Obama on Guns, God, and Hate in Rural America

Barack Obama’s foray into pop psychology, trying to explain why rural Pennsylvanians aren’t warming to him and are asking him to talk more about patriotism, is causing quite the stir in the blogosphere.

“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 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.”

The complete transcript of these remarks is available at The Page. Reading them in context does not change their meaning.

Not surprisingly, both Hillary Clinton and John McCain quickly pounced.

“Barack Obama apparently believes that for Americans less privileged than him, religion is an economic-based and not faith-based condition,” Mark Salter, a senior campaign adviser for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., tells ABC News. “It is hardly news that Senator Obama’s ‘new’ approach to politics is based on the presumption that voters are easily fooled,” Salter continues, “but the arrogance and elitism he shows here is truly astonishing, and very revealing about how he would govern this country.”


In Philly, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, implies that Obama “looks down on” these small town Pennsylvanians. “I saw in the media it’s being reported that my opponent said that the people of Pennsylvania who faced hard times are bitter,” Clinton said this afternoon. “Well, that’s not my experience. As I travel around Pennsylvania, I meet people who are resilient, who are optimistic, who are positive, who are rolling up their sleeves. They are working hard everyday for a better future, for themselves and their children.

“Pennsylvanians don’t need a president who looks down on them, they need a president who stands up for them, who fights for them, who works hard for your futures, your jobs, your families.”

John Hinderaker asks, “Is Obama’s campaign over? ” He answers himself: “It may be. I don’t see how anyone known to have uttered these words can be elected President.”

Andrew Sullivan won’t go that far but concedes these were “not the most felicitously phrased” remarks.

You can see the point he is trying to make – it’s the Thomas Frank argument – and you can argue about its merits, back and forth. I don’t think it’s meant pejoratively about the blue collar workers Obama is trying to engage. But the context of these remarks is political gold for McCain and Clinton. Especially Clinton. You will hear these words on Fox News for a very, very long time.

Tom Maguire believes “This ices the Wright cake – I don’t think Hillary can stop him, but Obama is not electable.”

Isaac Chotiner is more low key, simply noting, “this is not the story [Obama] needs ten days before Pennsylvania.”

Mickey Kaus points out an amusing irony: “Isn’t Obama the one who has been clinging to religion lately? Does he cling to his religion for authentic reasons while those poor Pennsylvania slobs cling to it as a way to ‘explain their frustrations’?”

Obama stands by his remarks and doubles down. Here’s video of his response:

The key ‘graphs:

“And for 25, 30 years Democrats and Republicans have come before them and said we’re going to make your community better. We’re going to make it right and nothing ever happens. And of course they’re bitter. Of course they’re frustrated. You would be too. In fact many of you are. Because the same thing has happened here in Indiana. The same thing happened across the border in Decatur. The same thing has happened all across the country. Nobody is looking out for you. Nobody is thinking about you. And so people end up- they don’t vote on economic issues because they don’t expect anybody’s going to help them. So people end up, you know, voting on issues like guns, and are they going to have the right to bear arms. They vote on issues like gay marriage. And they take refuge in their faith and their community and their families and things they can count on. But they don’t believe they can count on Washington. So I made this statement– so, here’s what rich. Senator Clinton says ‘No, I don’t think that people are bitter in Pennsylvania. You know, I think Barack’s being condescending.’ John McCain says, ‘Oh, how could he say that? How could he say people are bitter? You know, he’s obviously out of touch with people.’

“Out of touch? Out of touch? I mean, John McCain—it took him three tries to finally figure out that the home foreclosure crisis was a problem and to come up with a plan for it, and he’s saying I’m out of touch? Senator Clinton voted for a credit card-sponsored bankruptcy bill that made it harder for people to get out of debt after taking money from the financial services companies, and she says I’m out of touch? No, 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. People are fed-up. They’re angry and they’re frustrated and they’re bitter. And they want to see a change in Washington and that’s why I’m running for President of the United States of America.”

He’s certainly right that a lot of people are bitter and angry. And, frankly, he’s right that the same people are the ones who are most bitter about illegal immigration and most likely to own rifles and shotguns and go to church.

Marc Ambinder is exactly right here:

We’re dealing tonight with a classic Kinsleyian “gaffe,” where a candidate says what he means and then is forced to account for it. Let’s separate, for the moment, the politics of Obama’s words from the argument he is making.


