This is probably the dumbest thing Barack Obama has said all year.
"You go into 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.
“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.”
That Obama was speaking at a fundraiser in San Francisco, of all places, makes it worse. Just watch the Clinton and McCain campaigns spin this as the "real Obama", just another Ivy League liberal who thinks he's better than the Average Joe.
Granted, the complete transcript of Obama's remarks is not as bad as that extract makes it sound and that he's really recognising that folk in struggling industrial towns aren't as receptive to Obama's message of hope as other audiences may be and some of this scepticism is perfectly understandable, even, to some extent, reasonable. But still... The tape of these remarks has got to be a McCain ad in the autumn. And not just in Ohio or Michigan or Pennsylvania either, but anywhere McCain needs to bolster or shore up his support amongst white male voters. "They cling to guns" is an especialy unfortunate phrase...
UPDATE: Obama explains himself here, arguing that he's more in touch with ordinary voters than either Clinton or McCain and that the bitterness many voters feel is, to a large extent, right and proper and the sort of thing he's running to change and overcome. It's a pretty good recovery even if it won't entirely dispel the ghosts of Stevenson/Dukakis/Kerry or stop the GOP ads attacking Obama on this:
“I was in San Francisco talking to a group at a fundraiser and somebody asked how’re you going to get votes in Pennsylvania? What’s going on there? We hear that’s its hard for some working class people to get behind you’re campaign. I said, “Well look, they’re frustrated and for good reason. Because for the last 25 years they’ve seen jobs shipped overseas. They’ve seen their economies collapse. They have lost their jobs. They have lost their pensions. They have lost their healthcare.
“And for 25, 30 years Democrats and Republicans have come before them and said we’re going to make your community better. We’re going to make it right and nothing ever happens. And of course they’re bitter. Of course they’re frustrated. You would be too. In fact many of you are. Because the same thing has happened here in Indiana. The same thing happened across the border in Decatur. The same thing has happened all across the country. Nobody is looking out for you. Nobody is thinking about you. And so people end up- they don’t vote on economic issues because they don’t expect anybody’s going to help them. So people end up, you know, voting on issues like guns, and are they going to have the right to bear arms. They vote on issues like gay marriage. And they take refuge in their faith and their community and their families and things they can count on. But they don’t believe they can count on Washington. So I made this statement-- so, here’s what rich. Senator Clinton says ‘No, I don’t think that people are bitter in Pennsylvania. You know, I think Barack’s being condescending.’ John McCain says, ‘Oh, how could he say that? How could he say people are bitter? You know, he’s obviously out of touch with people.’
“Out of touch? Out of touch? I mean, John McCain—it took him three tries to finally figure out that the home foreclosure crisis was a problem and to come up with a plan for it, and he’s saying I’m out of touch? Senator Clinton voted for a credit card-sponsored bankruptcy bill that made it harder for people to get out of debt after taking money from the financial services companies, and she says I’m out of touch? No, I’m in touch. I know exactly what’s going on. I know what’s going on in Pennsylvania. I know what’s going on in Indiana. I know what’s going on in Illinois. People are fed-up. They’re angry and they’re frustrated and they’re bitter. And they want to see a change in Washington and that’s why I’m running for President of the United States of America.”