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Bitter Pill

Monday, April 14, 2008

Barack Obama's recent comments in San Francisco have caused a stir. Some have referenced a similar Bill Clinton quote. Here are the two:

Obama (2008) 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.

Bill Clinton (1991) You know, he [Bush] wants to divide us over race. I'm from the South. I understand this. This quota deal they're gonna pull in the next election is the same old scam they've been pulling on us for decade after decade after decade. When their economic policies fail, when the country's coming apart rather than coming together, what do they do? They find the most economically insecure white men and scare the living daylights out of them. They know if they can keep us looking at each other across a racial divide, if I can look at Bobby Rush and think, Bobby wants my job, my promotion, then neither of us can look at George Bush and say, 'What happened to everybody's job? What happened to everybody's income? What ... have ... you ... done ... to ... our ... country?'

Compare and contrast the above two quotes. What do you make of the controversy? Comment below!

Comments [104]

eva

Hi m,
it failed because we already emptied all the contents of our budgetary cupboard!
Which is why I think we really have to push a preventive care package. There's no reason to pay so much money for preventable illness - it's unethical, because it's promising more care to people than we can actually afford. And like I said, it actually creates an incentive for young people let themselves get sick (because we'll supposedly cover them.) I don't know about Mass., but here we have a very high population of people who are susceptible to Type II diabetes (Asians, Hispanics, African-Americans, Middle Eastern) Basically, we're poisoning these poor folk with bad diet and poor phys ed and nutrition ed. Then they get sick, and we all have to pay for it. Make sense? No. Ironically, if they ate their native foods here, and took time out to play/work out, they'd be FINE.

Apr. 14 2008 07:34 PM
David from NYC

88--What the devil are you talking about?! Sen. Clinton pointed out that we Dems lost in 2000 and 2004--I know, I know, 2000 was a stolen election but it's done--because, in part, the nominees failed to connect with a large segment of the population. The GOP has successfully managed to steal the Democratic base for years. Look at Mark Warner's gubernatorial campaign in Virginia a few years ago. He connected with the traditional Dem bloc, spoke the language that resonated with them, and won. Jim Webb did the same thing in VA in the '06 senate race.

Gore, who has more than been vindicated in time, did fail to resonate with the traditional base. FACT: He failed to win his home state of Tenn. Kerry failed to resonate with that same base in '04. FACT: Kerry-Edwards lost NC, Edwards' state.

To his credit, Obama has tried (and often succeeded) at crossing that gulf; however, Sen. Clinton is absolutely right that, if he comes across as elitist, that will play into the GOP's hands in November.

So, how the hell does that make her a Republican?

Apr. 14 2008 07:20 PM
m from Brooklyn

Hi eva:

I so agree. It seems to me that we have some people getting way more care than they even want at the end of their lives at great cost to all of us and then we have horrible infant mortality rates because of lack of access. It's nuts.

Your state is California, right? What was the reason they dropped their "universal" plan? How was it different from Mass? Was it just because of the enormous cost (not a small issue)?

Apr. 14 2008 07:02 PM
eva

Hi m,
I agree, they didn't have much choice but to drop it at that point. And, yes, I was an Edwards supporter, til he quit. As for health care, we're obsessed with fixing things once broken, instead of paying the relatively little money forward to ensure people don't get sick in the first place.Overweight/obesity related illness (Type II diabetes, heart disease) costs my state over 20 billion a year. We are paying through the nose for disease that can be prevented... meanwhile, the people suffering from issues that are not preventable get the shaft. In short, we're paying healthy people... to GET SICK. It's crazy. As crazy as our $9 trillion federal debt. You gotta laugh, or you'd cry...

Apr. 14 2008 06:46 PM
m from Brooklyn

Hi eva:

by the way, I agree about the gays in the military. What a stupid thing to start with. But look at it now. It's almost a given.

It will take a superhuman to motivate anyone to make a real change in the health care. I think that almost no one could have stood up to the onslaught by the vested interests without more political will from the people. Unfortunately, no one is interested in having the kind of adult conversation we need to have if we are going to really change it. Cult of personality elections, instead are the norm.

Apr. 14 2008 06:39 PM
m from Brooklyn

Hi eva:

I agree that Hillary was probably not the most qualified person to work on health care in '93. You really need not just MD's but someone who understands health care economics and the fact that the US health care system is in trouble for many different reasons, the most important being that we pay too much for too many procedures and don't have much to show for it. Doctors alone cannot unravel this; they prescribe what they know, and it is often not based on thorough research because none exists.

As for dropping it, well, they really took a drubbing for it. Don't know what else they could have done. Meanwhile, except for Dennis Kucinich who favors a single payer plan (which will never make it out of the senate) John Edwards was the first to come out of the gate with a serious attempt at a plan, followed by Hillary with a plan that looks much the same. John McCain is not serious about this, and I don't think Obama is either, so it looks like it's dead again, hopefully not for ten years this time. None of the above seriously took on the costs or the lack of primary care givers which is a real problem in Mass. now that they have a statewide plan.