The substance of what Obama said has the makings of a very good Firing Line broadcast. (Alas…)

The elite media and most Democrats will say… “yeah.. .So? Obama is simply describing world as we know it.” His opponents and people who are inclined to view Obama as an elitist will say, “he is dismissing the culture and religion of working class whites.”

Indeed, the responses to Obama’s words have proven (to Obama allies) a part of his argument. Conservatives are already portraying Obama as liberal, elite, out of touch with the values of ordinary Americans — exactly the type of legerdemain that Obama was pointing to.

So there’s a debate to be had about substance.

But the politics are unquestionably dangerous for a candidate whose appeal depends on him transcending traditional political adjectives like “liberal” or “elite.”

Despite his working class upbringing, Obama’s hyperconfidence sometimes translates as holier-than-thou, elitist, aristocratic, Dukakis-esque. Republicans know that these attributes aren’t popular in middle America, so they will use every opportunity to remind independents and moderates about them.

John Podhoretz reminds us that this was absolutely predictable: “Well, it has finally happened. Barack Obama has done what Democratic candidates for president invariably do — he has revealed the profound sense of unearned superiority that is the sad and persistent hallmark of contemporary liberalism.”

Despite the mythology that the Republicans are “the party of the rich,” they have, since at least Dwight Eisenhower, nominated presidential candidates who understand and have appeal to rural America. While the Democrats’ base includes some of the poorest Americans, they have been nominating mostly big city wonks since, oh, Woodrow Wilson. (The two notable exceptions, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, did quite well with Middle America.) And that reflects in their attitudes on the campaign trail.

Class bias works both ways. Urban elites tend to view rural America, especially Southerners, as a bunch of yahoos. Rural Americans, meanwhile, think big city types are elitist snobs who don’t love America. There are similar resentments between rich and poor, educated and not, and even Ivy League -State College. In private gatherings, where people think they are among the like-minded, one hears shocking bigotry along those lines.

There’s a huge cultural divide that’s been with us since well before (and, indeed, was a major factor in causing) the Civil War. Great national crises, like World War II and the 9/11 attacks, bridge those divides but only temporarily. And the permanent campaign that has characterized our politics in recent years continues to poke a stick at these wounds.

Obama will survive these remarks, although they’ll likely cost him any chance at rallying to win Pennsylvania. He’s still the odds-on favorite for the Democratic nomination. But it’s the hope that something like this or the Wright brouhaha will take away his aura that explains why Hillary Clinton continues to hang around.

Ed Morrissey says that, “Only a rookie would make a colossal blunder like calling Midwestern, small-town voters a bunch of bigoted, overly religious gun nuts. Rookies should not run for President.” While I wouldn’t go that far, Ed’s at least aiming in the right direction.

The more we learn about Obama, the less saintly he appears. That was inevitable, of course; he’s just a man. But he’s had a huge advantage coming into this race as simultaneously a superstar and a virtual unknown. He’s been able to inspire people with his rhetoric while being sufficiently vague that those who “hope” for “change” could paint their own picture and have him be just the change they were hoping for. As the long campaign forces him to reveal more of himself, though, it’ll be far easier to campaign against him.

It’s too bad that John Mellencamp has forbidden the McCain campaign to use his songs. “Small Town,” which Maguire evokes in his post title, both reinforces and rebuts Obama’s comments.

Here’s video of him performing it, ironically enough, at the 2004 Democratic Convention:

Key lyrics:

All my friends are so small town
My parents live in the same small town
My job is so small town
Provides little opportunity

Educated in a small town
Taught the fear of Jesus in a small town
Used to daydream in that small town
Another boring romantic that’s me


No I cannot forget where it is that I come from
I cannot forget the people who love me
Yeah, I can be myself here in this small town
And people let me be just what I want to be

Got nothing against a big town
Still hayseed enough to say
Look who’s in the big town
But my bed is in a small town
Oh, and that’s good enough for me

That pretty much covers it, doesn’t it?

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, 2008 Election, Blogosphere, Borders and Immigration, Guns and Gun Control, LGBTQ Issues, Religion, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. glasnost says:

    This is a Beltway story. America will never notice, let alone care.

    All I will say about it is that Barack needs to work on shaping the media cycle. There are bad patterns developing – from Wright to bowling to this – of frenzy over BS. While this is an inherently uninteresting story, it would be a good idea to change this dynamic.

  2. James Joyner says:

    This is a Beltway story. America will never notice, let alone care.

