Commentary Magazine


Topic: Michelle

Worrisome . . .

There’s a lighthearted piece in today’s New York Times about Barack Obama and his aide, Reggie Love. The following paragraph leapt out at me:

Along the way, some unofficial rules have emerged between the candidate and his aide. From Mr. Obama: “One cardinal rule of the road is, we don’t watch CNN, the news or MSNBC. We don’t watch any talking heads or any politics. We watch ‘SportsCenter’ and argue about that.”

Anyone concerned about that? The man who may be president doesn’t watch the news or “any politics.” All during the primary, Obama has found himself a little flustered when called upon to offer facts in his defense. You’d think he would try boning up on the headlines now and then. So unskillful is Obama in this regard that the Wall Street Journal once recorded his wife Michelle giving him the following instructions

“Barack,” she interjected, “Feel — don’t think!” Telling her husband his “over-thinking” during past debates had tripped him up with rival Hillary Clinton, she said: “Don’t get caught in the weeds. Be visceral. Use your heart — and your head.”

So, SportsCenter it is. The issue here is not brain power. One only need listen to Obama wax poetic about hope and inclusiveness for thirty seconds to sense his formidable intelligence. Rather, he seems disinclined to deal in pedestrian details, what with lofty generalizations being so much more fun and all. Or maybe when you spend all day going from from adoring amphitheater to adoring amphitheater, a critical jab from a talking head can really spoil your mood.

There’s a lighthearted piece in today’s New York Times about Barack Obama and his aide, Reggie Love. The following paragraph leapt out at me:

Along the way, some unofficial rules have emerged between the candidate and his aide. From Mr. Obama: “One cardinal rule of the road is, we don’t watch CNN, the news or MSNBC. We don’t watch any talking heads or any politics. We watch ‘SportsCenter’ and argue about that.”

Anyone concerned about that? The man who may be president doesn’t watch the news or “any politics.” All during the primary, Obama has found himself a little flustered when called upon to offer facts in his defense. You’d think he would try boning up on the headlines now and then. So unskillful is Obama in this regard that the Wall Street Journal once recorded his wife Michelle giving him the following instructions

“Barack,” she interjected, “Feel — don’t think!” Telling her husband his “over-thinking” during past debates had tripped him up with rival Hillary Clinton, she said: “Don’t get caught in the weeds. Be visceral. Use your heart — and your head.”

So, SportsCenter it is. The issue here is not brain power. One only need listen to Obama wax poetic about hope and inclusiveness for thirty seconds to sense his formidable intelligence. Rather, he seems disinclined to deal in pedestrian details, what with lofty generalizations being so much more fun and all. Or maybe when you spend all day going from from adoring amphitheater to adoring amphitheater, a critical jab from a talking head can really spoil your mood.

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Re: Obama’s Little Pin

The Washington Post’s Richard Cohen must be devastated. A mere week after he wrote, “Sometimes I think the best thing about Barack Obama is that little empty space on his lapel,” Senator Obama (as Peter mentioned earlier) has gone and handicapped himself by re-accessorizing his person with an American flag pin.

In a May 6 op-ed, beautifully titled “Pins and Panders,” Cohen questions the automaton patriotism of flag-wearers and describes the pin as “a kitschy piece of empty symbolism.” Yet the man so disgusted with short-cuts to national pride is on board with the super-duper, turbo-charged, mother lode of bandwagon short-cut to national pride: the President as symbol. Cohen describes Obama as “a resplendent emblem of American possibilities.” Perhaps the true patriot wears Barack Obama’s image on his lapel . . .

Cohen writes:

Still, it is bracing to see a presidential candidate recoil, for the most part, from the orthodoxies of pandering. In this regard, the lack of a flag pin has become an important sign of Obama’s desire to think for himself. For all it says about Obama, I salute it.

Ah, but what will Obama fans salute now? Not, heaven forbid, the flag. And how will they square their belief in the rebel patriot anti-panderer with their candidate’s transparent pandering? Obama has not made it easy for his supporters. It’s hard to keep track of the alternating intelligibility of his gestures. Words were not “just words” until they were uttered by his ex-pastor: then they were “just words” again. He couldn’t denounce anti-American black liberation theology–until he could. He was post-racial until he was, first and foremost, racial. A lapel pin was a substitute for patriotism until it was patriotism itself.

