Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

Obama tells nations' editors "bitter" seems part of "fake controversies.


WASHINGTON--Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) drew a sell-out crowd Monday at a luncheon full of U.S. newspaper editors and executives, here for a news industry convention. Obama told the influential group he is neither out of touch or too liberal, but does regret his remarks about middle class folks being "bitter" and said he made a "mistake." He talked about "fake controversies" as he incorporated the themes of bitterness into his speech. Sen. John McCain (R-Az.) spoke to the editors in the morning and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) goes on Tuesday.

Obama tried to move beyond the controversy he ignited with his own words. People, he said, " are tired of being distracted by fake controversies. They are fed up with politicians trying to divide us for their own political gain. And I believe they’ll see through the tactics that are used every year, in every election, to appeal to our fears, or our biases, or our differences.."

for speech, click below

Remarks of Senator Barack Obama
AP Annual Luncheon
Monday, April 14th, 2008
Washington, DC

As delivered

Good afternoon. I know I kept a lot of you guys busy this weekend with the comments I made last week. Some of you might even be a little bitter about that.

As I said yesterday, I regret some of the words I chose, partly because the way that these remarks have been interpreted have offended some people and partly because they have served as one more distraction from the critical debate that we must have in this election .

I’m a person of deep faith, and my religion has sustained me through a lot in my life. I even gave a speech on faith before I ever started running for President where I said that Democrats, “make a mistake when we fail to acknowledge the power of faith in people’s lives.”

I also represent a state with a large number of hunters and sportsmen, and I understand how important these traditions are to families in Illinois and all across America. And, contrary to what my poor word choices may have implied or my opponents have suggested, I’ve never believed that these traditions or people’s faith has anything to do with how much money they have.

But I will never walk away from the larger point that I was trying to make. And have made in the past.

For the last several decades, people in small towns and cities and rural areas all across this country have seen globalization change the rules of the game on them. When I began my career as an organizer on the South Side of Chicago, I saw what happens when the local steel mill shuts its doors and moves overseas. You don’t just lose the jobs in the mill, you start losing jobs and businesses throughout the community. The streets are emptier. The schools suffer.

I saw it during my campaign for the Senate in Illinois when I’d talk to union guys who had worked at the local Maytag plant for twenty, thirty years before being laid off at fifty-five years old when it picked up and moved to Mexico; and they had no idea what they’re going to do without the paycheck or the pension that they had counted on. One man didn’t even know if he’d be able to afford the liver transplant his son needed now that his health care was gone.

I’ve heard these stories almost every day during this campaign, whether it was in Iowa or Ohio or Pennsylvania. And the people I’ve met have also told me that every year, in every election, politicians come to their towns, and they tell them what they want to hear, and they make big promises, and then they go back to Washington when the campaign’s over, and nothing changes.

There’s no plan to address the downside of globalization. We don’t do anything about the skyrocketing cost of health care or college or those disappearing pensions. Instead of fighting to replace jobs that aren’t coming back, Washington ends up fighting over the latest distraction of the week.

And after years and years and years of this, a lot of people in this country have become cynical about what government can do to improve their lives. They are angry and frustrated with their leaders for not listening to them; for not fighting for them; for not always telling them the truth. And yes, they are bitter about that.

Now, Senator McCain and the Republicans in Washington are already looking ahead to the fall and have decided that they plan on using my comments to argue that I’m out of touch with what’s going on in the lives of working Americans. I don’t blame them for this -- that’s the nature of our political culture, and if I had to carry the banner for eight years of George Bush’s failures, I’d be looking for something else to talk about too.

But I will say this. If John McCain wants to turn the election into a contest about which party is out of touch with the struggles and the hopes of working America, that’s a debate I’m happy to have. In fact, I think that’s a debate we have to have. Because I believe that the real insult to the millions of hard-working Americans out there would be a continuation of the economic agenda that has dominated Washington for far too long.

I may have made a mistake last week in the words that I chose, but the other party has made a much more damaging mistake in the failed policies they’ve chosen and the bankrupt philosophy they’ve embraced for the last three decades.

It’s a philosophy that says there’s no role for government in making the global economy work for working Americas; that we have to just sit back watch those factories close and those jobs disappear; that there’s nothing we can do or should do about workers without health care, or children in crumbling schools, or families who are losing their homes, and so we should just hand out a few tax breaks and wish everyone the best of luck.

Ronald Reagan called this trickle-down economics. George Bush called it the Ownership Society. But what it really means is that you’re on your own. If your premiums or your tuition is rising faster than you can afford, you’re on your own. If you’re that Maytag worker who just lost his pension, tough luck. If you’re a child born into poverty, you’ll just have to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.