    The rival campaigns will make sure they notice. It think the explanation is plausible enough that it’s not all that serious. But each of these things chips away at Obama’s “all things to all people” appeal.

  3. Michael says:

    The rival campaigns will make sure they notice. It think the explanation is plausible enough that it’s not all that serious. But each of these things chips away at Obama’s “all things to all people” appeal.

    Go ahead and let McCain and Hillary say that small town people are happy with their current economic situation. Let them say that small town people don’t cling to God when everything else is failing them.

    I haven’t heard any small town folks crying out about Obama’s elitism (at least not about these comments), so I’m not so sure he’s the one who is out of touch on this. I live in a relatively small town, and people here do turn to religion when times get bad, they do like their second amendment rights, and they are bitter. This reminds me of Howard Dean’s “gun rack” republican statement that had everyone complaining about his elitism _except_ those republicans with gun racks in their trucks, it made them stop and consider him, even if just for a moment.

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    I haven’t heard any small town folks crying out about Obama’s elitism

    It’s quite true that if you don’t look you won’t find. But if you do look there’s plenty of reaction. Try searching for the HuffPost URL of the story in Technorati. There’s plenty of reactions from small-town folks. I don’t know that any of those responding negatively were favorably disposed towards Obama before his statements. Time will tell if this has any significance or not.

    However, contrary to what some folks seem to think these days the general election in Novemeber, like the last four elections, is going to be very, very close. Consequently, alienating even small numbers of voters probably isn’t a good idea.

  5. However, contrary to what some folks seem to think these days the general election in Novemeber, like the last four elections, is going to be very, very close. Consequently, alienating even small numbers of voters probably isn’t a good idea.

    I think that at the end of the day the popular vote will be close, but I am still not so sure that the electoral vote will be especially close (of course, the paraphrase an ex-president, it depends on what the meaning of the word “close” is).

    I am not, btw, predicting a landslide, but I find it quite possible that states like Ohio and Florida could go Democratic this cycle, and that would create, even if the vote is close in both states, a substantial win for the Dems.

  6. Steve Plunk says:

    This is one of those statements the McCain campaign will put in the bank and save for a rainy day. Incredibly stupid thing to say and stupid in so many ways.

  7. Dave Schuler says:

    I find it quite possible that states like Ohio and Florida could go Democratic this cycle, and that would create, even if the vote is close in both states, a substantial win for the Dems.

    When all is said and done are there any states like Ohio and Florida? 😉

    I agree with you, Steven, however, I think that if the Democrats take Ohio and Florida for granted, they’ll lose. I think that both parties will have to fight for practically each and every electoral vote this time around. Are there solid states? Sure. For both parties. But there are a lot of states in play and “in play” means just that, not a lock for the Democrats.

  8. yetanotherjohn says:

    Campaign prediction.

    When Obama’s words are played back this fall “I don’t think my church is controversial” and this small town rube gafe, the left will claim Obama is being ‘swiftboated’. How dare people use the actual words of the candidate to attack him.

    What is really fun is watching the liberals try to defend this. It reminds me of the feminists defending Bill after Monica. Ahh. The tolerance of the left who seek diversity in all things as long as it corresponds to their limited bigoted world.

  9. Dan Spencer says:

    I was born and raised in flyover country. In my case, it was a rural agricultural community in Northern California. The small town America I know may cling to guns and religion, but it sure as hell isn’t out of bitterness. No, my small town America clings to guns and religion because of tradition. It’s the way we were ‘raised. We are a self-reliant folk. We don’t look to, nor do we expect, the government to coddle us or solve every problem that some Liberal/Progressive elitist politician can identify. Actually, like President Reagan, we tend to think government is more often the problem. The more we can keep the government out of lives, the better off we are.

    I resent Obama’s assertion that us country folk suffer from “antipathy” toward others. I find it personally offensive. I was raised to respect others and was taught that I should strive, like God, to be “no respecter of persons.” I’ve always tried to do that, and so do the small town folk I know.

  10. BETTY says:

    I cling to my religion in good times and in bad that is something Obama wouldnt know anything about
    Is he implying that people of faith are bitter??
    Just because he and his wife MO wouldnt know christianity if it hit them in the face doesnt mean that if we as christians keep are faith close dit doesnt make us stupid
    I agree that Bo never thought these words would get any further than his no media allowed fund raiser guess what Bo you arent as smart as you think you are BUSTED

  11. floyd says:

    As his remarks imply…..
    Obama is just what he appears to the discerning eye… A condescending, arrogant, elitist who, like all left wingers, would transform America into a “benevolent plantation”, and American citizens into bureaucratic chattel.

