early and often

Bittergate: Pundits Doubt Obama As Never Before


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You’ve no doubt heard the latest sound bite to enter and (instantly, completely) fill the campaign news vacuum. At a San Francisco fund-raiser on April 6, Barack Obama said, “You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and … the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them … 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.” Over the weekend, Hillary Clinton has been pounding Obama over the comments, painting them as elitist and out of touch. Meanwhile, she demonstrated her own Everywoman qualities by reminiscing about hunting behind the old barn as a child and even throwing back a shot of Crown Royal at a bar. Can Obama once again parlay scandal into victory and cling to his faltering lead? And just how drunk is Clinton willing to get to win over the bar crowd?

• William Kristol thinks the “god” part of Obama’s comments are particularly strange considering how he’s written about his own religious awakening in his memoirs. Overall, Obama has revealed that he’s “disdainful of small town America.” [NYT]

• Mickey Kaus lists the top four sins of Obama’s “bitter” statement, with number one being that he seemingly lumped together things we should cling to (religion) with things we shouldn’t cling to (xenophobia, racism). [Slate]

• Noemie Emery wonders at the difference between the bitterness felt by small-towners and that experienced by the churchgoers who flocked to Reverend Wright. [Weekly Standard]

• Michael Goodwin, formerly one of those small-town Pennsylvanians, says that gaffes don’t get any bigger than this one. (Although the incident is not, strictly speaking, a gaffe, because Obama believes what he said.) He believes the White House is looking “out of reach” for Obama. [NYDN]

• Bob Franken places Obama’s comments into an ongoing narrative of candidates’ saying stupid things this campaign, which simply reminds us that our politicians are just as flawed as anybody else. Which doesn’t mean that what Obama said was not “clumsy” and “tellingly elitist.” [Hill]

• Jake Tapper notes that Obama and his allies are trying to focus their explanations on the “bitter” part alone, which is the most defensible and least insulting part of his comments. [Political Punch/ABC News]

• Melissa Henneberger doubts Obama’s ability to win for the first time because it seems he may truly not understand why his “bitter” line was such a big problem. [XX Factor/Slate]

• Mark Ambinder is on the lookout for the “illogical impulses” that inevitably arise in controversies like “Bittergate” — people saying Obama had an elite upbringing, or the reverse conservative elitism against big-city, well-educated liberals. [Atlantic]

• Joe Klein doesn’t think Bittergate will come to hurt Obama, unless Clinton is actually able to establish this “Obama-as-elitist” narrative. [Swampland/Time]

The Wall Street Journal editorial board suggests that because he said it so naturally in front of a San Francisco audience, this must be what Obama truly believes, and that the incident is a “gift” to Clinton. [WSJ]

• Chuck Todd and friends wonder whether any voters who were already for Obama will actually switch their allegiance at this point anyway. But they also note that nobody, especially the political pundits from New York and D.C., knows how this will play out. [First Read/MSNBC]

• Marc Lamont Hill thinks Obama was actually “articulating the opposite of an elitist notion,” because he was trying to understand the psychology of economically exploited people instead of just caricaturing them. [Down From the Tower/Root]

• Bob Shrum says that while it wasn’t “clearly or ideally stated,” Obama was, in the end, right. The greatest irony of all is that Obama is less a member of the elite than either Clinton or McCain. [First Read/MSNBC] —Dan Amira

For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.

Bittergate: Pundits Doubt Obama As Never Before