There is one possibility that explains the reappearance of the flag pin as something other than pandering. Perhaps, like his wife Michelle, Obama is for the first time in his adult life, proud of his country. In making him the Democratic nominee, the U.S. has earned his patriotism at last. So the flag’s in place and he’s ready to roll. He shouldn’t push it, though. If his base catches him with his hand over his heart, he could lose it all.

The Washington Post’s Richard Cohen must be devastated. A mere week after he wrote, “Sometimes I think the best thing about Barack Obama is that little empty space on his lapel,” Senator Obama (as Peter mentioned earlier) has gone and handicapped himself by re-accessorizing his person with an American flag pin.

In a May 6 op-ed, beautifully titled “Pins and Panders,” Cohen questions the automaton patriotism of flag-wearers and describes the pin as “a kitschy piece of empty symbolism.” Yet the man so disgusted with short-cuts to national pride is on board with the super-duper, turbo-charged, mother lode of bandwagon short-cut to national pride: the President as symbol. Cohen describes Obama as “a resplendent emblem of American possibilities.” Perhaps the true patriot wears Barack Obama’s image on his lapel . . .

Cohen writes:

Still, it is bracing to see a presidential candidate recoil, for the most part, from the orthodoxies of pandering. In this regard, the lack of a flag pin has become an important sign of Obama’s desire to think for himself. For all it says about Obama, I salute it.

Ah, but what will Obama fans salute now? Not, heaven forbid, the flag. And how will they square their belief in the rebel patriot anti-panderer with their candidate’s transparent pandering? Obama has not made it easy for his supporters. It’s hard to keep track of the alternating intelligibility of his gestures. Words were not “just words” until they were uttered by his ex-pastor: then they were “just words” again. He couldn’t denounce anti-American black liberation theology–until he could. He was post-racial until he was, first and foremost, racial. A lapel pin was a substitute for patriotism until it was patriotism itself.

There is one possibility that explains the reappearance of the flag pin as something other than pandering. Perhaps, like his wife Michelle, Obama is for the first time in his adult life, proud of his country. In making him the Democratic nominee, the U.S. has earned his patriotism at last. So the flag’s in place and he’s ready to roll. He shouldn’t push it, though. If his base catches him with his hand over his heart, he could lose it all.

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Happy Mother’s Day From McCain

Why is John McCain doing an ad with his mother? The most obvious reason why his 96 year-old mom will be trotted out from time to time is to combat the age issue. Mental clarity and physical vigor don’t fade fast in the McCain family–that’s the underlying message.

But another reason for the ad is to try to lighten his image. That’s a common way campaigns use wives and other relatives. The ever-teary George H.W. Bush and Laura Bush helped convince voters that George W. wasn’t one of those hard-hearted Republicans. Likewise, the poised Cindy and McCain’s mom are there to convince voters that there is a softer and funnier side to McCain. And that’s in large part why McCain is a regular on Letterman and Daily Show.

Do these efforts work? Perhaps at the margins, but the real impact that close relatives (yes, Bill and Michelle, we mean you) can have is a potential negative one: the gaffes they make reinforce negative images about the candidate. If they can actually help solve a problem, that’s just gravy.

Why is John McCain doing an ad with his mother? The most obvious reason why his 96 year-old mom will be trotted out from time to time is to combat the age issue. Mental clarity and physical vigor don’t fade fast in the McCain family–that’s the underlying message.

But another reason for the ad is to try to lighten his image. That’s a common way campaigns use wives and other relatives. The ever-teary George H.W. Bush and Laura Bush helped convince voters that George W. wasn’t one of those hard-hearted Republicans. Likewise, the poised Cindy and McCain’s mom are there to convince voters that there is a softer and funnier side to McCain. And that’s in large part why McCain is a regular on Letterman and Daily Show.

