Obama’s “cling to” might come back to haunt him
April 13, 2008 2 Comments
So at a fundraiser last week in San Francisco , Obama said this:
“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.”
Ouch. It’s the “cling to” that really hurts. The connotation on that phrase is not going to play well.
Not that it will matter to the media or most voters, especially those he’s talking about, but here is the full quote in context:
“You go into 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 said. “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. 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 tried to better explain on Saturday what he meant to say, and it makes sense:
“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 inwho are bitter,” Obama said Saturday morning at .
“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.”
That’s a little better, but being right in this case hurts him even more because those same voters he’s talking about will probably only hear the first quote, pack that in with Jeremiah Wright and the flag pin thing, wrap it up with his middle name (which is odd considering the Rev. Wright thing, but it’s still there…) and the allegations of being a Harvard-educated, condescending, aloof guy are right back to the fore.
And Hillary and McCain pounced.
In Indianapolis on Saturday, Mrs. Clinton told voters she was “taken aback by the demeaning remarks Senator Obama made about people in small-town America.”
“Senator Obama’s remarks are elitist and they are out of touch,” Mrs. Clinton told an audience. “They are not reflective of the values and beliefs of Americans. Certainly not the Americans that I know.”
The McCain campaign late Friday evening criticized Mr. Obama for failing to express regret for his remark.
Tucker Bounds, a spokesman for Mr. McCain, said, “Instead of apologizing to small-town Americans for dismissing their values, Barack Obama arrogantly tried to spin his way out of his outrageous San Francisco remarks.”
“You can’t be more out of touch than that,” he added.
Hillary actually went even further:
“People don’t need a president who looks down on them,” she said. “They need a president who stands up for them.”
Ouch again. That’s a haymaker that could very well resonate and only time will tell if it lands or if Obama defense and general fact of his campaign bringing more people together can block it.
The idea that he was too aloof was one of those bad tastes in the mouths of voters that led to Kerry’s defeat as well, something one of Clinton top surrogates, Sen Evan Bayh, was very quick to point out:
He said they should consider Mr. Obama’s remarks a threat to his electability.
“I’m concerned that statements like this, even if they’re taken out of context, can be used very effectively by the other side to keep us from getting the change that we need.
Look at John Kerry – served in Vietnam, won medals. Look at what they ended up doing to him by the end of that campaign. Look at Al Gore, won the Nobel Peace Prize now, you know, an Oscar. They made him look like he was a serial fibber and so forth.
So the important point here is that they can use this politically to damage Barack.”
Though unlike the candidate herself, Bayh did not go so far as burn the party in her attempt to save herself:
He declined to characterize Mr. Obama as an elitist, as Mrs. Clinton did.
But again, even Bayh knows that Obama may have phrased it poorly, but he’s right:
One of Clinton’s staunchest supporters,, D-Ind., acknowledged there was some truth in Obama’s remarks. But Republicans would use them against him anyway, Bayh said.
“We do have economic hard times, and that does lead to a frustration and some justifiable anger, it’s true,” Bayh told reporters after introducing Clinton in.
“But I think you’re on dangerous ground when you morph that into suggesting that people’s cultural values whether it’s religion or hunting and fishing or concern about trade are premised solely upon those kinds of anxieties and don’t have a legitimate foundation independent of that.”
Of course, Obama wasn’t talking about why people choose hobbies, but rather the issues on which they choose to vote, but no matter.