Apr. 14 2008 06:29 PM
eva

Sorry, m, I got cut off
My point is that the forward-thinking parts of Hillary's plan were almost beside the point - being right doesn't cut it if you can't lead and motivate the people around you. It's not enough to me that she apologized for alienating so many people on that project.
On a separate level, I guess the decision to hand health care to the first lady reminded me a lot of Bill's early push for gays in the military. A good idea, but really, really ill-strategized, and with no consideration of the kind of leader it would require to push it through. Clinton had no background in the military, thus he had no leverage, even as President. Similarly, Hillary brought little experience to her health care assignment. Then, when it didn't work, they dropped both like a hot potato. Does it make any sense, even now?

Apr. 14 2008 06:11 PM
eva

Hi m,
Thanks for your post. I think most people agree Clinton made an enormous STRATEGIC mistake in nepotistically handing the assignment to his wife, a.k.a. the first lady. That was a great way to shoot the project in the foot from the get-go.
I could ALMOST understand the decision to allow Hillary to work on the project if she had any background in health care. For example, if she were an M.D., or better yet, a nurse who had later gone to med school. At least a Ph.D. in public health who has served the patient public. As it was, the assignment to Hillary smacked of cronyism, and uninformed cronyism at that! After that, it was easy prey for anyone opposing the program.

Apr. 14 2008 05:48 PM
hjs from 11211

m
not sure what Bartholomew Ryan was talking about but maybe when Senator Clinton said Gore and Kerry failed to connect to voters. I don't know if that is a real attack, but some people are clutching at straws during this era of winner take all politics.

Apr. 14 2008 05:32 PM
m from Brooklyn

Hi eva:

I never said that Hillary or Bill complained about the conflation, I said that I thought Ferraro might be irritated by it.

As far as the '93 health plan, I read it in the library last week. Does anyone really remember it? It had a lot of elements that people are talking about now, like capped premiums, better regulation of the insurance companies etc. They made a mistake when they met in secret and Hillary has copped to that mistake. the insurance companies took aim and demonized it to the point that no one could even talk about health care reform for over a decade.

Bartholomew Ryan: I must have missed something. What did they say about the Kerry and Gore campaigns?

Apr. 14 2008 05:24 PM
eva

j,
you could say speak more freely back then because we weren't looking at 9 trillion in federal debt. I'd tell you how much of that is owed to China, but I prefer not to think about it.
I agree it's, at this point, way too much fuss over a stupid, insensitive comment. The real issue - what either Hillary or Obama would do for any of these guys in Pennsylvania - is apparently of little importance.
But to be honest, I don't think ANY of the candidates are prepared to take on the problems the Bush administration (and to a lesser extent the Clinton administration) has left us with.

Apr. 14 2008 04:18 PM
j from new york

Doesn't anyone remember when the Republicans swept congress in the 90s and everyone was calling it the vote of the "angry white man"....apparently that was ok to say at the time. I was really excited about this election a couple of months ago but I've become exhausted by these made up controversies. To try and say "No these people really are optimistic and proud" is a joke. It's ignoring the obvious. There is a lot of bitterness out there. Is the word 'disenfranchised' really that much more palatable?

Apr. 14 2008 04:11 PM
eva

chestinee,
I'm glad I'm not the only person who thinks his gaffes are a dynamic of their relationship. Every time Bill sticks his foot in his mouth, I think, "Wow, I don't think Bill really wants to head back to the White House with Hillary in charge."
Gotta say I agree with him on that. But I have no doubt that Hillary is a smart, smart woman. She has a lot to offer - as senator. But to meet with foreign leaders, I want someone with far more dynamic communicative skills, and not just a policy wonk. And btw, many of us are still cognizant of the fact that her policy wonkiness didn't result in any success vis-a-vis healthcare during her husband's administration.

Apr. 14 2008 03:56 PM
chestinee from Midtown

Hillary is a policy marvel and needs a quiet audience with time to listen to her very considered and considerable offerings. She was part of Bill's smarts, I have no doubt - He was the "connector," though, whose speech was erudite and compassionate all the time and effortlessly so. He had no pretensions. Now I can't imagine what is making him behave as he is lately - undermining her. But maybe it's another facet of their dynamic as a couple. I miss Bill and the better times he presided over.

Apr. 14 2008 03:38 PM
hjs from 11211

dan,

I'll accept my own mental illness, if you agree there is something wrong with the 'psyche Americana,' without some kind of intervention, complete breakdown to follow

Apr. 14 2008 03:22 PM
Bartholomew Ryan from New York

This is a very special and dangerous moment in American Politics. Yesterday, Senator Clinton crossed the Rubicon by attacking the campaigns of Kerry and Gore. She has gone to war with the Democratic party. It is a coup attempt. Al Gore won in 2000. Kerry did his best. They were dignified candidates that Democrats can feel proud of. Gore won in reality, but he would have won better if the Clinton's had not maimed his candidacy. There needs to be some moral outrage within the Democratic party about this new development. Clinton is a Repubican at this stage, and people need to say it. Where are Pelosi, Reid, Schumer et al on this? If you don't stand up for this guy now you really deserve the future Clinton autocracy you are going to get.

Apr. 14 2008 03:11 PM
eva

m,
That the media constantly conflate Hillary with Bill is not irrational. She came to power through Bill. (Compare that to Gerry Ferraro, who rose to power sans the patronage of a husband-president.)
The Clintons have always billed themselves as a team. Thus health care was handed to Hillary, when so many more knowledgeable people could have succeeded. So it's a bit disingenuous for the Clintons to complain that they're still seen as a team. Having said that, Hillary is no Bill, sadly. She's a lightning rod, always has been, but without any of his communication skills or charisma. Yes, charisma, an essential component in electability. Alas...