Do these efforts work? Perhaps at the margins, but the real impact that close relatives (yes, Bill and Michelle, we mean you) can have is a potential negative one: the gaffes they make reinforce negative images about the candidate. If they can actually help solve a problem, that’s just gravy.

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The Silence Is Deafening

We heard plenty today from the punditssome of whom think Reverend Wright’s display may be the beginning of the end for the post-racial, post-partisan Barack Obama. (Hillary Clinton is being tight-lipped. Rule #1 of politics: never cause a distraction while your opponent has a major controversy.) But we have heard nothing from Barack Obama on his mentor’s tirade, not even on gems like this:

MODERATOR: What is your relationship with Louis Farrakhan? Do you agree with and respect his views, including his most racially divisive views?

WRIGHT: As I said on the Bill Moyers’ show, one of our news channels keeps playing a news clip from 20 years ago when Louis said 20 years ago that Zionism, not Judaism, was a gutter religion.

And he was talking about the same thing United Nations resolutions say, the same thing now that President Carter is being vilified for, and Bishop Tutu is being vilified for. And everybody wants to paint me as if I’m anti-Semitic because of what Louis Farrakhan said 20 years ago.

I believe that people of all faiths have to work together in this country if we’re going to build a future for our children, whether those people are — just as Michelle and Barack don’t agree on everything, Raymond and I don’t agree on everything, Louis and I don’t agree on everything, most of you all don’t agree — you get two people in the same room, you’ve got three opinions.

[...]

Now, I am not going to put down Louis Farrakhan anymore than Mandela would put down Fidel Castro. Do you remember that Ted Koppel show, where Ted wanted Mandela to put down Castro because Castro was our enemy? And he said, “You don’t tell me who my enemies are. You don’t tell me who my friends are.”

Louis Farrakhan is not my enemy. He did not put me in chains. He did not put me in slavery. And he didn’t make me this color.

If Obama was going to have his Uncle Souljah moment, it would have had to happen immediately after Wright’s remarks. Every passing hour makes any rebuttal that much more difficult. If he only manages some comment after a day or two, it will scream political calculation (or worse, paralysis). If he wanted to get away from Wright, the time to do it was today.

As we end the news day it appears he plans to hunker down and hope that voters will shrug. Electability? That’s the new buzzword. Wonder what those polls will look like in a few days. But by then the moment for action will have passed.

We heard plenty today from the punditssome of whom think Reverend Wright’s display may be the beginning of the end for the post-racial, post-partisan Barack Obama. (Hillary Clinton is being tight-lipped. Rule #1 of politics: never cause a distraction while your opponent has a major controversy.) But we have heard nothing from Barack Obama on his mentor’s tirade, not even on gems like this:

MODERATOR: What is your relationship with Louis Farrakhan? Do you agree with and respect his views, including his most racially divisive views?

WRIGHT: As I said on the Bill Moyers’ show, one of our news channels keeps playing a news clip from 20 years ago when Louis said 20 years ago that Zionism, not Judaism, was a gutter religion.

And he was talking about the same thing United Nations resolutions say, the same thing now that President Carter is being vilified for, and Bishop Tutu is being vilified for. And everybody wants to paint me as if I’m anti-Semitic because of what Louis Farrakhan said 20 years ago.

I believe that people of all faiths have to work together in this country if we’re going to build a future for our children, whether those people are — just as Michelle and Barack don’t agree on everything, Raymond and I don’t agree on everything, Louis and I don’t agree on everything, most of you all don’t agree — you get two people in the same room, you’ve got three opinions.

[...]

Now, I am not going to put down Louis Farrakhan anymore than Mandela would put down Fidel Castro. Do you remember that Ted Koppel show, where Ted wanted Mandela to put down Castro because Castro was our enemy? And he said, “You don’t tell me who my enemies are. You don’t tell me who my friends are.”

Louis Farrakhan is not my enemy. He did not put me in chains. He did not put me in slavery. And he didn’t make me this color.

If Obama was going to have his Uncle Souljah moment, it would have had to happen immediately after Wright’s remarks. Every passing hour makes any rebuttal that much more difficult. If he only manages some comment after a day or two, it will scream political calculation (or worse, paralysis). If he wanted to get away from Wright, the time to do it was today.

