Is Obama a snobby elitist? Over the weekend he’s been forced to defend the comments he made in early April when referring to working-class voters in old industrial towns decimated by job losses. The presidential hopeful said: “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.”

The off the cuff remark was made at a fundraising event in San Francisco on April 6 and eventually reported by a citizen journalist on The Huffington Post, and an Obama supporter at that. Conflicted over whether to report the comments, Mayhill Fowler eventually decided that she had a duty to report the event.

Right wing shock jocks have seized on the quote as proof that Obama is elitist, and so has Hillary “blue collar” Clinton. Eager to capitalise on the comments ahead of the Pennsylvania primary on April 22, Clinton campaigners in North Carolina are handing out bumper stickers saying “I’m not bitter.”

Bitter is bad for Barry: A Clinton comeback was looking far-fetched. But operatives in both parties were buzzing about that possibility Saturday following the revelation that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) told wealthy San Franciscans that small-town Pennsylvanians and Midwesterners “cling to guns or religion” because they are “bitter” about their economic status.Politico

Obama was right, people are angry: Strip down what Obama was saying: He addressed the trouble his campaign of hope and change was having in “places where people feel most cynical about government.” While he has tried to speak concretely about the conditions of peoples’ lives, his campaign continues to have trouble making inroads among white working class voters, and “old economy” voters whose idea of change isn’t hope but rather losing a job or a pension. Yet he is narrowing the margins. — The Nation

Stockholm Syndrome? The Clinton campaign’s angry tone also has exposed a deep well of self-pity, with Hillary and Bill Clinton signaling that they see a media double-standard against them. So, when the press does its job in pointing out significant exaggerations and even lies told by Sen. Clinton, these legitimate criticisms are dismissed as anti-Clinton bias. Her aides and supporters rush to battle stations as if they were fending off a new assault from Ken Starr or the American Spectator. The recurring complaints about an anti-Clinton media bias also are reminiscent of the Right’s endless accusations about the “liberal media,” a form of “working the refs” to get more favorable calls. — Consortium news

Smear factor: As America resigns itself to another interminable presidential race, you can already hear voices crying out against divisive tactics and unsupported accusations. While it’s popular to view negative campaigning as a dirty product of modern politics, the dark arts of “candidate definition” have been practiced since the very birth of our republic. Radar takes a look at some of history’s most negative campaign posters. — Radar Online

McCain’s alter ego: Perhaps more than any other national candidate in recent memory, McCain has relied on the promise of a transcendent character guaranteed by personal experience, the reason he has been able to convince voters – especially those who disagree with him on key issues – of his ability to rise above partisanship and privilege, artifice and ambition. This is a political project, but also a literary one, initiated by Mark Salter, the Arizona senator’s closest aide and one frequently described as his alter ego, who for nearly two decades has made telling McCain’s stories his own life’s work.The Boston Globe

Bush’s fiscal legacy: Competition for “most damaging legacy of the Bush administration” is lively. Iraq is the front-runner, of course, but bear in mind the wreckage of fiscal policy – although to use that term is to imply that the US even has a fiscal policy, when it does not. It would be more accurate to talk of fiscal consequences or fiscal footprint (an apt metaphor) than to imply anything as deliberate as “policy”. All three presidential contenders criticise the administration on this, but none is offering much improvement. — Clive Crook, Financial Times

What Hillary wishes she could say: the Democratic race has not been especially rough by historical standards. What’s more, our conversations with Democrats who speak to the Clintons make plain that their public comments are only the palest version of what they really believe: that if Obama is the nominee, a likely Democratic victory would turn to a near-certain defeat. Far from a no-holds-barred affair, the Democratic contest has been an exercise in self-censorship. Rip off the duct tape and here is what they would say: Obama has serious problems with Jewish voters (goodbye Florida), working-class whites (goodbye Ohio) and Hispanics (goodbye, New Mexico). Republicans will also ruthlessly exploit openings that Clinton — in the genteel confines of an intraparty contest — never could. Top targets: Obama’s radioactive personal associations, his liberal ideology, his exotic life story, his coolly academic and elitist style. — Politico 

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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