  12. Mark says:

    I grew up in Oklahoma, amongst a great many people who clung, quite intolerantly, to guns, religion, and prejudice. I have a vivid memory, as a young man, sitting in a restaurant just after MLK Day became a national holiday. 3 old “small towners” were chatting a table away from me, and one of them says of the issue, “Nothin’ but a bunch of lazy hippies giving a n_____ a holiday so they can take a day off.” This is the “small town” you get to see when you’re an “insider”.

    The fact that the Republicans have created a solid majority out of the “deep South” with voters who vote against their own economic interests provides sufficient insight into that reality. They lend a voice to these divisive and visceral interests while pursuing policy that goes, essentially, unnoticed by those voters in support of big business and the wealthy connected to it.

    I, however, am not a politician. I don’t have to connect with the people who “lead with their gut”–who comprise John Cougar’s over-idealized vision of “small town”. Obama should, and must, know better. He needs to adjust his lexicon and campaign in the folksy style in which he is quite comfortable when he lets his guard down. If not, nothin’ makes the provincial more defensive, more contemptuous, than “uppity college boys talkin’ down to them.” I think, in this way, HRC does understand “small town America” better than Obama–in the same way that the Republicans do.

  13. Our Paul says:

    Nice round up James, with the expected I, and my religion have been disrespected crowed fulminating in the comment section. When your whole game plan on all major issues (health care, Iraq, income mal-distribution, rising national debt, impending depression etc.) is to “stay the course”, what other recourse is their than to shoot the messenger?

    My take: The Dark Side has given Obama a light sword to illuminate the rest of his campaign. Perhaps Leonard Cohen said it best. http://www.talkleft.com/story/2008/3/22/12730/5748

  14. SB in Iowa says:

    As someone living in Iowa, I can ensure you that people here DID notice the story and are mad for a lot of reasons.
    First, Obama implies that “clinging to God” and scapegoating foreigners are some kind of equivalent behavior. I’m Jewish, but am surrounding by a majority of devout Christians, and they don’t “cling to God” out of frustration (which seems to me like a sort of Marxist interpretation of religion). They are religious because they feel they have a relationship of grace and love with God. They are *happy* people. Believe it or not, people can be happy without being rich or materialistic!!!
    The notion that people in small towns are *rubes* who turn to religion as an opiate, or to populist scapegoating is extremely insulting.
    Secondly, with respect to the gun comment: like it or not, we have the Second Amendment. If Obama wants to be president, he must defend the Constitution, which means he has to defend the Second Amendment. Believers in the Second Amendment are not the stereotypes that people like Michael Moore make them out to be (…ok, a few are). But most are just libertarians, who don’t want the government to tell them what to do with their personal space…much as a woman does not want the government to tell her what to do with her body. Obviously, social policy issues surrounding firearms differ from urban to rural settings. But the people in my small, college town in Iowa believe in legalized marijuana, in women’s choice, AND in the right to bear firearms. They don’t use the second amendment to “express frustration” at anyone.
    Third, regarding Obama’s reference to “antipathy” to foreigners or immigrants: I am an immigrant from Latin America living in Iowa. I personally have never experienced any hostility. In some of the very small towns in this state (towns that up until a few years ago had populations of less than a couple of thousand, or even less than 900), almost overnight (well, in the course of a couple of years) these towns have absorbed tens of thousands of illegal immigrants from Mexico and El Salvador. Imagine living in a town of 900 people (all of whom have lived there for many generations) and one day 9000 people from El Salvador or Mexico move in. Even so, people in these towns are NOT scapegoating foreigners for any economic troubles they’ve been experiencing on account of the recession. But, they are legitimately experiencing a tremendous culture shock that perhaps someone who lives in a large city does not appreciate. When 75,000 immigrants arrive to a city of a couple million, there is enough housing and job opportunities to absorb them. But in towns that are smaller than a lot of urban high schools, a huge and sudden influx of immigrants leads to culture shock among the residents because their world is literally disappeared. So, I think that while it is good to be cautious about xenophobia, Obama should not paint small town Midwesterners as ignorant, rednecks who blame foreigners for everything. In my small town Midwest high school, there were over 48 nationalities represented. Being from a small town does not mean you are provincial; there are many cosmopolitan people here. They just prefer a non-materialistic lifestyle.