Apr. 14 2008 02:57 PM
m from Brooklyn

Hi eva:

Here is where I think Ferraro's comments came from. I believe that she thinks that there has been a tendancy for the left leaning media to either not notice or look past slights and insults, not so much to Clinton herself but to or about her supporters. To wit: "Iron my shirt!" "They are pimping Chelsea" etc. Meanwhile, when someone makes a comment that is arguably ill-advised, but not necessarily untrue, the same media jump all over it if there is some way to construe it as being about race. To wit: the fairy tale comment by Bill Clinton. There is also the constant conflating her with her husband that probably irritates people like Ferraro. I think her comments were clumsy and not very well thought out and came out of frustration, but behind them I hear anger from people who also feel diminished by some of the rhetoric and they are not given an outlet by the left leaning media that they may have traditionally may have turned to like the New York Times op-ed page, MSNBC, some of the left wing talk radio hosts.

Apr. 14 2008 02:43 PM
Dale Goodson from NYC

I think this is indicative of the state of campaigning these days. Too long, too much money spent, too much instant scrutiny. Every candidate says something off-putting at some point. Ask them what they meant then decide if it's newsworthy.

Apr. 14 2008 02:32 PM
matt from nj

i can't believe the degree to which obama's quote has been dissected. when i first heard it this morning (monday) all i heard was snippets. when you hear or read the entire quote (and preceeding question) it falls into context. most news organizations will just keep repeating the worst parts over and over again until it becomes: "obama is an elitist" and "obama thinks all small-town americans are just bitter". it happenes all the time with punditry and it is just sickening.

obama didn't mis-speak. if anything he is more in tune with the problems "small town people" than hillary or mccain claim to be.

now hillary and mccain will hang onto his words because they need ammunition - even if it's at the cost of feeding people's ignorance and YES bitterness.

Apr. 14 2008 02:32 PM
eva

m,
I agree with you that Obama's comments came through as a put-down. I support Obama, but yes, he has an elitist streak, and that came through in the comments and in his early tours through Pennsylvania. Elitism isn't necessarily a bad thing, but stupid, "frustrated" comments are bad for a campaign, and our country's cohesiveness. I get to hear those comments all day in SF! It's tiring.
I still can't fathom Ferraro's 2008 comments, not because they lacked truth, but because they reduced BHO's candidacy to a single issue, instead of looking at the entire package. I disagree (with her!) that she was picked in 84 solely on gender. She was a hell of a VP candidate, gracious and cool, and was a hero to a lot of us young gals.

Apr. 14 2008 02:31 PM
m from Brooklyn

I don't think he has to act elitist or like a middle aged Ice Cube. He has proven with his race speech on March 18 that he knows very well how to identify with people who feel diminished and disenfranchised. I think he just let his frustration show through; I don't really think he feels that way about that group. It is not the words I object to, it's the fact that embedded in there, maybe unconciously was a put-down of a group of people. I am remembering Ferraro's comments that created such a firestorm. Same thing: the statement was actually true; Obama himself even confirmed it when he said that if he weren't black he would just be another of 9 freshmen senators. She also said that if her name had been Gerald and not Geraldine, she would not have been a VP candidate in 1984. Also true. The problem with Ferraro's comments were that embedded in them was a put-down of a group of people and, again it came out of frustration and arguably hurt her candidate the way Obama has likely hurt himself.

Apr. 14 2008 02:17 PM
Dan from NYC

I suppose it goes without saying that the them of retardation and mental illness doesn't refer to the authors of the e-mails. To paraphrase a well-known Jew of the 1st century. "Let he who is without elitism cast the first aspersion."

Apr. 14 2008 02:17 PM
hjs from 11211

rather than "retardation" claims, we should think of this land as a nation full of mental illness.

Apr. 14 2008 02:11 PM
eva

still marveling at the foxiness of 1991 Bill quote that the Lehrer show posted.
Hard as it may be to believe, in 1991/92 the country wasn't in such bad shape. Bill HAD to come up with material that good, he HAD to think of every voter. And he positioned himself brilliantly - the Rhodes scholar dressed in good old boy clothing.
Sure, it's unfair to compare Obama to the fantasy Bill Clinton - the guy who, once elected, failed to show up. Obama's race speech was brilliant - but when you compare it to Bill at his best - a little cold. But it had to be, let's face it, the ways in which a black man can position himself with the electorate are severely limited. If Obama doesn't act elitist, if he acted like the middle-aged version of Ice Cube, would anyone care?

Apr. 14 2008 01:37 PM
ANON from NYC

I don't feel insulted By Obama's comments at all, and I HAVE been there. In fact, I am glad somebody recognizes that the promises made from Reagan forward (including the Clinton administration with which I agreed on most other issues) haven't been delivered upon. One doesn't have to be part of a group to be able to recognize and empathize with their problems. I don't think of Obama as elitist, but he IS educated and observant—something we haven't been used to in the current administration. At this point, Forest Gump looks like an Elitist next to Dubya.

However, no one should feel offended because their candidate, one of their surrogates, or the attention-span-challenged MSM says we should be. BUT if anyone DOES feel offended, even after reading the ENTIRE episode, including the lead-in inquiry, then that is different and their skepticism is an appropriate response. AND they are right to question Sen. Obama and his campaign for clarity.

