Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Speaking up for Obama

I often disagree with Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Clarance Page, but he’s always informed and reasonable. Today, he offers what I think is the “best case” so far from “the Obama side” concerning the Senator’s “bittergate” remarks.

Page begins - - -

Why do Americans look up for people to look down on?

We Americans sometimes baffle ourselves with ambivalence toward ambition and success.

We applaud "merit," for example, yet we turn up our noses at "elitists."

We root for the little guy, yet again and again we elect the wealthy, the powerful and the insider-connected.

In fact, we seem to love elites. It's the snoots we can't stand.

That's why Sen. Hillary Clinton figured she could block rival Sen. Barack Obama's momentum in their Democratic presidential nomination race by playing the "elitist" card.

She targeted some of Obama's remarks at a private fundraiser in San Francisco. As reported by Mayhill Fowler for the Huffington Post Web site, Obama was offering a candid explanation of why many residents of economically struggling industrial towns vote against their own economic interests. They "feel so betrayed by government," he said, that they don't think government is going to help them.

It's going to be a challenge, he said, "to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there's not evidence of that in their daily lives." …

Voters don't like to be portrayed in downbeat terms like "bitter" and "cling."

Obama, of all people, knows the value of emphasizing an optimistic, can-do spirit. His landmark "One America" speech to the 2004 Democratic National Convention resonated with it. If he thought he could speak more casually at the San Francisco gathering, he was wrong.

That's why Clinton expresses shock - shock! - over his words, even though the sentiments should sound quite familiar to her.

Here, for example, is an account from the Sept. 17, 1991, Los Angeles Times of what her own husband said:

"In complaining that President (George H.W.) Bush has been exploiting the race issue to divide the Democrats, Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, a probable presidential contender, said: 'The reason (Bush's tactic) works so well now is that you have all these economically insecure white people who are scared to death.'"

"As Clinton sees it," wrote Times political reporter Robert Shogan, "Bush has been telling worried white workers: You're right. I won't do anything for you. Government can't do anything for you. But at least I won't do anything to you."

Of course, Obama is more vulnerable to being labeled "out of touch" with middle-American values than Bill Clinton was. Unlike Clinton, Obama did not grow up in a small middle-American town. A description of the attitudes of mostly white factory-town voters that sounds candid when it comes from Clinton can sound condescending when it comes from Obama. …

Page has more to say, including this which left me LOL:

To underscore what a Regular Guy-Person she is, the New York senator held her own weekend blue-collar tour of regular-people places. They included a bar in northern Indiana where she was cajoled into a beer, pizza and a shot of Crown Royal, a fine Canadian whiskey.

A few journalists saw a geographic irony there.

Clinton's chief strategist, Mark Penn, was forced to step down days earlier because he had been advising another client, Colombia's government, in how to win ratification of a free-trade agreement that Clinton opposes. …

Page’s entire column is here.

If you give it a look, I’d be interested to hear what you think.

Hat tip:


RedMountain said...

John, I am shocked, yes shocked that you posted this (LOL). Just kidding, thanks for your sense of fairness.

I don't see it as the best defense of Obama's statement that I have seen, just more of a 'you have got to be kidding me' comment on clinton's reaction to it.

A friend of mine gave me this take (edited) on Obama's statement when I made the comment about it being a stupid political mistake:

" Mark, respectfully, while I definitely understand your point about Obama's comments not being smart politics, I entirely understand, and agree with what Obama was saying (snip)

Many folks in small towns, even blacks, are insulated from the rest of the world by choice. They don't like that their way of life has been dramatically changed because local plants and factories that provided lifelong jobs have shut down, taking that vital employment to cheaper labor overseas.

These towns are dying, Mark. The children are growing up, and moving away for better opportunities. The population is getting older. The price of food, gas and utilities - all of the basics of life - have risen beyond their capacity to afford. Their property taxes have risen. Migrant workers, most of whom are Hispanic, have moved in to work the crops (assuming the farmers can still afford to hold on to their farms). Gang activity, yes even in rural areas, is on the uptick.

These families have little else to hold onto or believe in beyond their faith, traditions and way of life. The church, where longtime friends and family come together to worship and socialize, is their sanctuary where the world has not changed. Indeed, if you attend one of their church services, the pastor is preaching about their harsh circumstances, how GOD will pull them through, and how "worldliness" - subscribing to the amoral values of the larger society (ie. the drugs, sex, glamor) is the devil at work, and temptation is always at hand.

Yes, Mark, that minister is urging his congregation to "cling" to their faith for dear life, lest they get swept up by the evils of the world.

These folks are proud folks, Mark. They believe they are the real Americans. The flag, GOD and family are all they have. Their guns are part of their families, and have been for generations. It's how they put food on the table, how they defended their families, and how they defined their citizenship. And because many of these folks believe that their government has turned against them, some are even willing to use that gun to defend themselves against their government.

Saying that they "cling" to that way of life, is not a stretch by any means.

Something that hasn't been said in this debate, Mark, which I know all too well. The conditions of bitterness and disillusionment described above lends itself to bigoted thinking, unfortunately. Many of these small town folks (many, but not all), believe the government has given African-Americans too many rights. Thus, many are fertile ground for groups like the Skinheads and Ku Klux Klan. (snip)

So yes, Mark, this was a minefield of a subject for Obama to broach, and doing it in liberal San Francisco was unfortunate. But he wasn't demeaning these people, Mark. He was enumerating who they are, what they feel, and why it would be so difficult to earn their vote as a black candidate for president, because ultimately, Obama wants to help them, and give them more hope than they've had in quite some time.

