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Lucy Carrigan Headshot

Got Bitter?

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Well what a firestorm we've got going on right now. Holy Guacamole.

Just so you have them in front of you, here are the comments that Barack Obama made at that fundraiser in San Francisco a week ago, Sunday:

OBAMA:

So, it depends on where you are, but I think it's fair to say that the places where we are going to have to do the most work are the places where people feel most cynical about government. The people are mis-appre...I think they're misunderstanding why the demographics in our, in this contest have broken out as they are. Because everybody just ascribes it to 'white working-class don't wanna work -- don't wanna vote for the black guy.' That's...there were intimations of that in an article in the Sunday New York Times today - kind of implies that it's sort of a race thing.


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.

Now, I realise that that may have taken you a while to read... it doesn't quite fit in to the soundbite machine that so informs John Q Public, but, assuming you managed to get through it, actually read it, can you tell me if I am living in a weird delusional disconnected world because I think that Barack Obama is right on the money? Does what he says here sound demeaning, elitist and disconnected to you? I have been listening to the furor grow over the weekend, the tempo rise and rise and the Clintons get more and more bellicose, I've listened to Obama respond (I think brilliantly) both on Friday and again on Sunday but I've also seen the way this bitter thing is playing in the press. The boys and girls on Meet the Press think this will hurt him in Pennsylvania and beyond. On CNN's post "Compassion Forum" analysis, John King, reporter, host and apparently objective, states that Barack Obama "should have known better," Campbell Brown avows that this is not going away, and they all agree that these comments will be misconstrued by Blue Collar voters in Pennsylvania, Indiana and beyond.

The only reason why these comments can be misconstrued by Blue Collar voters in Pennsylvania, Indiana and beyond is because the media chooses to misconstrue them, and the media allows Hillary and Bill to misconstrue them. If you can suffer through the (poor quality) audio of Obama's comments made at the fundraising event in San Francisco, he doesn't sound like he's disrespecting anyone, nor disparaging anybody, he is merely describing a portion of the population that is wooed and wed every single election cycle only to be divorced almost as soon as the voting booths have closed.

It's politics I know but it's a type of politics I can't stomach. It's "parsing words" politics, it's clinging to words like "cling" politics, it's "taking words out of context" politics, and every single time, it's "pundits getting off" politics. If I can stomach the sight of watching Pat Buchanan work himself in to a frenzy tonight over this one, I'll try ... or listen to Anderson Cooper tease "bitter" like a dirty word, I'll try to do that too, but I will be hoping for some reasonable, responsible, intelligent commentary, someone who is actually brave enough to say, "hey, ladies, gentlemen of the democratic party, you are parsing your candidate's words here, you are not looking at the context, you are ignoring what he actually said." If I'm really lucky some pundit might continue with something along the lines of, "what Hillary Clinton is doing right now, reminiscing about her time shooting guns when she was nine but not thinking it's necessary to divulge when the last time was that she actually shot a gun (not relevant to this conversation apparently), is actually far more disrespectful to the intelligence of the voters in small town America."

I don't know that I'll hear that tonight on the TV Machine. Maybe if I don't, I should pour myself a shot of whiskey and knock it back. A bitter dose of the American Politics of old. Hard to swallow.

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