This philosophy isn’t just out-of-touch – it’s put our economy out-of-whack. Years of pain on Main Street have finally trickled up to Wall Street and sent us hurtling toward recession, reminding us that we’re all connected – that we can’t prosper as a nation where a few people are doing well and everyone else is struggling.

John McCain is an American hero and a worthy opponent, but he’s proven time and time again that he just doesn’t understand this. It took him three tries in seven days just to figure out that the home foreclosure crisis was an actual problem. He’s had a front row seat to the last eight years of disastrous policies that have widened the income gap and saddled our children with debt, and now he’s promising four more years of the very same thing.

He’s promising to make permanent the Bush tax breaks for the wealthiest few who didn’t need them and didn’t ask for them – tax breaks that are so irresponsible that John McCain himself once said they offended his conscience.

He’s promising four more years of trade deals that don’t have a single safeguard for American workers – that don’t help American workers compete and win in a global economy.

He’s promising four more years of an Administration that will push for the privatization of Social Security – a plan that would gamble away people’s retirement on the stock market; a plan that was already rejected by Democrats and Republicans under George Bush.

He’s promising four more years of policies that won’t guarantee health insurance for working Americans; that won’t bring down the rising cost of college tuition; that won’t do a thing for the Americans who are living in those communities where the jobs have left and the factories have shut their doors.

And yet, despite all this, the other side is still betting that the American people won’t notice that John McCain is running for George Bush’s third term. They think that they’ll forget about all that’s happened in the last eight years; that they’ll be tricked into believing that it’s either me or our party is the one that’s out of touch with what’s going on in their lives.

Well I’m making a different bet. I’m betting on the American people.

The men and women I’ve met in small towns and big cities across this country see this election as a defining moment in our history. They understand what’s at stake here because they’re living it every day. And they are tired of being distracted by fake controversies. They are fed up with politicians trying to divide us for their own political gain. And I believe they’ll see through the tactics that are used every year, in every election, to appeal to our fears, or our biases, or our differences – because they’ve never wanted or needed change as badly as they do now.

The people I’ve met during this campaign know that government cannot solve all of our problems, and they don’t expect it to. They don’t want our tax dollars wasted on programs that don’t work or perks for special interests who don’t work for us. They understand that we cannot stop every job from going overseas or build a wall around our economy, and they know that we shouldn’t.

But they believe it’s finally time that we make health care affordable and available for every single American; that we bring down costs for workers and for businesses; that we cut premiums, and stop insurance companies from denying people care or coverage who need it most.

They believe it’s time we provided real relief to the victims of this housing crisis; that we help families refinance their mortgage so they can stay in their homes; that we start giving tax relief to the people who actually need it – middle-class families, and seniors, and struggling homeowners.

They believe that we can and should make the global economy work for working Americans; that we might not be able to stop every job from going overseas, but we certainly can stop giving tax breaks to companies who send them their and start giving tax breaks to companies who create good jobs right here in America. They know we can invest in the types of renewable energy that won’t just reduce our dependence on oil and save our planet, but create up to five million new jobs that can’t be outsourced.

They believe we can train our workers for those new jobs, and keep the most productive workforce the most competitive workforce in the world if we fix our public education system by investing in what works and finding out what doesn’t; if we invest in early childhood education and finally make college affordable for everyone who wants to go; if we stop talking about how great our teachers are and start rewarding them for their greatness.

They believe that if you work your entire life, you deserve to retire with dignity and respect, which means a pension you can count on, and Social Security that’s always there.

This is what the people I’ve met believe about the country they love. It doesn’t matter if they’re Democrats or Republicans; whether they’re from the smallest towns or the biggest cities; whether they hunt or they don’t; whether they go to church, or temple, or mosque, or not. We may come from different places and have different stories, but we share common hopes, and one very American dream.

That is the dream I am running to help restore in this election. If I get the chance, that is what I’ll be talking about from now until November. That is the choice that I’ll offer the American people – four more years of what we had for the last eight, or fundamental change in Washington.

People may be bitter about their leaders and the state of our politics, but beneath that, they are hopeful about what’s possible in America. That’s why they leave their homes on their day off, or their jobs after a long day of work, and travel – sometimes for miles, sometimes in the bitter cold – to attend a rally or a town hall meeting held by Senator Clinton, or Senator McCain, or myself. Because they believe that we can change things. Because they believe in that dream.

