Wednesday, April 16, 2008

But Obama was right!

"Here's how it is: in a lot of these communities in big industrial states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, people have been beaten down so long, and they feel so betrayed by government, and when they hear a pitch that is premised on not being cynical about government, then a part of them just doesn't buy it. And when it's delivered by -- it's true that when it's delivered by a 46-year-old black man named Barack Obama (laugher), then that adds another layer of skepticism (laughter).
But -- so the questions you're most likely to get about me, 'Well, what is this guy going to do for me? What's the concrete thing?' What they wanna hear is -- so, we'll give you talking points about what we're proposing -- close tax loopholes, roll back, you know, the tax cuts for the top 1 percent. Obama's gonna give tax breaks to middle-class folks and we're gonna provide health care for every American. So we'll go down a series of talking points.
But the truth is, is that, our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there's not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
Um, now these are in some communities, you know. I think what you'll find is, is that people of every background -- there are gonna be a mix of people, you can go in the toughest neighborhoods, you know working-class lunch-pail folks, you'll find Obama enthusiasts. And you can go into places where you think I'd be very strong and people will just be skeptical. The important thing is that you show up and you're doing what you're doing." --Barack Obama

When I first heard about Barack Obama’s comments regarding embittered Middle Americans I was shocked. Not so much that he said it but that somebody was finally paying attention. The fact of the matter is that many of the people living in Western Pennsylvania are gun toting bible thumpers who enjoy feeling sorry for themselves. Ask any reasonable person who lives or has spent a significant amount of time in the area and they’ll confirm it. The handful of people who took offense to Obama’s statement prove his theory.

What’s funny is that most of outrage seems to be coming from people who have never heard of Latrobe, Oil City, or Washington ( PA not DC) and the only thing most politicians know about Johnstown is that there may or may not have been a big flood there. Obama’s comments appropriately describe towns in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana as well and if you’re going to talk about bitter, narrow-minded people you can throw that same lasso around West Virginia and Kentucky.

Taking Obama’s full quote into context it’s quite obvious that he feels sympathetic toward these people. I live around them and I don’t. Obama wants to help them rediscover the American dream. I’d just as soon close all the exit ramps on I-70 between Washington DC and St. Louis. Now that’s elitist.

As somebody who grew up in one of the areas Obama was talking about, I found nothing he said offensive. What I did find offensive was Hillary Clinton trotting out her Larry The Cable Guy impression in order to connect with the people she thought would be upset by Obama’s comments. Talk about out of touch. When did Scranton turn in to Birmingham? Does that country-fried drawl and stories about shooting guns with grandpappy after church really work? And then she bellied up to the bar for a shot and a beer. Nice. Next week she'll be belching the alphabet and farting on demand. Hey kid, pull my finger!

Perhaps it does work. George W. Bush managed to convince the NASCAR set that he was just a farmer from Texas and not some spoiled rich kid born with a silver spoon in his mouth that was so big the man still can’t form a sentence. Somehow, Bush managed to spin a keg party at an Alabama Armory into military service that was more honorable than John McCain’s half a decade of torture.

Of course, Bush always sounds like a hick and he’s made it quite clear that he is genuinely stupid. Perhaps not so much as the people who voted for him, but he’s definitely running on fumes. Hillary, on the other hand, seems to have multiple personalities. She becomes Butterfly McQueen quoting Reverend James Cleveland when she’s pandering to black voters and channels Loretta Lynn in front of white blue collar types.

The real Hillary Clinton grew up in a wealthy community before graduating from Yale by way of Wellesley and when she’s glad-handing for the big money you can bet that her diction and grammar are perfect. So why the buck and shuffle for the unwashed masses? Does she really think that the average American is that stupid? Maybe that was a tactic she learned at the world headquarters of poor white trash, Wal-Mart. Perhaps Sam Walton’s ability to parlay provincialism into billions of dollars convinced Hillary to patronize potential voters with ersatz folksy charm.

Who needs to talk about the issues and present solutions to problems when we can zero in on a sound bite that was taken out of context? Imagine what a wonderful presidential race this would be if everybody in it was more interested in talking about their ideas rather than waiting for the opposition to slip up. What’s frustrating is that Obama didn’t slip up. He made a valid point that should be discussed in detail.

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