Saturday, April 12, 2008

I'll Have Some Bitters With My Coffee

Like Ed Rendell before him, see Ed the Rant-dell, it looks like Barack Obama is getting into some trouble for speaking the truth about the Keystone State.

The latest is that Obama is being criticized by Clinton and McCain for saying that the people of Pennsylvania are "bitter." Opponents Call Obama Remarks ‘Out of Touch’:

At the fund-raiser in San Francisco last Sunday, Mr. Obama outlined challenges facing his presidential candidacy in the coming primaries in Pennsylvania and Indiana, particularly persuading white working-class voters who, he said, fell through the cracks during the Bush and Clinton administrations.

“So it’s not surprising then that 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,” Mr. Obama said, according to a transcript on the Huffington Post Web site, which on Friday published the comments.

The remarks touched off a torrent of criticism from Mrs. Clinton, Mr. McCain and Republican activists and party officials, all accusing Mr. Obama of elitism and belittling the working class.
Sounds like the oft repeated "voting against their economic interests" theme that pundits often refer to, no? Thomas Frank wrote a book, What's The Matter With Kansas?, about the phenomenon. Or the words of John McCain, speaking about anti-immigrant sentiment by voters in Iowa and South Carolina. McCain Said It, Before He Attacked It.

Obama responded, Obama Concedes Remarks Were Ill Chosen, noting:
'Lately there has been a little typical sort of political flare up because I said something that everybody knows is true, which is that there are a whole bunch of folks in small towns in Pennsylvania, in towns right here in Indiana, in my hometown in Illinois who are bitter,' Obama said Saturday morning at Ball State University. 'They are angry. They feel like they have been left behind. They feel like nobody is paying attention to what they're going through.'

'So I said, well you know, when you're bitter you turn to what you can count on. So people, they vote about guns, or they take comfort from their faith and their family and their community. And they get mad about illegal immigrants who are coming over to this country.'

After acknowledging that his previous remarks could have been better phrased, he added:

'The truth is that these traditions that are passed on from generation to generation, those are important. That's what sustains us. But what is absolutely true is that people don't feel like they are being listened to.'

See also, Talking Points Memo.

I don't suppose that the fact that over 80% of the country feels that we're going in the right direction would justify him saying that?

Or how about the fact that the citizens of the Commonwealth actually threw out a good number of state legislators -- and a judge up for a retention election -- after they voted themselves a payraise in the dead of the night and the courts upheld the raise for the judiciary? As Jill at Brilliant at Breakfast said:
I see this as a statement of fact, except it isn't limited to Pennsylvania. For nearly two decades, Americans, particularly in blue-collar areas, have seen their standard of living drop. They've seen the jobs that gave them a comfortable life dissappear. They've seen their incomes drop. They've watched as their children joined the military because it was either that or work at Wal-Mart. Politicians have played on their fears of the future by pointing these Americans' attention away from the corporate CEOs making hundreds of millions of dollars a year by sending their factories overseas, and from Senators and Congresspeople who have sided with corporations time after time. They've sold these Americans "trickle-down economics", which told them that if they just sit tight while the rich shovel cash into their pockets, sooner those rich people will piss a few bucks down upon them. They've played on their fears, first of black people (Willie Horton and the Jesse Helms "White Hands" ad), then of terrorists, then of Latino immigrants. They've succeeded by saying, "Look at the guy below you....HE'S your problem, not the guys who talked you into buying a house you couldn't afford, then bundled your mortgage into bogus investments sold by Bear Stearns, whose executives pocketed millions of dollars before the whole scheme went bust, leaving you with a house you can't pay for and can't sell. That guy below you on the ladder is the REAL problem, not a president sho cut taxes to give more cash to his rich friends and who allowed speculators to drive the price of gasoline to $3.25/gallon and heating oil to nearly $4."
This isn't some evidence that they are bitter? OK then -- How about mad as hell?

Or maybe this is just one more of those Fake Scandals.

UPDATE (4/13): Via Talking Points Memo, is a clip of Obama on the Charlie Rose Show in November of 2004, shortly after he was elected to Congress, discussing the same issues in more detail, including the fact that this is the underlying theme of the book What's the Matter With Kansas, which I referred to above.


BAC said...

I posted about this on my blog. I don't think it was one of his finer moments. I do think, however, there is something much worse that he should address.

I have stopped reading Maureen Dowd, because of her clear hatred of Hillary and support for anything Obama. I was, however, prompted by an email message to read her column of April 2.

I would imagine that anything Dowd attributes to Obama must have some hint of truth, since she seems to like him. What I don't understand is why she would be supportive of this?

"Hillary has clearly raised Obama’s consciousness about the importance of courting the ladies. Touring a manufacturing plant in Allentown, Pa., Tuesday, he was flirtatious, winking and grinning at the women working there, calling one “Sweetie,” telling another she was “beautiful,” and imitating his daughters’ dance moves by twirling around.

"Later, at a Scranton town hall, he went up to Denise Mercuri, a pharmacist from Dunmore wearing a Hillary button. “What do I need to do? Do you want me on my knees?” he charmed, before promising: “I’ll give you a kiss.” ..."

Can this be true? If so, is he promoting sexual harassment? And for that matter, is Dowd?

If it is true, I think he owes us an apology ... or at least an explanation.


JudiPhilly said...


I too stopped reading Dowd some time ago. Her columns about the Clintons were so vile that I could only conclude that there was a personal vendetta lurking there somewhere.

I read the piece that you mentioned, with the backhanded compliment to Hillary and the similar swipes at Obama. I just don't buy it.

I've been reading the various PA papers on the upcoming election and haven't seen anything similar mentioned at all. If anything, the complaints about him are that he is aloof and distant. I just don't see that as part of his personality.