(contrary to what written (paraphrase))

I know something about that dream. I wasn’t born into a lot of money. I was raised by a single mother with the help my grandparents, who grew up in small-town Kansas, went to school on the GI Bill, and bought their home through an FHA loan. My mother had to use food stamps at one point, but she still made sure that through scholarships, I got a chance to go to some of the best schools around, which helped me get into some of the best colleges around, which gave me loans that Michelle and I just finished paying not that many years ago.

In other words, my story is a quintessentially American story. It’s the same story that has made this country a beacon for the world—a story of struggle and sacrifice on the part of my forebearers and a story overcoming great odds. I carry that story with me each and every day, It’s why I wake up every day and do this, and it’s why I continue to hold such hope for the future of the country where the dreams of its people have always been possible. Thank you very much.



What, you didn't approve my last comment 'cause you thought it was elitist? My husband was a bomber in WW2, I know from whence I speak when I pooh pooh Middle America's perception of military culture. I'm 90. I blog. I never miss bingo.

He better use his words with caution, they are all he has. The Rezko Trial revealed a new friend of Obamas today, Auchi. Just another good friend he can deny tomorrow.

Two white politicians call a black candidate "elitist"? I thought they used use the expression "uppity black". No one is fooled by this meaningless news-cycle microburst. The press knows we are getting tired of the endless Hillary-Barack contest, so they have to scrounge for any inflammatory scraps they can.

now there appears to be two problems with the obama campaign. the first has been long standing. axelrod, the media driven. they never bothered to develop a serious field organization. instead they've relied on a peter=pan like fade in, fade out a cadre of summer activists and cool t.v. spots.
the second, now beginning to peep from under the covers, is the candidate's inability to swing a substatitive blow to an opponent. the lack of 'there-there' is showing....and it's a bit sad.
the axelrod axis appears frightened to encompase the tested organizers of other organizations, and that behavior has begun to close in and strangle his effort.
perhaps he/they will have time to reflect upon that in front of the fireplace, next winter, in hyde park.

Thanks for the transcript, Lynn. Bloggers are indeed the new pamphleteers! Too bad Obama doesn't read them--guess he only reads his own at Huffington Post--you know, for the arugula smoothie crowd.
The Chicago media has not produced ANY fake controversies regarding Obama.
Such a silly comment shows how pampered andspoiled he's been from all the benefits of doubt the local news media has given our 'favorite son'--and look how repays it!
Anyone, from Susan B. Anthony, to Sojourner truth, to, yes, 'citizen' Tom Paine must now certainly be able to see this for what it is.
Sour Grapes.
They make a very bitter whine.
Yet another example that this nationally unvetted candidate cannot be the top of our ticket. HRC is NOT the enemy.
What’s wrong with waiting 8 years, Obama and Gobamas? Wait for LBJ’s 3rd generation of Dixiecrats to kick the bucket.
I used to say that. And I may say that again.
But, give a listen to the audio posted by Mayhill Fowler (the not so pretty girl recently on the bus who savvily recorded the disturbing speech in California).
It’s a disturbing speech and shaking a ‘you are naughty’ finger at Hilary Clinton will not work.
In fact, the whole strategy for ‘dealing’ with his comment disturbs me even more.
Because, there seems to be a pattern emerging from not just the Obama campaign, but from the lips of Obama himself:
Exclude from the ‘movement’ or otherwise silence the non-enthusiastic or
‘offending’ middle aged white or elderly women.
Listen to the audio Mayhill recorded—and be sure to thank her and show your support for her. She will need it, if Tavis Smiley is any example of how people non-conforming to the Obama message of ‘hope’ get treated.
His comments to the crowd that we need ‘new people’ in the Democratic party kind of chilled me to the bone. I find him very intolerant. I find his campaign intolerant. He responded to a question about his ability to really unite the party after such a divisive campaign by saying that “people get their feelings hurt” and they’ll be back (basically).
I don’t think that’s the case. People left his campaign because we felt it was using the wrong strategy and felt (but couldn’t quite put our finger on WHY it was fundamentally wrong-minded.
In his speech last night, in which he mentioned that ‘abstinence” and teaching appropriate behavior would be a good idea—heck—the people he BASHED last night have been speaking about this stuff for years! In fact, the Planned Parenthood crowd in Kalamazoo, Michigan (who later came to Chicago) managed to get a K-12 systematic sex education curriculum passed in the late 1970s. The JOHN BIRCH society worked to get it removed from the schools—and the Planned Parenthood clinic was actually bombed.
Would 70s style peaceful activists be part of the mature crowd Obama now wants replaced with his Gobama crowd? No. Not if he can help it.
That’s what it’s looking like to me.
Particularly when I heard Obama last night say talk about the pro-choice people he said were reluctant to infuse a “moral dimension’ into the abortion issue.
Patently false. Shame on Barack Obama.
Shame on him also for the recent clarification that in fact he DID attend a Muslim school (the public schools in Indonesia were like the community—women didn’t have to wear the veil, but…) seems like he was earlier being less than forthcoming. Even in liberal Islamic settings, women have a back of the bus status. I do NOT think Obama has been honest enough about this.
I think he’s sexist. Not just for the relentless bashing of Geraldine Ferraro, but for something really revealing in his speech last night, he ‘could not remember’ whether he’d had a conversation with his daughters about God. Well, if you’re in a 50’s throwback marriage where mommy is the main person interacting with the kids when they’re not in the expensive, enriching U of C daycare---then you perhaps are leaving a lot of that stuff to the wifey.
And perhaps that’s why Michelle (back when she let reporters cover her fund-raising) cut loose with the “ladies against women” style rant against Hilary (“How can she handle the White House when she ‘can’t manage’ her own house (sic).”)
The problem with sexism or any ‘ism’ is the elitism at its heart.
But there’s another reason why the Obamas must mature more before they’re at the top of the ticket.
They’ve let the newfound celebrity go to their heads.
Call it the ‘diva factor’.
Bonnie Raitt (you might remember she and Jackson Browne played a New Hampshire benefit for John Edwards’ superior approach—since adopted by Hilary Clinton—regarding nuclear power, greenhouse gases, and whatnot) chafed at being called a diva on a blues show last night. She said it reminded her of the old saw “Don’t look Miss Ross in the eye as she heads on stage.”
Barack Obama as diva.
Annie Oakley at least was a class act.

