Texas Liberal

All People Matter

Some Thoughts On Senator Obama’s “Bitter” Comments

Senator Barack Obama has recently made comments that have proved controversial.

Below are the comments in question ( I’ve added two paragraphs from Senator Obama’s remarks for some context. The paragraph in the middle is what we have been hearing about–But there was more. Click here for the full remarks) —

“But — so the questions you’re most likely to get about me, ‘Well, what is this guy going to do for me? What is the concrete thing?’ What they wanna hear is so we’ll give you talking points about what we’re proposing — to close tax loopholes, uh you know uh roll back the tax cuts for the top 1%, Obama’s gonna give tax breaks to uh middle-class folks and we’re gonna provide health care for every American.

But the truth is, is that, our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there’s not evidence of that in their daily lives. 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. 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.

Um, now these are in some communities, you know. I think what you’ll find is, is that people of every background — there are gonna be a mix of people, you can go in the toughest neighborhoods, you know working-class lunch-pail folks, you’ll find Obama enthusiasts. And you can go into places where you think I’d be very strong and people will just be skeptical. The important thing is that you show up and you’re doing what you’re doing.”

Here are my thoughts on these comments—  

1. Everyone has a crutch in life. We all turn to some type of distraction. Most are harmless. At times, when personal discipline and self-respect fail, some turn to making light of others. It is a mistake to say this is done only by people having what we call “hard times.” Life is hard for most people.  

2. The comments sting for being painfully true. We’ve all encountered people who often seem bitter. One could ask why remind folks of the obvious? Though these were comments not intended for a mass-audience.  

3. The comments miss the mark because they are generalizations. Americans have liked guns since day one. Many are religious because they simply believe–Not for any other reason. Whenever you generalize about many people, you are inevitably wrong. 

4. Can anyone deny that some working class whites over the last 40 years have voted for George Wallace, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and the Bushes out of racial and economic bitterness?  Maybe what some are bitter about today is having voted for George W. Bush over John Kerry and seeing what a mistake that was.

5. Who can blame many people in this society, or anywhere in the world, for being bitter? Life often sucks. Martin Luther King used to say that in a sick society it is the well-adjusted people who have a problem. Maybe the candidates should get on the case of seemingly well-adjusted people and ask what is wrong with them.   

6. Senator Obama seems in many respects a work in progress–As is the case for many thoughtful people of all ages.

This report from National Public Radio talks about Mr. Obama’s adult religious conversion. 

I feel Senator Obama is a decent person who still has some work to do on seeing himself as the equal of others and maybe not just a bit better than others. I wonder sometimes if Mr. Obama feels, to steal a term a co-worker of mine enjoys using, “too cool for school.”

7. We can’t forget that the real elitist is John McCain. Senator McCain says he now supports the Bush tax cuts for the rich, a flip-flop from his original position, and had to be politically forced to call for aid to struggling homeowners. Mr. McCain is the one out of touch with the needs and lives of the American people.     

8. Even if Senator Obama’s comments seem blunt, none of the three remaining candidates are telling Americans the full hard truths about Iraq, climate change, or the impact of the global economy on our future standards of living.

I feel Senator Obama offers the best chance for meaningful discussion as a first step, and meaningful action as the second step, towards solutions to our most pressing problems. 

Mr. Obama is the remaining candidate most likely to tell Americans the truth about the problems ahead. He is the one most likely to offer the right mix of ideology, willingness to listen to different types of people, and intellectual flexibility to help find answers to these problems.

Please click here for Senator Obama’s campaign web page.

April 14, 2008 - Posted by | Campaign 2008, Politics | , , , , , , ,


  1. He does say uh and um a lot. I have been noticing that.
    About your real point: I don’t think this is some painful truth. I think a lot of Americans are frustrated, pissed off, bitter or whatever you want to call it and know it full well. But it is very different to then be called a dumbass redneck, which is essentially he did. Gun-toting religious xenophobes. He’s arrogant. He isn’t starting a conversation. He’s making fun of us!

    Comment by couldabeen | April 14, 2008

  2. I wonder if you were ever open to Senator Obama to start with.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | April 14, 2008

  3. “open to…” ?!?!?!? Why do you make this sound like group therapy, rather than a political selection for the person who will occupy the (arguably) most powerful position in the world?

    That’s the problem with you Democrats. You all want to get into a warm bath together.

    Comment by Marty | April 14, 2008

  4. Maybe if you took a nice warm bath you would less angry and more open to the fact that we share this country and the world with many different types of folks.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | April 14, 2008

  5. […] So it shouldn’t be any surprise when the Billary and John McCain lock arm-in-arm to purposely misconstrue Obama’s remarks (see below for a fairly full quote of them, cited here in a more lucid blog than mine). […]

    Pingback by Bitter remarks are no surprise « LoomisNews: An Outside Observer | April 14, 2008

  6. You have a much more benign view of innocuous remarks that have been blown up into this week’s crisis by an attack-driven media.