  15. Raven Girl Rocks says:

    John Mellencamp – Small Town
    Barack Obama 08!

  16. Grewgills says:

    Are you planning on posting the same cut and paste post in every comment thread where Obama is mentioned? This is at least twice you have done so without responding to the substance of the post.

  17. Doole Allen says:

    They call it the Rust Belt for a reason. The manufacturing jobs left there DECADES ago and haven’t been replaced by anything. People have come from Washington saying the same old same old and usually forget to do anything or purposely don’t do anything. You think the people there aren’t bitter? Yes, they’re hard working and want to get ahead but being lied to so much, anyone would be angry and frustrated.
    I say screw the super well-off “elites” with tons of Washington “experience.”

  18. Doole Allen says:

    McCain is super-rich. His wife is worth well over a 100 million. McCain finished 50 years ago 894th out of 899 at the Naval Academy. I think the only reason he went into the military was his grandfather was a four star general as was his father. Man… 894th out of 899.

  19. jeff b says:

    If I collected all the blog posts from the past year by mental midgets like John Hinderaker declaring the Obama campaign to be over, I could bind it and sell it as a novelty book. Give me a break. Obama is speaking directly to the heart of the heartland here, explaining with nuance his position to people who, for decades, have been tricked into voting against their own self-interest by the biggest liars America has to offer.

    When someone loses their job to offshoring, you don’t call that person “hard working” you call that person “pissed off”. Obama is on the right side of this emotional issue. When Hillary calls you “resilient”, that just means she intends to continue abusing you for the foreseeable future.

  20. jainphx says:

    Obama’s veneer of change is wearing off, the only thing left will be his racism. This guy is fooling a lot of people that can’t or won’t think for them selves.

  21. Roger says:

    Why all the reporting on only “Bitter”?

    What did Obama mean in the other remarks? Who is “They” & “You”, Who is “We’ll” ?

    Give me in your own words what he was trying to say with these statements.

    1. white working-class don’t wanna work,

    2. What they wanna hear is — so,

    we’ll give you talking points,

    3. “They” get bitter,

    4. “They” cling to guns,

    5. “They” cling to Religion,

    6. “They” cling to antipathy to people who aren’t like them,

    7. “They” cling to anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

    8. it’s sort of a race thing.

    What did he mean on all 8 not just bitter?

  22. Small Town Kentuckian says:

    Speaking as a man who grew up in a town of a few thousand on the Kentucky-Tennessee border I have to say that Obama is right! Replace the word “god” with “fundamentalism” and he is even more correct. This comment by Obama actually made me think he had the guts to make the hard observations, and encourages me to vote for him.

  23. Panola says:

    I find it somewhat ironic that Barack would criticize rural America for having “antipathy to people who aren’t like them” by using antipathy to describe people who aren’t like him.

    I find it somewhat ironic that Barack would criticize rural America for their anti-trade sentiment when he claims to be NAFTA’s strongest opponent.

    I find it somewhat ironic that Barack would criticize rural America for clinging to their religion during troubled times while he clings to his pastor “What I value most about Pastor Wright is not his day-to-day political advice,” Obama said. “He’s much more of a sounding board for me to make sure that I am speaking as truthfully about what I believe as possible and that I’m not losing myself in some of the hype and hoopla and stress that’s involved in national politics.”

    I find it somewhat ironic that Barack would criticize rural America for clinging to their legal guns used on the farm or for hunting and family protection while ignoring illegal urban guns used to commit crimes.

    I find it disgusting that Barack would claim that rural America is “anti-immigrant” when he knows full well that they’re actually anti-Illegal immigrant and want secure borders just like Barack does.

  24. Tom says:

    Small Town Kentuckian –

    What if John McCain had said something like this:

    “They don’t take responsibility for their children, 70 percent of them are born illegitimate, more than half never graduate from high school, they are disproportionately responsible for violent crime….they cling to government handouts, drugs and a misplaced sense of victimization and entitlement. They blame the majority for their condition and lot in life. They blame the white boogeyman of racism to explain away their failures”

    Would McCain earn your respect for making the “hard observations”?

    I didn’t think so. Go crawl back into your hole.

