Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
April 12, 2008
POLITICS: Hey, Rube!

As you have probably seen by now, Barack Obama has really stepped in it this time, as evidenced by the furor unexpectedly kicked up by the following remarks at a fundraiser in San Francisco, where he committed the Kinsley-gaffe of saying what he really thinks about the world of small-town America that he obviously knows nothing of first hand:

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.

Powerline has the audio; Ben Smith also has this video of what preceded it, as Obama none-too-subtly suggests that Pennsylvania voters don't trust him because he's black:

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.

Victor Davis Hanson unpacks the multiple levels of elitism and hypocrisy at work (the really damning thing, in my view, is lumping religion in with the negative things people turn to); Allah has the Hillary and McCain reactions.

So how should Obama react, when even netroots types recognize how sneering and condescending all this sounds to the ear of the average voter? Regular commenter Robert in BA said in another thread here that he should double down:

I hope he doesn't fall over himself apologizing for saying something that is basically true. People are dealing with economic difficulties, and human nature is to take it out on those they feel are threatening them (and, more conveniently those who are more marginalized than them) --whether that is the reality or not--(see every explanation on "why they hate us/ our freedoms" for examples). If he doesn't, we'll know he's a new kind of politician.

Clinton and McCain (and their surrogates in the MSM), can make believe they care about middle America all they want. Go ahead. Make believe that the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and financial institutions (like Bear Stearns) are eating corn dogs and judging heifers on Saturday night. I'll be over here, laughing at your naivte.

Resist the temptation to reply to the phony "fainting couch" whiners, Barry. They know what you said is true. They're just sucking-up to a group of people they make believe they care about for show.

This is, in my view, the worst possible political advice Obama could get - yet he appears to be eating it up:


Uh, good luck with that. Let me know how it worked out. Hope and Change just officially entered Howard Dean "my anger can bend light!" territory.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:53 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (31) | TrackBack (0)

Dude, you do realize how pathetic you sound when you have to resort to Obama comparisons to Howard Dean? It really makes you sound like a tool.

Posted by: Dave at April 13, 2008 12:50 AM

Perhaps Clinton and McCain wish to debate Obama on the resolution: "Things are fine in America and we shouldn't be frustrated with our government".

Perhaps Clinton and McCain wish to argue the affirmative side of that resolution.

If so, Obama will do quite well. People are frustrated - very much so.

Posted by: Tom at April 13, 2008 6:27 AM

I think calling small town Americans gun-toting, religious bigots is probably a mistake of Dean-like magnitude.

Posted by: Harrison at April 13, 2008 8:44 AM

The Obama defenders on every comment thread in the blogosphere sound just like the Ron Paul defenders did.

Bizarre rationalizations, desperate attempts to change the subject, strident eforts to defend the "truth", attacks on the messenger -- it's deja vu all over again!

If Diogenes had a brother who was looking for a rational Obama partisan, he'd be just as lonely.

Posted by: stan at April 13, 2008 9:00 AM

As stated in the previous post's comments, he is damn near dead candidate walking. I'm not sure the media spin can save him, and if Hillary goes for the jugular she can destroy him. Does anyone realize how pathetic they sound when they use "tool" and "dude" in the same comment?
The Clinton campaign can take the gloves off or go home, the nomination is theirs for the taking.

Posted by: abe at April 13, 2008 9:05 AM

1. Obama's comments are true, aren't they? Hillary can't win, but she'll sure beat this point into the ground and bring her party down with her...

2. People in the big cities are frustrated that small-town folk vote outside their interests because they ARE too interested in non-issues (guns, Bible, flags, immigrants) and not ones that affect them personally (economy, health insurance, etc..

Bravo, Obama, for speaking the truth. However, this is just the first of many signs that will mean McCain will win.

Posted by: rt at April 13, 2008 9:12 AM

Okay, so it's the truth that guns (the means by one protects himself and his loved ones) and religion (which gives dignity and meaning to people's lives) earn a place next to xenophobia? It's a major gaffe, and only rank snobs won't be offended by it.