Apr. 14 2008 01:18 PM
MJ Madigan from Hastings on Hudson, New York

Obama's campaign attempts to justify his patronizing comments by dredging up a comment made 17 years ago by Bill Clinton, who is not a candidate. HOw disappointing that Brian bought into this tiresome O'Dowdist ploy to position the Clintons--yet again--as a pair. Raised in Nanticoke, PA coal country, I find Obama's words--calculated to appeal to an affluent, "with-it" S.F. audience--are a smug put-down to Pennsylvania's compassionate, fairminded, intelligent, and diverse culture. His cultivated messianic image is kinda creepy.

Apr. 14 2008 01:06 PM
eva

Man, the Bill excerpt the Brian Lehrer show posted was masterful. Thoughtul and convincing and... tart enough to stick. I miss the old Bill, when he was still a class act, and such a smartie. What promise. Wasted.

Apr. 14 2008 01:02 PM
ayo from Brooklyn

hjs is right when he says "they lie to us because we want them to". americans claim to want straight talk but when it comes, we suggest that the speaker should have used other words that would make it less straight. i think most would agree that there are bitter people out there who take comfort in the things that are most familiar. we also claim to not want a "politician" as a leader but we degenerate those who are not for not being "seasoned" politicians...

i'm afraid these are symptoms of retardation.

Apr. 14 2008 01:02 PM
eva

m, how right you are.
the 11th commandment, from God to Moses to Obama:
Thou shalt not make disparaging comments about people who are already beleaguered, exhausted and confused, whilst in front of a bunch of smug, moneyed people who merely think they're not confused. Political stripe irrelevant.
I'm glad Obama is using this as an opportunity to discuss the "what's the matter with Kansas" bit, but if you think those comments weren't insulting and aren't going to hurt him (and those of us supporting him) well, denial isn't a north-flowing river in Africa.

Apr. 14 2008 12:53 PM
m from Brooklyn

A few people have said this already but it bears repeating. The context matters. Obama is not seen as a part of this group, and he made the comments in fron of a bunch of rich Democrats. Even if it is true, people are insulted by it. I also think that because it was a response to a question about why he was having a hard time getting blue collar support that he let his frustration show through. The "liberal left" has a hard time seeing that this group of people doesn't like feeling put down any more than anyone else.

Apr. 14 2008 12:41 PM
hjs from 11211

i blame Reaganism

Apr. 14 2008 12:39 PM
CH from Staten Island

What Obama said doesn't really need to restated, it is correct as it stands. What some of us are trying to do is to explain WHY it is correct to others who haven't been in the shoes of the economically depressed. When a community has been pressed down for a long time (and 2 decades is a long time), coping becomes a necessary part of life. A sense of "belonging" is needed by some and Obama hit the most frequent ones.

Apr. 14 2008 12:32 PM
Mike from NYC

Previous post should have read:

RCTB: "The purported disillusioned Obama supporter was a Clinton supporter. They play these games all the time. Don't be fooled. I'm from a white, working-class background and Obama was right, as was the caller who said that people have unconscious motives. These people are MY family members and, like everyone, they defend against frustration by looking for scapegoats. The present caller who is explaining Obama's political analysis is also correct -- he was trying to help upper-class voters understand the motives of some blue-collar voters.

RCTB, Sorry to hear about your family. I'm also from a rural area and was raised below the poverty line, although I'm no longer poor. The present caller is not correct: His same argument can be applied to himself; perhaps he is unaware of why he is saying the words that are coming out of his mouth. When someone unlike myself attempt to speak for me, it comes across are arrogant & presumptuous. Would the caller consider the speculation pf those rural people about his inner workings to be valid or objective?

Apr. 14 2008 12:20 PM
Mike from NYC

Adding to my #61 posting: I'm perfectly willing to allow Obama (or anyone else) to qualify their 'off the cuff' remarks. Others would say Obama's remarks point to more deep-seeded biases. Whatever the case, I only ask that the people who want to make a mountain out of a molehill in this case also put their own candidate under the same scrutiny when he or she misspeaks.

Apr. 14 2008 12:17 PM
eva

Of course the Clintons aren't elitist.
Would an elitist choose to physically engage Gennifer Flowers and Monica Lewinsky? (Not to mention a large number of other misguided younger staffers?)
Pere Bush was rumored to have a mistress for many years. If that is so, he made a decision typical of elites - he wisely chose a woman who was discreet and thoughtful enough to protect the larger family involved - which included the country. Bear in mind that Kennedy's mistress did not reveal herself until well after the death of JKO, and FDR's and Johnson's respective affairs were their own. I'm not defending this type of behavior, but sometimes it comes down to the HOW of it.

Apr. 14 2008 12:13 PM
hjs from 11211

does anyone think americans will finally wake up after 4 more republican years of terror on working people?

Apr. 14 2008 12:09 PM
hjs from 11211

not that it matters but the clintons grew up poor/ working class.

bama went to a private school in Honolulu, Hawaii. bama also has wealth

dem are smarter than gop

only rich people run for prez, they are never in touch the the people. and they ALL lie to us because we want them to lie to us.

Apr. 14 2008 12:07 PM
David from NYC

59, I didn't call the Clintons "plain old folks." I suggest that at their charitable contributions do not support arguments that they're elitist. Huge difference.