  25. ronnor says:

    For being such a smart man and anti-gunner he sure shot himself a big hole in his left leaning foot. He and the “Rev. God damn Wright” have given Hillary just the edge that she has been looking for; now if she can just shut up Bill and stop lying she’ll be a shoo-in.

  26. anjin-san says:

    Incredibly stupid thing to say and stupid in so many ways.

    Definitely not Obama’s finest hour, but if this is what McCain has in the bank, I can’t wait for the general. The list of McCain’s stupid, incorrect and nonsensical remarks “in the bank” resembles Ft. Knox.

    Wonder how McCain’s 2006 statement on Iraq will play?

    MCCAIN: If you talk to most military experts, we’re in a critical and crucial time. We’re either going to lose this thing or win this thing within the next several months.

    Yea, this guy has passed the commander in chief threshold…

  27. lunacy says:

    “Obama….the boy who put the ‘ninny’ back in ‘pickaninny'”


    Or is he the ninny who took the ‘atta’ out of ‘attaboy’?

  28. Eilers Ellison says:

    That comment by “Robbins Mitchell” (“Obama….the boy who put the ‘ninny’ back in ‘pickaninny'”) is appearing on every blog that covers this story that accepts comments. I suspect an organized effort to tar Obama critics as racists.

    Alternatively, Robbins Mitchell is a tireless racist himself. Either way, a jerk.

  29. Bithead says:

    What Obama is commenting on, in the end, is the lack of trust in government held by such people as he specifies. Know what? He’s correct.

    What he doesn’t tell us though, is that it’s people like himself and Hillary Clinton, and the Democrats in Congress who engender that mistrust.

    The disturbing thing about his statements is that he considers trust in government a good thing.

  30. tbrosz says:

    Maybe the real problem is a culture and education system that has trained Americans for at least two generations that they must turn to Washington for any problems they have. Of course, under those conditions, “nothing changing” becomes equivalent to “Washington doing nothing.”

    Has anyone even asked Obama exactly HOW the President would bring manufacturing back to the rural U.S.? Does he think this problem just showed up in the past eight years?

  31. anjin-san says:

    Comeon Bit, forget about Obama. Tell us again about Arab terrorists in Iran…

  32. CJ says:

    Despite his working class upbringing, Obama’s hyperconfidence sometimes translates as holier-than-thou, elitist, aristocratic, Dukakis-esque. (Marc Ambinder)
    This writer hasn’t done his homework. Obama went to the most expensive and prestigious private school in Hawaii, and then to Columbia and Harvard Law School. His spaced-out mother was obviously subsidized by his grandparents (grandmother a bank executive, grandfather a furniture store owner). Obama has never been to an American public school, never lived in a working-class neighborhood, and never operated outside the liberal academic bubble.

  33. davod says:

    Most commentators miss the point.

    Obama said this at a fund raiser in Billionaires Row in California, in the house of a Trust Fund Baby, in a street where four out of six of the homeowners are trust fund babies.

  34. MommaKat says:

    O! M! G!

    I can’t believe the fallout, the angry reactions. He did NOT trash small town Americans. He did NOT criticize them for turning to God, or to issues on gun rights. He pointed out a blatantly obvious truth, that the issues that have driven this country in recent elections – gun rights, gay marriage, religious rights, etc. – are the issues people turn to when the true priority issues regarding economics and one’s ability to survive remain ignored. He pointed out that when small town American’s have tried for decades to voice concern and effect change, it is not surprising that we become antipathetic, that – in our bitterness – we might begrudge those who are different, or who we’re told come here illegally and take ‘our’ jobs. His words were not, perhaps, the most eloquent – but they were true. We’ve been made promises over and over, we’ve been lied to. We’re sick of it, and for many of us, it almost doesn’t feel worth fighting anymore. There’s these other issues though, and main stream media and politicians keep putting them on our plates, so we’ll get involved and caught up in those, because if we can’t change the economy problems that are slowly killing us – we NEED something to turn to. All Obama said is that he can understand that, and he can understand why maybe we don’t trust that he’s telling the truth when he says he cares.

    Clinton, McCain, the media – they can all try to spin these words however they want, I heard and see the painful truth. I live in small town America, and it’s hard to watch your town slowly die out. Thing is, it’s not so slow anymore, things are moving faster, getting worse faster, and all that time we spent fighting for our ‘rights’, it didn’t help fix the real problems. So, most of us, we’re thinking it’s time to take a risk in believing in someone again. And while that’s a hard pill to swallow, he doesn’t pretend he can do it alone, he says we have to get involved in making things better. Well, hmmm, I trust myself, I trust my community -we’ve been in it together for the long haul.