Posted by: tsmonk at April 13, 2008 10:31 AM

rt: I am sure the people who live in small towns would be comforted knowing that you have identified their true interests as opposed to what they incorrectly think matters. It is unfortunate that not everyone possesses your wisdom; everyone would vote Democrat.

Posted by: wd at April 13, 2008 10:58 AM

Buy futures in fainting couches!
This is the phoniest story since John Kerry's "joke" in November 2006.

At least this is a bigger story on cable news then that whole "Bush signed off on torture" thing.
Say it with a straight face: "The MSM is liberal".
And "the moon is made of cheese."

Posted by: Robert in BA at April 13, 2008 11:05 AM

the jewelry most of those guests were wearing in San Fran costs more than my house in the CT suburbs. And I'm sure than chandelier is not available at Lowe's

Posted by: Ironman at April 13, 2008 12:10 PM

Always watch for the bait-and-switch. Obama's response to the Wright thing was to change the subject to "race in America" rather than answer why exactly he supported, promoted, lauded and took his daughters weekly to hear the ravings of a guy who was not only bristling with anger and hate for most of America, but peddling a significant number of obvious and dangerous lies.

The switch here is to say that the issue is whether or not people are frustrated. Um, no. The issue is Obama (1) equating religion and guns with bad things people believe in only because they are frustrated, (2) suggesting that people in places like central PA are racists, (3) suggesting that people in places like central PA don't know what's good for them and (4) implying that he himself doesn't believe in things like religion and, amusingly, anti-trade sentiment, even though he has made both out to be key themes of his campaign and even though he has lately been trying to do outreach to gun owners.

Posted by: The Crank at April 13, 2008 1:12 PM

Crank, the man can't help it. Read Time Magazine this week about his mom running around trying to save people in foreign countries and marrying impractical lefty academics from such places. (who, of course, ditched her after the boring, old fashioned obligations of fatherhood became apparent)

This elitist academic attitude is hard wired in his psyche.

This guy really thinks folks in Buffalo are just like folks in Borneo---backward peasants who can't help themselves unless they are exposed to liberal secular multicultural truth. He's a prisoner of his background

Posted by: ironman at April 13, 2008 1:23 PM

I think the comparison to Dean is very accurate. Neither have a message and both will say anything to get elected.

As for concerns about middle America, name the last candidate that was interested in us. I don't remember one... maybe Truman.

Posted by: maddirishman at April 13, 2008 1:39 PM

Up to about the age of 12 we learn by experience. After that, we begin to experience what we've learned. Those who are for Obama have no issue with what he's said. Those who are against Obama will have an issue with everything he says.

Get past the petty games of gotcha. There are legitimate reasons to either support or refute his candidacy.

Posted by: Zufall at April 13, 2008 1:55 PM

How is immigration restriction not an economic issue? Small town Americans aren't generally pro-restriction because of generalized animus, they're pro-restriction because they believe that immigrants lower their wages through competition. If you look at what has happened in the slaughterhouse industry, for example, they're right. It's a mirror of why the chamber of commerce supports unlimited immigration. The law of supply and demand applies to the labor market.

Anyway, what Obama is doing is quite effectively appealing to his base. His implied message is "prove you're better than the rubes by voting for me".

I wonder who arranged for the guy in the USMC shirt to be standing behind his Obama-ness for the speech? I'd be genuinely surprised if it's a coincidence.

Posted by: Steve Johnson at April 13, 2008 3:49 PM

Obama's comments do have more than a bit of truth in them. But defending that truthfulness will kill him politically. And the underlying tone of them is a disdain for average Americans that I think is very troubling. As has been noted, the most troubling is the suggestion that religion is just like xenophobia or love of guns.

Posted by: Jerry at April 13, 2008 8:43 PM

What a joke to make an issue out of this. Let's see, who is the elitist, the guy who abandons his first wife and their kids to marry into massive beer money that launches his career, the woman born a blue shoe "Rodham" and whose primary claim of experience is that she once was the president's spouse, or the guy raised in a single parent home and who eschewed high paying jobs to work as a community fundraiser. Duh. This dog aint gonna hunt this time.

