her struggling campaign. Obama, according to the Star's Mary Beth Schneider, is responding quickly to his opponent's reaction. She writes:

Firing back at critics from both parties who suggested he's an out-of-touch elite, a fired-up Obama said it's they who are out of touch.

"I'm in touch. I know exactly what's going on. I know what's going on in Pennsylvania. I know what's going on in Indiana. I know what's going on in Illinois," Obama thundered to a crowd of about 2,600 at North Vigo High School.

"People are fed up. They're angry and they're frustrated and they're bitter," he said. "And they want to see a change in Washington, and that's why I'm running for president of the United States of America."

I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw my nephew sitting on the front row of Obama's North Vigo High School appearance in Terre Haute where he attends school. Knowing his father, I'm sure he wasn't too pleased to see his youngest son rising to applaud Obama's remarks. I couldn't help but think just how surreal this campaign has become. One of the Clintons or Obama are here in the state almost every day campaigning. Bill Clinton and Obama are in Terre Haute the very same day. Hillary's campaign headquarters burns to the ground. Bill is on the scene surveying the damage. How very strange.


Doug said...

I smell an aikido move -- planned or unplanned, I couldn't say. Opponents are going to get drawn in and generate energy by saying he's picking on religion or guns or whatever; he's going to use that energy to try to paint Clinton and McCain and the policies they support as the reasons for the economic misfortunes.

His remarks have the additional benefit of being generally true. When times are tough, people tighten up their "in" groups and typically identify the "out" groups as significant sources of their trouble.

Anonymous said...

Obama is a double speaker. He talks in terms of whatever audience he is in front of. He goes from saying he is pro-gun, then bashes guns to protect the black vote in Philly.

Obama is an elitist. Most politicians are.

artfuggins said...

San Fransisco is in California, not Texas.

Pepper said...

As someone who hails from Randolph County, an economically depressed area of the state where meth, welfare and the lack of jobs seem to be the rules and not the exceptions, where the population is more than 91% white and the median household income is below the national average, where diversity is as scarce as a high-tech job, I can tell you that Obama knows what he's talking about. All anyone needs to do is take a trip to Randolph County or to any other Midwestern ghost town/area, and you will find that Obama is more in touch than what any of his critics want you to believe. AND he is bold enough point it out.

Unknown said...

No, Doug, let me assure you his remarks are not "generally true." "Generally stupid", yes, but not "generally true."

Gary R. Welsh said...

Pepper, I think I understand what Obama was trying to say and I don't disagree that there is a feeling of dispair in many small towns. I think the key words in his speech which will cause problems for him are "cling to guns or religion". He will be perceived as negatively stereotyping people from small towns by using two rights many people hold near and deat to them to describe them.

Unknown said...

I don't think people in small towns cling to things like religion and guns because of economic despair. They cling to those issues because they are important to them.

I would add that since when are people who live in cities not supportive of guns and relgion?

Obama's comments shows a prejudice against people who don't live in big cities. That's not going to play well if it sticks.

jabberdoodle said...

THis is a further example of Obama treating the public like thinking adults. And I agree with Doug; what Obama said is generally true.

But, there are many who want Obama to fail and will push on anything they think can give them leverage.

Its unfortunate that speaking like a thinking adult to folks who say they want to be treated like thinking adults can be an Achilles’ heel in real politics.

artfuggins said...

When you are losing like Hillary is, you have to try and make something out of nothing. I have heard the scratchy tape of the original comment and I have him explanation which he made in Terre Haute, he knows small town midwest people and they will agree with this statement. I have some relatives in Kokomo and believe what he said is 100% true.

Unknown said...

Artfugggins, you mean losing like about 150 delegates out of some 3000 or so? You make it sound like she's getting smoked by Obama. Obviously that is not true. In fact she's beating Obama in virtually every large state.

artfuggins said...

Flynn, are you saying that small state people don't count. Obama has won many more primaries and caucuses, is ahead in delegates, and is ahead in the popular vote. I didn't realize that a person's vote only counted if the state had a large population.

Independent Voter said...

As a small town Hoosier farm-boy traing at Johns Hopkins, I encountered many Obama-style bigots. They always had problems understanding how an "in-bred" dumbass from rural Indiana consistently kicked their butts academically. This just didn't fit their world view.

Obama's bigotry and provincialism is a dime-a-dozen on both coasts. My 84 year-old "typical white person" mother living in rural Indiana has more class and tolerance than Obama and his pampered wife will ever know.

Mark said...

"And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations," he said."

Yeah, religion or our rights under the Constitution are such trivial little things, it's hard to understand why people seek them out for comfort. Those poor, misguided Midwesterners.

artfuggins said...

Lance, you like the other Clintonistas, are totally misquoting Obama. Obama, more than Hillary, can and does identify with the blue collar workers and the problems they face. Desperate people do and say desperate things. The Clintons are losing and feel entitled. Thus they are becoming a pox on our house.

Unknown said...

Artfuggins, you're response to me show's you're hopelessly confused about what I was talking about. Your original comment indicated Hillary is getting clobbered in the election and she's reacting with desperation. I responded to that saying that's obviously not true, that the Democratic nomination is extremely close.

Jon Easter said...

No. What he's saying is true. People just don't want to hear the truth.

Maybe I'm just an elitist.

artfuggins said...

Flynn, you are the one who used the word CLOBBERED. I simply stated that she is losing....less delegates, less states and less popular vote. Most pundits on this Sunday Morning talk shows admitted she had only a small chance of winning. Perhaps onlly 10%. Even Carville said it was an uphill battle. Losing, yes but I didnt and wouldn't use the word clobbered. You, FLYNN, used that word.

Unknown said...


Here's what you said:

"When you are losing like Hillary is, you have to try and make something out of nothing."

Clearly you were misrepresenting how close the race were and in fact were indicating that Clinton was losing badly. My use of the word "clobbered" doesn't mean I was wrong regarding your characterization of the race. Obama has about a 3% lead in delegates.