Apr. 14 2008 12:03 PM
David from NYC

57--it may not be insulting to you, and it may not be insulting to me, but the comments were insulting to a lot of people.

Apr. 14 2008 12:01 PM
David from NYC

58--I'm not in the position to make a real comparison, because I don't know the facts. I would be very interested to see how much of their disposable income the Obama family has given to charitable causes.

And since it really depends upon the spirit in which a donation is given, I guess neither of us really knows about the real generosity of the Clintons' donations. (to the recipient, it likely doesn't matter.)

Apr. 14 2008 12:00 PM
eva

Marco, I'm supporting Obama (the other two are not options at this point) but the furor over Obama's comments is not an example of American anti-intellectualism.
George Bush is an example of American anti-intellectualism.
The "furor" over Obama's comments are an example of what happens when someone sticks his foot in his mouth. For the record, yes, I do think Obama has an elitist attitude, regardless of his origins. And the fact is, we've never had a non-elitist president. For all the corn-pone phoniness, W. went to Yale and spent more summers sailing than chopping wood.

Apr. 14 2008 12:00 PM
Mike from NYC

RCTB States: "Obama is not saying that everyone (i.e., ALL people with religious views or political opinions are bitter, etc. but rather that SOMEe bitter and frustrated voters use religious views or political views as a crutch."

RCTB: While I am an Obama supporter, the only SOME in Obama's statement (bottom) was "some towns". The statement implies all people in those towns. People who want to keep their guns and who believe that restricting immigration may be the best course for this country are tired of being characterized as either 'angry white men' or xenophobic. Not everyone who holds either of those views can be characterized as such. That said, I'm fine with letting Obama qualify his 'off the cuff' remarks. Others, however, would say his remarks point to his unspoken biases.

Barak Obama, as quoted in TIME: "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. 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."

Apr. 14 2008 12:00 PM
Keith Brown

Does Hillary lying about being under fire qualify her to be the leader of the free world?

Apr. 14 2008 12:00 PM
Edward from Manhattan

David,

They gave some of their 15 mil each year to charity!!! WOW, they're just plain folks. They really care about the little people.

David, would you like to buy a bridge?

Apr. 14 2008 11:59 AM
Chris O from New York

Yes David, charitable contributions fit perfectly with being elitist. They made $100 million and gave away whatever, 25 million. Wow, they only used 20 or 30 or 40 whatever million for themselves, see how in touch they are?! They don't need 60 milion in 7 years, they only need 30!

Apr. 14 2008 11:57 AM
Keith Brown

It was not insulting! He was simply trying to explain to those people that there is a legitimate reason for the folks in the small towns that were ravished by the so-called free trade program

Apr. 14 2008 11:56 AM
Wendy Makarowitz from Jericho New York

I was dissapointed by the insensitive and lack of judgement based on recent comments made by Mr. Obama. He is not a seasoned politician as he apparently "shoots off his hip". Clearly he lacks the maturity necessary to be the leader of our country.

I believe that people today are so frustrated that they are willing to accept a person who isn't qualified to be our leader. The buzz word today is change- but we must realize that we need not only change- but change in a positive direction.

Apr. 14 2008 11:55 AM
David from NYC

45--Points of clarification: The Clintons have earned on average about $15 million annually since President Clinton left office, not over $100 million per year. Furthermore, if you look at the tax returns, you'll see that they have given A LOT to charitable causes. That doesn't really fit the definition of elitist, does it?

Apr. 14 2008 11:55 AM
hjs from 11211

americans are bitter, ask most americans (not in NYC not on west coast) about the world and they will rant and rave about things they know nothing about.

Apr. 14 2008 11:54 AM
Marco from Manhattan

This is just another example of American anti-intellectualism.

Apr. 14 2008 11:53 AM
eva

Should it be a surprise to anyone that Obama made these comments in SF? As a native SF'er (and now living in SF) I can tell you that San Francisco's Versailles-like insensitivity to traditionalists and political conservatives is GRATING, to say the least. (And I'm a dyed-in-the-wool liberal.) You can say anything you want in this town - as long as it's insulting to ordinary, middle-class folk who don't live on the coasts. Or more conservative SoCal'ers.
I know Obama was just playing to the specific crowd at the fundraising event here, but jesus christ, he's smarter than to say this, and how it has to be debated to death. For anyone to argue whether this was insulting or not, let me clear it up for you - it was insulting. Let's pray he does ok in PA now.

Apr. 14 2008 11:52 AM
jh

MichaelB, I agree with you wholeheartedly.

As stated, I actually agree with this statements (but you know, I don't have much use for religion anyway). It's all about context...I remember all too well in 2004 how I thought, surely "the masses" wouldn't be gullible enough to fall for the whole swiftboating scandal. Um. Yeah.

Apr. 14 2008 11:51 AM
Keith Brown

This is exactly why I am not supporting Hillary anymore, her husband says the same thing in a more offensive way, and she trys to paint Obama as an elitist.

Apr. 14 2008 11:51 AM
Ola from New York

The last caller said it best...Barack was just trying to explain the way small town people to people who are far removed from them and really don't know or understand them. By the way who wouldn't be bitter in these days where your sons are dying in an unpopular war, our fish are dying and not coming back, healthcare is ever more elusive, and so forth. Barack means well, but he is not perfect. Like he says, he could have used better words, but there should be no shame in what he said, and he didn't mean to offend anyone. Shame on Hillary for trying to use a sincere effort to yet again show how divisive and polarizing she is.