- - - - - - - - -

Magnanimous, taking the high-road, no Clinton bashing. Either you believe this guy is an elitist, or you believe he's authentic. The good people of Pennsylvania will decide.

Thank you for supporting Barry with your every waking moment. If not for the bottomless worship of loopy gasbags the press would certainly know that Barry was posing as an anti war hero while hanging out with me and Rezko. Do the math.

N. Auchi

B. Clinton "[s]ays at campaign railly in Corydon, Indiana that throughout seven stops in North Carolina, 'Everywhere I go there are all these people with signs, saying I’m not bitter - I’m not bitter.'

ABC’s Sarah Amos says his comments were well-received but 'not entirely accurate.' For instance, she says there were no signs at his rallies saying 'I’m not bitter,' as he claimed."

Obama tried albeit somewhat unsuccessfully to answer a question in a heartfelt way that like Negros of slavery time who also turned to Religion & Music due to oppression and hard times and that small town America has very little to look forward to and so too turned to religion and hunting as a normal outlet and sometimes blamed their plight on immigrants! This excercise in "honest" judgment has been blown out of all proportions and taken up by Hillary & McCain and some in the Media to exploit for political gain, albeit with dishonesty and distorted statements to demean Obama for being honest. We have to asks ourselves as Americans "would we rather have politicians that lie to us or ones that tell us the truth no matter what?" Hillary's current assertion that her father taught her to shoot behind the cottage that her grandfather built on Lake Winona as a little girl smells alot like Bosnian Sniper Fire! And, now we have Bill Clinton going around with his current False take on "bitterness" as another example of another "lying politician", excuse my blatantness...with the following...

B. Clinton "[s]ays at campaign railly in Corydon, Indiana that throughout seven stops in North Carolina, 'Everywhere I go there are all these people with signs, saying I’m not bitter - I’m not bitter.' ABC’s Sarah Amos says his comments were well-received but 'not entirely accurate.' For instance, she says there were no signs at his rallies saying 'I’m not bitter,' as he claimed."

(Mark Halpern, The Page)

However, in light of the current fire storm and questionning and psychoanalyzing about the "bitterness" of small town America, maybe Obama has done us some good and we can finally bring or shed some light on just how bitter (or not) we really are and better yet -- the "Root Cause"!

So Angellight--since you're obviously out on the trail for HQ--how were the arugula milk shakes in Indiana was it?
Come on, Julie, eat the burger, I mean railly!

Obama doesn't speak for me. That much has become clearer and clearer. Just want to share a great video I found with Lynn and you all here.

The Center for Media Research has released a study by Vertical Response that shows just where many of these ‘Main Street’ players are going with their online dollars. The big winners: e-mail and social media. With only 3.8% of small business folks NOT planning on using e-mail marketing and with social media carrying the perception of being free (which they so rudely discover it is far from free) this should make some in the banner and search crowd a little wary.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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