Yes, Obama may lose votes behind this because Clinton and the Republicans believe in playing games with the reality of this nation. Some people would prefer to hie behind the facade of what they want to be, as opposed to what really is.

Yes, he may pay for it politically, but at least Obama will do so honestly!

Like a man of integrity, Obama has apologized for his poor choice of words. But he was telling the truth. That much I know."

JWM said...

To RM,

My goodness, I did post that.

How did it get by me?!!

Well, I guess it's too late to do anything about it now.

Yes, I'm smiling, too.

Thanks for your comment.


Anonymous said...

Red Mountain:

"Obama wants to help them, and give them more hope than they've had in quite some time."


I think perhaps Obama's friend Renzo wants to do the same thing. Helping those poor dislusional rural white folks is right up a Chicago pol's alley.

Now that he's retired, Jerimiah Wright can pitch in and help those white devils.

Heck, even Michelle can run the food stamps out to RFD addresses so the rubes don't need to use up gas.

Yes, your friend is probably correct. Obama is just misunderstood.


justice58 said...

"Obama wants to help them, and give them more hope than they've had in quite some time

Anonymous said...

Mr. Obama has promised, when he is elected, to talk to anyone and everyone instead of snubbing any nation or any tyrant. This is a man who won't appear on Fox News for god's sake! He'll sit down and chat with Kim Chong-il or Ahmadinejad (sp?) but Chris Wallace is taboo? Could someone please explain?
And in his latest public "sermon" Preacher Wright used his pulpit to blast Fox and several Fox personalities; Mr. Obama claims he is no longer joined at the hip to Pastor Wright, but they sure look a lot like Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.
Tarhel Hawkeye

justice58 said...

Barack has not disowned Rev Wright & never will. That means he will still attend Trinity Church of Christ & therefore will always maintain his relationship with him!

Barack has never said he'd meet with anyone & everyone. The truth is out there so that no one will fall for a lie!

I can't blame Barack at all for not going on Fox News---Whatever for! Are you kidding?

Anonymous said...

John -

Here is Tom Sowell's take on Obama is quite different and is quite negative. You can find it at:

Redmountain, I have not studied the rural population of Pennsylvania, either sociologically or economically. So I don't know if you what you say is true - are they really economically depressed? Are they really bitter? And if all that is true, is that why they pray and own guns as you seem to indicate? Facts are a pesky little thing, and some facts here wouldn't hurt.

As for myself, I would like to note that I pray and own guns, but I do not live in a small town, I am not economically depressed, and I am certainly not bitter. The choices I have made with respect to praying and owning guns are my choices and I would make them irrespective of my economic circumstances. Prayer gives meaning to my life. It has provided me and my family and their families with community and with a right way of living. And guns are what free people own for their liberty and personal protection. Do not disparage the people in small towns just because they pray and own guns. That is a good old-fashioned American way of life.

Redmountain, you also state that small town folks believe the government has given Americans of African descent too many rights. I think our government has swung from not giving them enough rights to giving them too many rights, to their detriment I believe. Prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 there were many places where such Americans were deprived of the right to vote and attend decent schools, and were generally treated as second-class citizens (much of that was due to the Supreme Court's misguided 1896 decision in Plessy vs. Ferguson). After the Civil Rights Act, the affirmative action programs (which were originally meant to put Americans of African descent in a pool of eligible candidates to be considered equally with other candidates) morphed into quotas. One place that happened was in colleges. Those American were placed in programs for which they were ill prepared just to fill a quota. The consequence was a lot of students who dropped out of college, and I think became embittered by their experience. The situation that existed before 1964 was wrong, and the situation that has come to exist after 1964 is equally wrong. Democratic governments must treat their citizens equally. They cannot favor one group over another.

Justice58 - Obama says he wants to help the people in small towns. How could you say that? He has disparaged those people, he has not put forwards any plans, and for the most part, such plans as we think he will put forward will undoubtedly cause them and others more harm than good. Two things to remember: The first is that Franklin Roosevelt's attempt to help by imposing the New Deal hurt far more than it helped. Yes it gave hope, but it was a chimerical hope. The only thing it did was create dependency on the Federal government and insured Democrat dominance of the Federal government for quite some time. In actuality, the New Deal extended the Depression by many years. I suggest you read Amity Shlaes' book, The Forgotten Man to understand just how bad the New Deal was. (One thing I learned from it was that Americans of African descent called the National Recovery Act (NRA) the Negro Run Around because of just how much it hurt small businesses run by such Americans.) The second thing to keep in mind is the following untruths:
1: The check is in the mail
2: I will respect you in the morning
3: I am from the government and I am here to help you.

Jack in Silver Spring

RedMountain said...

To Jack in Silver Spring,

Wow! It seems you are a history buff just like John. Speaking of which, I noted this list of historians for Obama which includes KC btw, Not sure if either of you have signed up, my guess would be not yet. Don't worry, haven't given up on either of you, look at John, he is even posting positive articles on Obama now.

Anonymous said...

Redmountain -

While I am not a professional historian, I am interested in history. That's because we should not repeat the errors of the past, first as tragedy and then as farce. Also, being the classical liberal that I am, I see nothing in Obama's policies, such as they are, or in his voting record that would incline me to favor him.

Jack in Silver Spring
PS I'm offline until Monday night. See you all then.