Apr. 14 2008 11:51 AM
Serg from Queens

This is all what Obama is.
One avatar of Obama against war,another one - vote for war funding.One avatar of Obama against electrical bill in 2001 , another one vote for Chaney bill in 2007.One is pal to Pa folks,another one - seen themes as a bitter in SF.
Enjoy his avatars.

Apr. 14 2008 11:50 AM
rp from manhattan

There are many ways to say what Obama was trying to convey. One way would be to be sympathetic and understanding to "those people" he was talking about, as John Edwards was, agreeing with their anger and frustration but without necessarily agreeing with all of their sentiments. Another way is to be superior and judgmental.

Apr. 14 2008 11:48 AM
kevin from park slope

I agree with RCTB that Margueritte is a stealth Clinton supporter. For someone who says she grew up in Appalachia how did she end up with a Brooklyn accent?

Apr. 14 2008 11:48 AM
Dan from NYC

Of course it's elitist. What else is new? Who runs for office? People who believe they are part of the upper level. The problem is when you don't realize this. We expect our politicians to at least pretend, successfully, that they're one of us.
Twenty years ago, I floated the idea to a wide variety of people that running for national office i.e. congress or president should be as the result of a lottery among all Americans eligible to vote. If you're subject to a lottery for jury duty or in the past military service, why not as a duty to serve in a legislative or executive capacity. Surprisingly, most people didn't like it because they felt they couldn't do it. Even when I spoke to the idea that they knew what they needed that they had common sense they still couldn't get past it. We insist on elites. We should expect arrogance.

Apr. 14 2008 11:47 AM
MG from NYC

I am sick and tired of folks here in the US wasting time. If people in this country continue to buy the crap the media is selling, if they really believe that Obama is an elitist, while the Clintons (earning over 100 million dollars last year) have more of a direct-line to the 'working man' then they deserve what they get.

I throw my hands up at the ignorance.

Apr. 14 2008 11:46 AM
Waldo from Manhattan

I've noticed that time after time Obama supporters preface their statements "What he really meant was..." If he's so smart and perfect and wonderful how come you guys have to keep explaining what he really means?

Apr. 14 2008 11:46 AM
ellen from ny

Obama's rmks sound like a put down of people, while Clinton's sounds like he's sympathizing and saying they aren't to blame. obama is implicityly criticizing their life style choices, as, not chosen for themselves, and not realistic,but instead are knee jerk,false reactions to job loss. He makes their choices sound negative, and he's also overgeneralizing. Clinton is says Bush used technique of misdirection to distract our attention from the real culprits for theirlousy situation. The administration hides from blame, behind an exaggerated racial and class divide, so people will blame blacks or other people for their problems. Clinton's not criticising people who do it, only the leaders who cause it to be done.

Apr. 14 2008 11:46 AM
Katie from Forest Hills

Let's think. When people don't have enough to eat and have student loans, pay for your own health care but illegal immigrants can come here and get the jobs off the books, free health care and not pay taxes and raise our health care premiums and lower wages, you don't think people will get upset!!!

Apr. 14 2008 11:46 AM
Sue from North Salem, NY

If I hear "elitist" one more time I will scream. What the hell IS that?! Bush started this whole thing of education being a stigma, that if you come across as an average Joe Schmoe who can't string two coherent words together, that's preferable to being articulate. It's disgusting.

Apr. 14 2008 11:46 AM
Edward from Manhattan

If Obama "mispeaks" let's discuss it.

If Hillary lies, let's not discuss it.

Let's not talk about the "horserace" unless it benefits Hillary.

This show is as fair and balanced as Fox News.

Apr. 14 2008 11:45 AM
Lois Hecht from Brooklyn, NY

I see nothing wrong with what Obama said - people are bitter about the fact that they don't have jobs and they do blame immigrants and NAFTA and anybody they can blame and they do hold dear religion and anything else that helps ground them to their communities.
Just an aside arugula is now available all over the country partially if not totally because of the Food Network and people demanding what is discussed on it.

Apr. 14 2008 11:45 AM
Amy from Manhattan

To the 1st caller, who said most Americans called on God and then called for blood after the 9/11 attacks: A lot of us ran to *give* blood as our 1st reaction--so many that the blood donation centers were overwhelmed. And many volunteered in other ways. I don't appreciate your characterization.

Apr. 14 2008 11:45 AM
BR from manhattan

Obama WILL make sure no one in the world is bitter about anything (even beer!)

Obama WILL make sure every single man, woman, and child is employed (and happily!).

Obama WILL make sure everyone in the world is l33t!

Obama WILL be in touch with everyone's feelings about everything all the time.

Apr. 14 2008 11:45 AM
Pat from Manhattan

The actual comment was a response to a question about whether or not he felt that Pennsyvania voters would avoid him because of his race! His answer was, No, he didn't think they would avoid voting for him because of his race but because they were angry about other things, like losing jobs, outsourcing jobs, etc.

Apr. 14 2008 11:45 AM
Michael Sirotta from Staten Island

Brian, Obama himself clarified the issue that it was not an attack on religion at a speech in Muncie IN yesterday.

(paraphrase):

"I am a man of faith - I was not making a statement about faith - just expressing a truth about motives for people's voting motivations"

Apr. 14 2008 11:44 AM
mike

Q: How and why do we expect any one person to understand, to any level of proficiency, the experiences and lives of ALL Americans?

