I think one of Slate’s most astute observations about the Democratic primary has been to track the way the Obama and Clinton campaigns take calculated umbrage at things said by the opposition campaign about their candidate, hoping to score some political gain. And up to this point, that’s been the exclusive way that umbrage has been employed – one campaign gets huffy about something the other did, said, or implied. Examples abound – there was the Obama campaign groping for the fainting couch after Geraldine Ferraro opened her idiot yap (her ticket lost by one of the widest margins in history, why would she be tapped as a surrogate, again?), Clinton wanting to meet Obama in Ohio at high noon after he distributed a critical flyer, Obama’s campaign getting all righteously indignant when Mark Penn referred to Obama’s youthful dalliance with cocaine, the Clinton campaign going Force 10 crazy after Samantha Power called her a “monster,” etc.
And now the Clinton campaign has decided that getting offended on its own behalf is so three months ago, and it’s time to shine ass by getting offended on behalf of the voters. At a fund-raiser in Pennsylvania, site of Hillary Clinton’s latest “last stand” (sidebar: anybody else agree with me that Hillary Clinton is like that furniture store that has like 3 “Going Out Of Business” sales every year?), Obama was addressing the raw feelings among working class voters in Rust Belt states, and made the following statement, the horrifically offensive, Mussolini-esque part highlighted in bold:
“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.”
As class-related statements go, I wouldn’t really rate that one near Ronald Reagan’s “poor by choice” comment on the Incendiary Meter – as I read it, Obama basically said “Go into states that have historically been supported by blue-collar economies like manufacturing, and you’ll find that economic decisions made by previous administrations have left the citizenry behind through outsourcing and trade deals that didn’t look out for the American worker. And this has been happening for a full generation now, and these people are upset about it, feel like their government treats them as disposable in the face of foreign trade and interests, and so they get pretty pissed about it and start looking for fulfillment, community, and meaning elsewhere.” I’m kind of surprised the remark kicked up the shitstorm that it did.
But boy, did it. Hillary Clinton didn’t wait long, and despite the fact that she didn’t take a lot of time to prepare, her comments are nevertheless hilarious, well-crafted self-parody that matches Stephen Colbert with ease. “Senator Obama’s remarks were elitist and out of touch,” she said, campaigning about an hour away in Indianapolis. “They are not reflective of the values and beliefs of Americans.”
Only Hillary Clinton, just a week out from releasing tax records that showed she and Slick made $109 million since 2000 – the top one hundreth of 1 percent -, would attack Barack Obama for being “elitist.” (sidebar No. 2 – Hillary actually said, by way of comment on the embarassment of riches “my husband, much to my surprise and his, has made a lot of money since he left the White House, by doing what he loves doing most — talking to people.”) And I don’t know about you, but when I think of the elitist comments, Hillary’s assertion that she’s “not the kind of woman who stays at home baking cookies” leaps to mind pretty quick. Yes, it’s quite a common touch she’s got.
Clinton also points out “I was raised with Midwestern values and an unshakable faith in America and its policies.” I also was raised with Midwestern values…still live in the Midwest, in fact. And somehow I missed the part of Midwestern values education where it recommends marrying and covering for a serial philanderer so that you can climb a political ladder. But maybe there’s an advanced class in Midwestern values taught somewhere in Clinton’s carpetbagged adopted home of New York that a rube like me hasn’t been privy to. And the fact she didn’t invite me to sit in leaves me feeling kind of…offended.