Posted by: seth soothsayer at April 14, 2008 2:14 AM

"who eschewed high paying jobs to work as a community fundraiser"

Yep, that fits middle America to a T.

"Hey Dad, I just got offers on Wall Street. I know you've sweat blood to get me an Ivy League degree, and get me out of Williamsport, But I've intentionally decided to stay poor and in debt to advance socialist ideology"

Seth, you know as little about Middle America as Barack

Posted by: Ironman at April 14, 2008 6:20 AM

Obama supporters sound just like Ron Paul supporters did. Deja vu.

Posted by: stan at April 14, 2008 7:29 AM

I think the comparison to Dean is a little much because Obama as never (literally) sounded as angry and crazy as Dean.

But what his statements further prove is that Obama simply doesn't like his country very much. He is convinced that this country is plagued and he is convinced that most of Middle America thinks the same way. Or, he sees himself as a prophet, given the cause of convincing us that our lives our terrible and that he is the Answer. What is most insulting from his statement is his blanket assertion that people from rural and small town areas are bitter and are blaming others for their supposed problems. I live in a midwest State and I know a lot of rural and small town people. Most are not at all bitter, but are content with their lives. They know their lives could be better (as is always the case) but they know they gain nothing by playing "what if" and "if only." They know if they have problems they should first blame themselves, and should rely on themselves to solve their problems. They just want government to leave them alone and let them live their lives.

Posted by: alex at April 14, 2008 8:56 AM

Obama (a cookie cutter American liberal) selling himself as a conciliator who can reach across the aisle and heal wounds is not entirely a sham, as this episode proves. He's offering the rationalizations and justifications made by apologists for Wright, Farrakhan, Meeks, Sharpton, etc to working class whites. Just like black anti-social paranoia, white gun-toting religiosity will be understood as the victim's cry in Obama's America.
Obama's offer of guilt and consequence free imbecility is attractive, but Pennsylvanians may question whether their weekend trips to the gunshow and to church are morally equivalent to demagogic anti-semitism and allegations of genocide. we'll see.

Posted by: seamus at April 14, 2008 10:16 AM

It's a good thing that the Obamessiah pointed this out--even though he had no intention of this going beyond the gathered elites of Palo Alto--because bitterness is something we all had better confront.

Bitterness drives people to religion, sometimes to kooky churches with bitter pastors who rail against their perceived oppressors. Who better to speak to this issue than Obama?

Posted by: spongeworthy at April 14, 2008 11:01 AM

And another thing - I wish the MSM would knock off labeling this as the "bitter" speech. This was the "guns and religion" speech. If it were just a reflection on bitterness, it would be no different than any other politician's playbook.

Posted by: tsmonk at April 14, 2008 11:49 AM

You conservatives are seriously deluded if you think McCain and Clinton are "of the people". Silver spoons all the way. And the essential truth about what he said hasnt been debunked one iota by your masterbatory attempts at wedge politics.

Posted by: dante at April 14, 2008 12:37 PM

I don't think enough people are convinced that what he said was the "essential truth". I think you lefties/Democrats need to get out there in front of your guy and make sure voters know you believe they grasp on to religion, guns and Mexican-hating because they are bitter about their lives.

Go on, get going!

Posted by: spongeworthy at April 14, 2008 2:25 PM

Elitist? Maybe, if having the cojones to say it makes you one.

Academic? It's on roughly a high-school sociology level.

True? Without question. All you have to do is read up on the small-town newspaper blogs, and you'll find enlightening prose written by people who think "the Mexicans" are here to claim the land stolen by Cortez and Sam Houston, "the Muslims" are here to kill us (it's stated in the Koran, isn't it?)and it's up to us to defend Chrisitanity in this epic battle for world domination, and that the numerous and well-documented American automotive missteps are all due to "the Japs" who are seeking revenge from WWII and are themselves coming to take over the country. You guys should turn off the FAUX NEWS and read the letters to the Editor of the Detroit Free Press (or the Houston Chronicle, for that matter).

