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Monday, April 14, 2008

Hillary's 'Bitter-Gate' Strategy: May In Fact Be Condescending and Demeaning

Groans and at least one “No” from the crowd

Eloise Harper,ABC News: Her remarks were received poorly by the audience and instead of eliciting applause, Clinton was jeered when she brought up the subject.

Decades of working - Class neglect - now that's insulting

By John Baer
Philadelphia Daily News
Daily News Political Columnist

As a native-born, small-town Pennsylvanian, a son of native-born, small-town Pennsylvania parents - one from the coal region, one from Lancaster County - let me assure you that the so-called offensive, condescending things Barack Obama said about the people I come from are basically right on target.

"Bitter" perhaps best describes my late mother, an angry Irish Catholic who absolutely clung to her religion.

Dad, also a journalist, wasn't really bitter as far as I know, but he sure liked to hunt.

So, despite carping from Hillary Clinton and annoying yapping from her surrogates (really, it's like turning on the lights at night in a puppy farm), I take no offense.

What's offensive to me is suggesting that small-town, working-class, gun-toting and/or religious Pennsylvanians are somehow injured by a politician's words.

Are you kidding me?

They're injured all right, but the injury is long-term and from lots more than "just words."

They've been injured from decades of neglect by political cultures in Washington and Harrisburg driven by special interests.

They're injured by a system of isolated, insulated political leadership that protects itself and the status quo above all else.

They've been harmed by a lack of political guts to fix a health-care system that works against the poor and forces middle-class families to pay more for less, while at the same time giving politicians the best coverage taxpayer money can buy.

They've been taken for granted by political parties and candidates who stay in power by - and this was the apparent gist of Obama's remarks - forcing attention and debate on issues tied to guns, religion and race (precisely because such issues resonate) rather than real problems such as health care and the economy.

They've been consistently made fools of by their own elected representatives who, year after year, pull fat salaries ($169,000 for every member of Congress; $150,000 in salary, perks and benefits for every state lawmaker) with automatic raises no matter how little gets done.

A new Associated Press poll shows Congress' approval rating at 23 percent. And don't even get me started on the Pennsylvania Legislature.


What's insulting are the sizes of salaries and perks of politicians in a state where the median household income is $43,714.

What's insulting is the ongoing failure of elected "leaders" to deal with long-term, working-class worries while insuring their own futures with hefty, over-rich pensions.

And, look, what Obama said, given a charged atmosphere close to a critical primary, was ill-advised - not because he's wrong, but because it changes the discussion.

The 24-hour broadcast-news cycle will jabber on this for days - the irony being that Obama's "words," which had positioned him so well, now threaten to trip him up.

Another irony is that the candidate running to effect change where change is needed, and to offer hope to those without it, is suddenly tagged as somehow diminishing those he seeks to serve.

So the question is whether Obama effectively defuses this, as he did the controversy surrounding his former minister. And that remains to be seen.

Just don't tell me that he insulted a state or, given his background, that he's an out-of-touch elitist.

And I especially don't want to hear such arguments from a candidate who spent decades in the bubble of a governor's mansion, the White House and the U.S. Senate, and under the blanket of $109 million income during the last eight years.

Pennsylvanians might cling to religion and guns. I hope they don't cling to stupidity.

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