As we end the news day it appears he plans to hunker down and hope that voters will shrug. Electability? That’s the new buzzword. Wonder what those polls will look like in a few days. But by then the moment for action will have passed.

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Meltdown

Barack Obama may have done poorly with working class and rural voters in Pennsylvania but he’s doing even worse these days among liberal pundits. This is from Bob Herbert:

However one views the behavior of Bill and Hillary Clinton – and however large the race issue looms in this election, and it looms large – there can be no denying that an awful lot of Mr. Obama’s troubles have come from his side of the table. The Rev. Wright fiasco undermined the fundamental rationale of the entire Obama campaign – that it would be about healing, about putting partisanship aside, about reaching across ethnic and party divisions to bring people together in a new era of cooperation. It’s hard to continue making that case when the candidate’s spiritual adviser is on television castigating America and scaring the hell out of at least some white people. Senator Obama did his best with his speech on race in Philadelphia, but the Wright story has extremely muscular legs. It has hurt the campaign far more than Mr. Obama’s comments about guns and religion in San Francisco. But more important than the Wright comments – and sundry gaffes by Mr. Obama himself, his wife, Michelle, and campaign aides – has been Senator Obama’s strange reluctance to fight harder in public for the nomination. He may feel he doesn’t need to, that he has the nomination wrapped up. But there is such a thing as being too cool.

Maureen Dowd (who has been on a tear lately, openly castigating Obama’s masculinity) now sees him limping away: “It used to be that he was incandescent and she [Hillary Clinton] was merely inveterate. Now she’s bristling with life force, and he looks like he wants to run away somewhere for three months by himself and smoke.” Eleanor Clift sees the handwriting on the wall- and fears some Clintonian retribution for the media which had been Obama’s stalwart cheering section:

I’m beginning to think Hillary Clinton might pull this off and wrestle the nomination away from Barack Obama. If she does, a lot of folks—including a huge chunk of the media—will join Bill Richardson (a.k.a. Judas) in the Deep Freeze. If the Clintons get back into the White House, it will be retribution time, like the Corleone family consolidating power in “The Godfather,” where the watchword is, “It’s business, not personal.”

These bear the tell-tale signs of scorned lovers’ rants. Their once beloved candidate is now reviled, mocked and tossed overboard while they prepare for the possible return of their “ex” with all the unpleasantness that entails. And who is joining them?

Well, none other than Howard Dean, who until recently seemed to pursue strategies designed to either end the race early (Obama liked that) or to encourage delegates to respect the pledged delegate count (Obama really liked that). Yet Friday, for the first time, Dean uttered this: “I think the race is going to come down to the perception in the last six or eight races of who the best opponent for McCain will be. I do not think in the long run it will come down to the popular vote or anything else.”

So it may be that these people have something in common: none of them really wants to be on the wrong side when the Democratic race ends. Pundits hate to have guessed wrong–so far better to excoriate the candidate who they will insist was wonderful, but but messed up–and party leaders never want to be on the winner’s wrong side. So better to shuffle over to the Clinton cheering section, however distasteful that might seem. She, at least from listening to all these voices, now appears to be the odds on favorite.

Barack Obama may have done poorly with working class and rural voters in Pennsylvania but he’s doing even worse these days among liberal pundits. This is from Bob Herbert:

However one views the behavior of Bill and Hillary Clinton – and however large the race issue looms in this election, and it looms large – there can be no denying that an awful lot of Mr. Obama’s troubles have come from his side of the table. The Rev. Wright fiasco undermined the fundamental rationale of the entire Obama campaign – that it would be about healing, about putting partisanship aside, about reaching across ethnic and party divisions to bring people together in a new era of cooperation. It’s hard to continue making that case when the candidate’s spiritual adviser is on television castigating America and scaring the hell out of at least some white people. Senator Obama did his best with his speech on race in Philadelphia, but the Wright story has extremely muscular legs. It has hurt the campaign far more than Mr. Obama’s comments about guns and religion in San Francisco. But more important than the Wright comments – and sundry gaffes by Mr. Obama himself, his wife, Michelle, and campaign aides – has been Senator Obama’s strange reluctance to fight harder in public for the nomination. He may feel he doesn’t need to, that he has the nomination wrapped up. But there is such a thing as being too cool.