And while this kind of thinking is mined, encouraged and harvested by the Right, the rest of us who can think for ourselves are supposed to keep our pieholes shut, right? Because the worst thing that you can be labeled in this country is an ELITIST or an ACADEMIC, or heaven forbid a LIBERAL.

Maybe the Hannitys and O'Reillys of the world will spin this into a big deal. You gotta overshadow the real news somehow, like Bush admitting he led the way for the US to join a shrinking list of countries that torture.

Maybe Obama will lose the election. But it's about time somebody started talking about the 800-pound gorilla in the room instead of acting like inbred morons - with their DOG the Bounty Hunter on TV and their meth labs and their assault rifles and their four-beer buzz before worshipping rattlesnakes on Sunday - are precisely the kind of folks you want making the economic and political decisions for the entire country.

The worriesome part is that this is exactly how the Right likes it. If they carry the business community AND the average GED-holding idiot in small-town middle America, then they will carry the day, every time, bar none...especially with some creativity in certain precincts in Florida and Ohio, or wherever the GOP has its henchmen on payroll. Never mind the two groups have little voting ground in common in the first place. But then, it hasn't really been about what's actually good for the country for a very long time now.

The party of Lincoln, indeed.

Posted by: macsonix at April 14, 2008 5:09 PM

Well, I gotta say: that last post kinda takes the cake. Snobbery to the point of frothy-mouthed hysteria. How "nuanced."

Posted by: tsmonk at April 14, 2008 5:54 PM


Canada's nice. I'm sure you'll enjoy it there.

Posted by: seamus at April 14, 2008 6:19 PM

Okay, I'll bite:

Frothy-mouthed hysteria? Admittedly I could have been less dramatic in my description of a worst-case scenario. But we all know these folks are out there, and you can call me what you want for admitting that I'm not interested in aligning with them. Just because I could trick a group into voting for me doesn't mean I should do it.

Canada? How about this: Explain to me how being apprehensive about resigning your political fate to a bloc of voters who think the mission of all Muslims is to kill Christians and Americans amounts to snobbery, elitism or anything other than plain common sense. Any of you guys want to take a stab at that? I've seen a few admit that harboring views like this is not the problem, but voicing them is. Why is that, exactly? Because we all should love and embrace the "moron" vote like Karl Rove taught us?

Why don't you guys just admit that it's not about doing what's right for America and really hasn't been for nearly a generation - it's all about being able to win. And that's why you guys pursue this bloc of voters wearing your softest kid gloves.

Posted by: macsonix at April 15, 2008 11:00 AM

"Explain to me how being apprehensive about resigning your political fate to a bloc of voters who think the mission of all Muslims is to kill Christians and Americans amounts to snobbery, elitism or anything other than plain common sense. Any of you guys want to take a stab at that?"

Sure. But you might be surprised to realize we're in agreement. I'm as apprehensive as you are about resigning our political fate to Osama bin Laden, Ayman Zawahiri, Adam Gadahan and all other violent Islamists. It is common sense to oppose these people. It's patriotic too. It's not elitist or snobbish. They're the ones who think their on a mission from Allah, and all unbelievers are by defintion unworthy. It'sa good thing lots and lots of church going, gun-owning Indianans, Ohioians and Pennsylvanians know this, even if their more "progressive" countrymen don't. Right, macsonix?

Posted by: seamus at April 15, 2008 12:16 PM

"Frothy-mouthed hysteria? Admittedly I could have been less dramatic in my description of a worst-case scenario. But we all know these folks are out there, and you can call me what you want for admitting that I'm not interested in aligning with them. Just because I could trick a group into voting for me doesn't mean I should do it."

Then you don't say anything about them. Ignore them entirely if you wish. I'm sure they'll be heartbroken, but by clinging to their guns and religion they'll persevere.

You don't talk down to voters. Period. It's a cardinal rule of politics.

Posted by: tsmonk at April 15, 2008 7:15 PM
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