A: Because we are assinine.

Apr. 14 2008 11:44 AM
chestinee from Midtown

oh caller stop trying to make excuses for Obama!

Apr. 14 2008 11:44 AM
MichaelB from UWS of Manhattan

The problem was not exactly what Obama said. It was the fact that he was talking about one group to another totally opposite group. Let's be real, talking to an urbane S.F. crowd about people from the midwest, is like talking about the less connected, "less sophisticated" behind their backs and has an air of patronization about it.

I somewhat agree with Obama's remarks, and I have no doubt about the sincerity of his intentions, but understand why the people resented him for it.

MichaelB

Apr. 14 2008 11:44 AM
RCTB from Westchester

The purported disillusioned Obama supporter was a Clinton supporter. They play these games all the time. Don't be fooled.

I'm from a white, working-class background and Obama was right, as was the caller who said that people have unconscious motives. These people are MY family members and, like everyone, they defend against frustration by looking for scapegoats.

The present caller who is explaining Obama's political analysis is also correct -- he was trying to help upper-class voters understand the motives of some blue-collar voters.

Apr. 14 2008 11:44 AM
chestinee from Midtown

My guess is his is why people say Obama is an empty suit - look how much real feeling and nderstanding went into what Bill Clinton had to say, understand why he was so loved by so many (till he started acting crazy in this campaign!)

Apr. 14 2008 11:43 AM
BORED

I read and do a little research. Does this make me an elite. Also when the same thing is said about urban(black) communities everyone(republicans)no one complains.

Apr. 14 2008 11:43 AM
eva

Yes, antonio (#1), the country with $9 trillion in federal debt IS that retarded.
How it got to this is something that I, like Chris (#5), can't explain.
http://www.brillig.com/debt_clock/
Heads should be rolling, rolling. Instead, we're arguing about Obama's idiotic comments. Which, yes, are going to hurt him going forward, unless he can pull a rabbit out of his hat, which, actually he managed with the Wright debacle.

Apr. 14 2008 11:43 AM
jh

At least when I mock religious folk, I can do so from a consistent agnostic place. :)

On a more serious note, he IS insulting some members of my own family. How does he expect these kinds of people to respect his own controversial religious tendencies if he can't respect theirs?

Apr. 14 2008 11:42 AM
Meryl from Brooklyn NY

Come on people -

Does this make any difference given that the other choice is going to be McCain? There are things I don't love about Obama but PLEEEEEASE! Just support the man. And furthermore he makes a perfectly valid point. I am a middle class educated urban liberal and I feel bitter too!

Apr. 14 2008 11:42 AM
Christopher Deignan from Middle Village, Queens

This media buzz over a seemingly poor choice of words by Obama is such nonsense. Don't we have better things to talk about? Will they scrap the obscenely wasteful Star Wars program? What are the detail of their long term energy program for this country? How are they going to save Social Security? What will either candidate do to address the national debt? What about the privatization of war were death can equal profits? For crying out loud, can we please talk about the issues?

Apr. 14 2008 11:42 AM
Kurt Zahner from Westcchester

Dictionary Definition

2 (of people or their feelings or behavior) angry, hurt, or resentful because of one's bad experiences or a sense of unjust treatment : I don't feel jealous or bitter.

Apr. 14 2008 11:41 AM
Kate from NYC

Yes! People are totally out of touch with themselves, or downright kidding themselves, and Obama called them on it, spoke the truth, and the truth hurts! They can't deal! What a total non-issue....

Apr. 14 2008 11:41 AM
Erin from Manhattan

Both statements are absolutely true. Bill Clinton's are even stronger because they turn it on the Republicans. It's too bad the two democrats are so embattled with each other, that a strong argument against the republicans can turn into a divisive bloodletting between the democrats!

Instead of jumping on Obama, Hillary could have augmented his statement by adding Bill's quote and turning it on McCain. She could still look strong without damaging Obama once again. If only!

Apr. 14 2008 11:41 AM
Ann Herpel from brooklyn

Being a midwesterner from one of those towns that have lost jobs and also having lived in small towns in Tennessee and South Carolina, I can say that Obama's comment sounds elitist and privileged. He demonstrated that he fails to understand the very people that he claims he will bring together. Furthermore, I remember that quote from Bill Clinton in 1991, and I don't think the two quotes warrant comparison. Bill Clinton, a product of the Southern culture that Obama lacks understanding about, was right on target beause he revealed the very political strategy that had been dividing white Southern voters for decades. He is not deriding those voters, as Obama did in his comment. He is simply explaining a political truth that those who know that culture and that group of people would understand. Clinton did not mention anything about religion or guns or hating people that are not like this. Perhaps some Obama supporters will read between the lines and think that Clinton was saying that but he wasn't. Finally, dragging up old quotes from Bill Clinton make the Obama supporters look like whiners. Obama is not running against Bill Clinton--perhaps they have forgotten that. And don't think this quote is not going to reappear when John McCain's campaign wants to use it against Obama if he wins the democratic nomination.

Apr. 14 2008 11:41 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

We - cannot - get along... this just isn't working. Let's agree to disagree and go our separate ways. Why should one half of the country force their values on another half of the country every four years?

Secession, people. It's time to part ways.