    This is a candidate who invites us to think, to consider the real issues, and to believe we CAN do something about them. Don’t let mainstream media tell you what those words meant, and yes the full context DOES matter. Did you take the time to read them?

  35. Grewgills says:

    Obama went to the most expensive and prestigious private school in Hawaii

    Actually HPA is the most expensive (add boarding and the price leaps even higher), though Punahou is among the priciest and most prestigous high schools in HI and usually has quite a good football team. Iolani, Mid-Pac, and Damien are right up there with Punahou on Oahu (not much difference in prestige or price).

  36. Carlos says:

    The reaction to Obama’s small town words is very easy to explain. If you see an ugly girl and call her ugly, you may be correct in your observation but it still hurts her feelings when you say it. Where’s your heart Obama? In his defense of what he said, he only explains the bitter phrase, he should also explain the rest of his phrases such as turning to religion and guns. In my small town of 200 people they were turning to church long before the “rust belt” and were using guns to procure something for the dinner table. While some of the things he said are partially true, saying them in an elite part of California to his elitist high roller friends is very bothersome. It reminds me of when I was a poor kid in school because of a mine accident to my Father and a rich kid who befriended me, and then laughed about the holes in my clothing with his real friends behind my back.

  37. Thomas Jackson says:

    So Osama was telling like it is in his world, a world that is made up of Communists, academics, and bigots. I mean for a man who callings to a church that preaches a mutant form of religion based on race hatred he manages to demonstrate a morbid frustration that probably explains his resentment against the capitalist system. This is why he clings to engaging in unending class warfare rhetoric and vomiting forth the same tired bromides one hears from that old Marxist professor who managed to drive all his econ students into a coma.

    Just another elitist idiot tailoring his speech for each audience and thinking no one will notice.And I used to think his wife was the foulest thing on earth.

  38. Hank Roth says:

    There is a lot that could be said here, like why didn’t Obama leave his church during the 20 years he went there? Why did he subject his children to listen to that hate speech? But, we already know the answer.

    And he is condescending. Does he really think the only reason people “cling” to their guns is because of bitterness? I have my guns because the Constitution gives me the right to have them and protect my family in good times and in bad times. His remarks suggest he does not appreciate the extent to which Americans will go to keep their guns or why they believe they should have them. — It is not so they can knock over a gas station. The only reasonable conclusion anyone should take from this is Obama is reflecting a feeling that he has and some Blacks may have about “clinging” to guns and it has little to do with the Second Amendment. He never mentioned hunting because it isn’t about hunting, it is about hurting people. It is about taking what they want and think they deserve. And that is why some of the rest of us keep guns, not because we’re bitter, but because someone may try to harm our families and take what is ours.

    He also insults Americans in “small towns” and elsewhere, who may “cling to religion.” Does this tell us something about his own attitude toward religion? It raises and unmasks the question on a lot of people’s minds. Is he really a Christian or did some of the Islam taught to him as a child by his father (and stepfather), during his most formidable years influence his current religious views?

    And it raises another question. Does he really think people are anti-immigrant only because they are bitter about the economy or concerned more about undocumented immigrants having access to resources denied to “small town Americans,” as well as all naturalized and born Americans, unfairly?

    Obama has made misstatements which he is now defending. He says he knows why people are bitter. I’m annoyed at his elitism and his condescension and skewed dysfunctional understanding about Americans because the media has never adequately vetted him. Now the truth is being revealed quite by accident and it may be too late. If Obama becomes the nominee, we will all be in a lot of trouble. The real Obama has an anti-progressive-regressive-admiration for Republican governance and an elitist and privileged perspective which is not shared with most Americans. It is true Obama would be transformative – though the transformation would be in the wrong direction.

    Continued at http://pnews.org/ArT/ZuLu/TranS.shtml

  39. Susan Crowell says:

    I am not voting for Obama, missing Edwards and a few others, and I have been dismayed at the kind of hits Hillary Clinton has taken, having grown to appreciate what she has achieved. On the other hand, I am particularly sensitive as a ruralite, so I looked up definitions of “bitter.” Has anyone else looked the word up? There is a lot of validity to Obama’s statement. The imagery or “pop psychology”, as one pundit put it, I personally could do without, but there is truth there.