    Comment by loomisnews | April 14, 2008

  7. I was a bit troubled by the remarks, but Clinton’s response — portraying herself as a pro-gun churchwoman — makes it clear that Obama is still far and away the best candidate.

    Comment by Julie | April 15, 2008

  8. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. It’s interesting that most media reports have dwelt primarily on the religion and guns part of Obama’s remarks without saying too much about the rest of that sentence, the part I found far more offensive – antipathy to people who aren’t like them, etc. It’s all troubling – Obama’s comments, Hillary’s reaction and the perception that McCain, the worst of the three, continues to attract little attention whenever he misspeaks or, in his case, clearly communicates how arrogant and ignorant he is.

    Comment by Newton | April 15, 2008

  9. Neil, when I began thinking about whom to vote for, Edwards was my top candidate. When he dropped out, I did a lot of research on Clinton and Obama. I read their websites for their policy statements. I remember thinking that there wasn’t a great deal of difference between them, but I preferred Clinton as I thought she was more substantive. I disliked how Obama emphasized bipartisanship when the Republicans have nearly destroyed our country, but I did not consider him a bad candidate. When I cast my vote in the primary, I was slightly plus-Clinton but not against Obama. But I continued my research. I read his books and hers. His shocked the hell out of me. He did not emerge from those books as a unifier or a hopeful man–to me. I admit this is my opinion and my reaction, but yes, I did consider him. I will no longer. I loved the Autobiography of Malcolm X, which showed the transformation of a man from a thug to a thoughtful individual. But when I see Malcolm X’s statement (before he rejected the Nation of Islam) that he hated every drop of white blood in his body quoted in Obama’s Dreams from My Father with approval, I shudder. This man is not post-racial. He is bitter.

    Comment by couldabeen | April 15, 2008

  10. Loomisnews–Thank you. I’ll add your blog to my blogroll.

    Julie–Thank you.

    Newton–All three have some problems. McCain as you say is the worst. Though is this ever not the case when someone is running to lead 300 million people and is trying to be all things to all people?

    I do wish Mr.Obama would be more frank on issues like the global economy and look forward instead of worrying about battles of the past. Especially when based on the past he dredges up, a black man would have a hard time winning the White House. Mr. Obama’s comments do nothing to bring about a better future, or a future in which he can be elected.

    Couldabeen–So are you going to go from Edwards to McCain? Thanks for your comment.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | April 15, 2008

  11. No, I still believe Hillary Clinton will be the nominee. If she isn’t, then I will make my decision to either support Obama or not vote for president, but vote Democratic in every other category. I happen to live in a “blue” state, and I am sure it will go for Obama if he is the Democratic nominee. I don’t want McCain to be president, though, and so I will need to do the kind of thorough thinking through the issues that I have done to choose Clinton over Obama. I do feel like a lot of civic responsibility rests on us as voters (and always has).

    Comment by couldabeen | April 15, 2008

  12. Well–I think Mr. Obama is a work in progress and you should see how it goes if he is the nominee. I’ve said all along I’ll vote for Mrs. Clinton if she is the nominee.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | April 15, 2008

  13. The worst part of his statements (which you don’t mention) is that they were said to the wealthiest people in the country. He visited San Fran specifically to cow-tow to rich campaign contributers. The mansion that he was in, is owned by an oil family.

    Tell me … does he still not take loybbist money?

    McCain (who does not have my vote either, yet) is an older, more experienced individual. And yet, he has never so blatantly spat in the face of core voters.

    Also, if Hillary is the nominee, you will have the lowest recorded turnout for democrat voters ever in November. And McCain will win.

    Comment by StacyH | April 15, 2008

  14. Won’t Senator McCain be the most responsive to the wealthy and the least responsive to average Americans?

    Comment by Neil Aquino | April 16, 2008

  15. Making him no different than Obama or Hillary or any other politician. The average American gets the attention they ask for. If every average American picked up the phone or wrote a letter or VOTED than they would get more attention. As it stands, those that have the most to lose or gain make the most noise. The squeaky wheel and all …

    And in regards to the rest of my comment?

    Comment by StacyH | April 16, 2008

  16. Stacy–Americans do have an obligation to take a greater role in politics. I wish canidates would talk about what they expect of people and not just about big promises.

    Mr. McCain is more tilted towards the needs of the rich than the other two.

    I feel either Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton will beat Mr. McCain.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | April 16, 2008

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