Sunday, April 13, 2008

SENATOR OBAMA: On Pennsylvania

These are the comments that supposedly landed Barack Hussein Obama in hot water. He made them at a fund raiser in San Francisco, in response to some questions about the campaign:

But -- so the questions you're most likely to get about me, 'Well, what is this guy going to do for me? What's the concrete thing?' What they wanna hear is -- so, we'll give you talking points about what we're proposing -- close tax loopholes, roll back, you know, the tax cuts for the top 1 percent. Obama's gonna give tax breaks to middle-class folks and we're gonna provide health care for every American. So we'll go down a series of talking points.

But the truth is, is that, our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there's not evidence of that in their daily lives. 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. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. 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. (Huffington Post)

Both John McCain and Hillary Clinton have been assailing these comments by Obama as elitist and disparaging.

The cable news networks seem only to be reporting that Obama called Pennsylvanians "bitter", and that they "cling to guns or religion." No context, no further discussion.

You may find these remarks offensive in themselves, or take them as evidence that Barack Obama lacks empathy with the common man. That is fine. We do not.

We feel Sen. Obama was honestly relating his experience in Pennsylvania, and he was talking about it both sensitively and intelligently. Once again he was confronting difficult truths about America and what it will take to unite around common goals, and a common economic program. We are again heartened that he will not let political orthodoxy get in the way of needed dialogue.

"It's being reported that my opponent said that the people of Pennsylvania who face hard times are bitter," Clinton said during a campaign event in Philadelphia. "Well that's not my experience. As I travel around Pennsylvania. I meet people who are resilient, optimist positive who are rolling up their sleeves."

"Pennsylvanians don't need a president who looks down on them," she said. "They need a president who stands up for them, who fights hard for your future, your jobs, your families." (CNN)

Is this a fair criticism of Obama's remarks?

It does not seem like she cares to engage in the issues he raises, such as persistent economic stagnation and the political effects that can have on a people (more Democrats should be asking these questions, by the way). It could be said that she is the one who is being patronizing towards Pennsylvanians, by rushing to our unasked-for defense.

The Obama campaign's own response to this criticism:

"Senator Obama has said many times in this campaign that Americans are understandably upset with their leaders in Washington for saying anything to win elections while failing to stand up to the special interests and fight for an economic agenda that will bring jobs and opportunity back to struggling communities," said Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor.

"And if John McCain wants a debate about who's out of touch with the American people, we can start by talking about the tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans that he once said offended his conscience but now wants to make permanent.”

One thing we must allow. Considering this latest episode -- together with his remarks on reproductive freedom, in which he said that when push came to shove, he would not want his young daughters to be "punished with a baby" -- Barack Hussein Obama could be a little too frank and casual for his own good. He should probably work on that.

BOTTOM LINE: The conditions on the ground in Pennsylvania are suddenly the hot topic in national politics. Hooray.


  1. Here is Obama speaking about the same issues back when he was Senator elect in late 2004. He did a much better job of explaining himself back then.

  2. If you read the NYTimes, though, about Hillary's support, especially in the eastern part of the state (excepting perhpas Philladelphia), you see that people have not listened as closely to Obama's message as in other states. Which is what the Obama campaign expected, but they might have hoped they would be wrong. Obama's remarks seem to have a tinge of frustration to them, which he can ill afford. You can't win over everybody.

  3. First off,there was nothing offensive about this statement.Several weeks ago there was an article in the Wash Post written from Harrisburg interviewing members of two American Legion clubs one black, one white.In those interviews,you hear the statements Obama,most specifically around small town problems,race,and unemployment made from the mouths of those suffering.

  4. i do like obama. that was not smart to say something out in front of a bunch of san fransisco liberals like that. pennsylvania, virginia democrats; etc. (moderates) need to take over the party. They are the ones who can win elections. Im sure he meant well... poor words, and now this will resignate.

  5. Given the choice, I'd take a politician who is too frank over one who constantly blows smoke up my ass.

    I agree with smitty, there was nothing offensive here. We're just not used to hearing politicians say stuff like this, actually admitting that yeah, some people are angry (not "concerned," but angry). And now that Obama has said it, Clinton, McCain, and the pablum-pushers on TV are running around trying to pretend that it's just off-limits to talk about the way people actually feel.

  6. Sen. Obama baldly stated that people are religious because they are bitter or having economic problems while at the same time equating religion with guns and xenophobia. That's game over as far as looking for my vote is concerned.

  7. Oh boy, I will make some enemies I am sure. Knowing a lot of people in small towns in PA, I could have easily made the same observations Obama put into words. Remember the question, "ask yourself, are you better off that you were...?"

  8. m h:

    I can totally respect that. I think it is significant that A) he BADLY stated whatever it was that he stated, and B) "clinging" to religion implies something a lot different that being religious. It implies being extra and overly protective, not simply being highly observant and G-d fearing. We all know Barack is fairly religious himself.

    But I agree. It this "fair game" for voters? Absolutely! This is not a "dirty" issue, in my opinion (unless of course someone adds dirt to it).

  9. Bram,

    I didn't have a typo. I meant 'baldly stated', which is not to say that I don't also agree that it was "BADLY stated".