  40. Hank Roth says:

    To Susan:

    This could damage his campaign if others (not Hillary) ask the right questions. If it is pointed out that he attributes _heuristic emotional responses_ to working people implying they are incapable of reasoned thinking, this is very insulting. It is a slap in the face. I’m offended. His behind closed doors remarks also most definitely opens up the question about his own religious views, whether or not he is a Christian. I don’t think he is. It is more typical of a Muslim to make those connections. They believe Islam is a religion of joy. I’ve heard it enough and I’m sure you have also. I guess there is a certain pleasure for them from Jihad. And everyone else is an infidel, including Christians in PA, who “cling” to Christian religion when they’re bitter. I don’t think this is a trivial matter but it does raise many questions about Obama, not least of which is whether or not he is really a Christian or a Muslim?

  41. Bonnie says:


  42. Hank Roth says:

    OK Bonnie:

    No Hugs For Grandma

    And Obama has proved he is no unifier. It would have been more unifying to hug his grandmother and renounce his minister. But for the 20 years Jeramiah Wright was his minister he never once rejected his sermons. He sat there and listened to them. Saying he didn’t hear them one day and then admitting he did a few days later is an admission he lied. We don’t need anymore liars – though it is hard these days to find a politician who doesn’t lie. However, once caught, he ought to go. Why would Obama think he is more important than the job of President?

    He has proved that words like “change” and “hope” are mere words and being “present” during 130 votes in the Illinois state legislature is not a record which qualifies him to be President.

    It is time for Obama to concede he is tearing the Democratic Party apart and can’t win the general election. He should give it up.

    Also see http://pnews.org/crypt/
    for more truth about Obama

  43. Bandit says:

    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.

    What’s Obama’s excuse?

  44. I’ve quoted you and linked to you here.

  45. David says:

    Obama:In your heart ya’ know he’s Wright.

  46. John B. says:

    You people are nuts. What is so offensive about what Barack said? Is this what political coverage has come to? A candidate makes an innocuous observation and political “journalists” and bloggers jump on it as though he had said he wanted to rid the world of Jews. Except Chris Matthews, who is focusing on the fact that Barack asked for orange juice instead of coffee in a diner and that he proved last week to be not good at bowling. These are serious issues in Matthews’ way of thinking and speak directly to Obama’s fitness to be president. The quality of political discourse in this country has fallen lower than I thought it ever could. I’m truly disgusted by it.

  47. John Prince says:

    Hillary Clinton Said on 04-13-08 that Barak Obama’s “words are not reflective of the America she knows.” Mrs. Clinton by that statement must feel that Americans are complacent, do not turn to religion for comfort, and do no care about the 2nd Amendment gun rights. What America is she living in? This Nation is full of people who have been swept up by religious movements due to either 911 or hard times, the search for meaning in life, and many other factors. This is not an advertisement for religion; rather it is only a fact of US trends in spirituality. Obama is correct when he said that many use religion to find solace. How is that statement elitist? It is stating reality. Do Americans have the right to be upset or bitter about the current administration, economy, war, civil rights, the rule of law, or corruption in Washington D.C.? I would think we do have a sense of bitterness over the past 15 years of Republican control of governmental policy. Even if you are a conservative or a liberal we all should be concerned over the future direction of the nation. Conservatives are always bitter especially on A.M. radio echo chambers we can hear the bitterness over social programs, liberalism, secularism, public schools, political correctness, and on it goes. As well liberal echo chambers are bitter over attacks upon the constitution, the system of checks and balances, presidential power, the fusing of church and state, the prolonged conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, the deregulation of the big business, the rusting economy, plus much, much more. Hillary in one breath screams about how bad the Bush administration has been, while berating Obama for pointing out that citizens are fed up with government as it is now. This is double speaking from both Clinton and McCain. They claim we need change, yet they also claim that people are doing just fine and are working hard. Yes we are working hard at getting by. Yes, we do need change. When Obama points out that people have no place to turn other than faith due to the fact that government has failed them, he is painted as if he is talking down to Americans. I do not think so. He is talking to Americans who agree with him. We are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Americans are sick of honest words being taken out of context to win political favor. We are sick of an EPA that has failed to keep up with health damaging pollution, a FDA that cannot keep the food supply pure, a commerce dept. and corporations that let lead toys into the market place, a government that spends like a drunken sailor, and policy that has devalued the dollar beyond recognition. We need to think hard about what politician is truly in touch with reality.