Apr. 14 2008 11:41 AM
Anonymous from NY

Oh this caller makes me want to throw up. He wasn't attacking your family, good god woman, he didn't point a finger at you personally. Oh, those sophisticated urbane EDUCATED fancy-pants hoity-toity creatures in San Francisco! As if the backwater uneducated faith-based simpletons are so much better. Give me a break...

Apr. 14 2008 11:40 AM
hjs from 11211

no one wants the hear the truth.
the ship is sinking. get your life vest on before it's too late!!

and hold on for dear life

Apr. 14 2008 11:39 AM
Joe Corrao from Brooklyn

way to shill for Obama Brian...

Apr. 14 2008 11:39 AM
antonio from park slope

I guess from the last two callers they are...

Apr. 14 2008 11:39 AM
Katie from Forest Hills

Obama really shot himself in the foot with this one. He will lose support for this. Many are up in arms!

Apr. 14 2008 11:39 AM
jh

He is right (and I grew up in these areas). However, like other correct statements you refrain from saying out of politeness, you DO NOT say this on the campaign trail. Why Democrats will never learn to refrain to publicly demonstrate this elitism baffles me.

I wouldn't be quite as bothered by the statement but isn't his request that we respect his embrace of Rev. Wright also a consequence of "clinging to religion?"

Apr. 14 2008 11:39 AM
Chris O from New York

I am trying to get my head around how the media can make a big deal out of this. Did Obama "dis" those working class whites? Is this about being "dissed"? Even as he expresses respect, sympathy and understanding for the people he is dissing? How is this happening? What (political) reality am I existing in?

Apr. 14 2008 11:38 AM
Mike from Brooklyn

He's equating relgion, guns, anti-immigrant sentiment, and anti-trade sentiment. Not only that but he's saying they're part of some sort of pathology that needs to be cured. Can't anyone see why that would be offensive to middle-americans?

Apr. 14 2008 11:37 AM
rick from Brooklyn

Obama's comments are absolutely correct, but that doesn't mean that you going saying them in public. her has already admitted that he said them in the wrong way, particularly using the word "cling". of course it matters that Obama himself goes to church. I also think that trade agreements are wrong headed in any case, and I hope that Obama feels the same way.

HRC and friends are hypocrites and opportunists as usual.

Apr. 14 2008 11:37 AM
a woman from manhattan

The problem with what Obama said is not what he said! It's what the Clinton camp made of it! They twisted his words, and tried to portray him as an elitist who thinks he' above the working class! (when that's exactly what Hillary is, trying to fool the working class by drinking whisky in a bar as if she were their buddy)

Apr. 14 2008 11:37 AM
Alex from Brooklyn

The difference between the 2 comments is that Obama's puts the blame on the "Reagan Democrats" for appreciating guns, religion, and patriotism.

Clinton critiques a cynical Republican tactic not the voter.

Apr. 14 2008 11:37 AM
Robert from NYC

Interesting, they are only different in the words they use and I guess I have to say Clintons were more well-chosen BUT the context is very similar. Bravo for this, Brian.
And yes, Antonio, Americans are retarded.

Apr. 14 2008 11:35 AM
Jose from Queens

Why is the Obama campaign letting Clinton get away with swift-boating him as an elitist?
She's the one who grew up in a wealthy Republican family. She made her living defending corporations. She's been living in governor's mansions, the white-house, now Washington.
It just seems like a no-brainer for the Obama campaign to point out these inconsistencies.

Apr. 14 2008 11:35 AM
RCTB from Westchester

Obama is not saying that ALL people with religious views or political opinions are bitter, etc. but rather that SOME bitter and frustrated voters use religious views or political views as a crutch.

Of course the Obama/Clinton remarks are equivalent, and Clinton knows this; she didn't fail logic at Yale.

Apr. 14 2008 11:34 AM
Chris O from New York

Yes antonio #1, america is that retarded. I don't know how it came to this.

Apr. 14 2008 11:34 AM
Desiree from Park Slope

Regarding senator Obama's comments:
It seems like folks are more offended that he said it out loud then they are surprised at the idea that folks would be bitter and that the bitterness would lead them to intolerance towards immigrant workers, anger at international trade agreements and resentment towards the government.

I think anyone who sits in a diner in new york in any neighborhood long enough will here exactly those comments (you don't have to travel to a small town). Not to mentions just listening to working class folks interviewed on television and radio.

People turn to religion during difficult times and they can become resentful to anyone outside of their community and they think things like walls along the us border will help their economic situation

Apr. 14 2008 11:32 AM
RCTB from Westchester

Obama is not saying that everyone (i.e., ALL people with religious views or political opinions are bitter, etc. but rather that SOMEe bitter and frustrated voters use religious views or political views as a crutch.

Clinton knows this; she didn't fail logic at Yale.

Apr. 14 2008 11:32 AM
Alice Crozier from Hoboken, NJ

Whether or not Bill Clinton, or Hillary, or anyone said something similar about small town bitterness, Obama can not afford to come across as arrogant, elitist, privileged. The man who would bring us together, has to be one of us. His whole message is compromised by the San Francisco comment.

Apr. 14 2008 11:31 AM
antonio from park slope

Isn't this like the ronald reagan comment Obama made? He said one thing and the ditto heads and corporate media outlets take it and hope they can use it for a couple days..

come on america are you that retarded?

Apr. 14 2008 11:31 AM

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