Maureen Dowd (who has been on a tear lately, openly castigating Obama’s masculinity) now sees him limping away: “It used to be that he was incandescent and she [Hillary Clinton] was merely inveterate. Now she’s bristling with life force, and he looks like he wants to run away somewhere for three months by himself and smoke.” Eleanor Clift sees the handwriting on the wall- and fears some Clintonian retribution for the media which had been Obama’s stalwart cheering section:

I’m beginning to think Hillary Clinton might pull this off and wrestle the nomination away from Barack Obama. If she does, a lot of folks—including a huge chunk of the media—will join Bill Richardson (a.k.a. Judas) in the Deep Freeze. If the Clintons get back into the White House, it will be retribution time, like the Corleone family consolidating power in “The Godfather,” where the watchword is, “It’s business, not personal.”

These bear the tell-tale signs of scorned lovers’ rants. Their once beloved candidate is now reviled, mocked and tossed overboard while they prepare for the possible return of their “ex” with all the unpleasantness that entails. And who is joining them?

Well, none other than Howard Dean, who until recently seemed to pursue strategies designed to either end the race early (Obama liked that) or to encourage delegates to respect the pledged delegate count (Obama really liked that). Yet Friday, for the first time, Dean uttered this: “I think the race is going to come down to the perception in the last six or eight races of who the best opponent for McCain will be. I do not think in the long run it will come down to the popular vote or anything else.”

So it may be that these people have something in common: none of them really wants to be on the wrong side when the Democratic race ends. Pundits hate to have guessed wrong–so far better to excoriate the candidate who they will insist was wonderful, but but messed up–and party leaders never want to be on the winner’s wrong side. So better to shuffle over to the Clinton cheering section, however distasteful that might seem. She, at least from listening to all these voices, now appears to be the odds on favorite.

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Obama’s America

One of the things worth noting about Senator Obama’s comments about the “bitter” working class voters who “cling” to guns, religion, and nativist sentiments because of their “frustrations” is this: Obama’s view of America and Americans is almost unremittingly bleak. In his increasingly prickly and aggressive defense, Obama insists that his comments about ordinary Americans are accurate. He is, he insists, completely “in touch” with the struggles that define modern American life. At least that’s how he defines things: if you review Obama’s speeches, his portrait of Americans is of a people broken and dispirited, anxious and angry and without hope (and for whom Obama, as you might have guessed, is the balm).

Obama has spoken about crumbling schools, growing divisions, and shattered dreams. He speaks about the one father who goes to work before dawn and lies awake at night wondering how he’s going to pay the bills, and the father who’s worried he won’t be able to send his children to college . . . about the mother who can’t afford health care for her sick child and the other mother who saw her mortgage double in two weeks and didn’t know where her two-year old children would sleep at night . . . the woman who works the night shift after a full day of college and still can’t afford health care for a sick sister . . . the senior who lost his pension when the company he gave his life to went bankrupt . . . the teacher who works at Dunkin’ Donuts after school just to make ends meet, and on and on. The American public, Obama believes, has justifiably become cynical, frustrated, and bitter.

It’s also worth considering the views of those to whom Obama is closest. His wife Michelle has said that America is “downright mean.” It’s a nation whose soul is “broken.” And it’s a nation in which she had never, until her husband ran for President, taken pride. Obama’s longtime friend, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Jr., describes America as fundamentally racist, the “U.S. of K.K.K,” a “Eurocentric wasteland of lily-white lies.”

Senator Obama, in casting himself as a change agent, wants to focus on the failings of our nation. That is typical fare for a presidential candidate. It’s perfectly legitimate, and even right, to call attention to problems that need to be solved and the struggles people are having.

The question for Obama, however, is whether his portrait of America is defining. Does he believe that his comments about working-class people are actually characteristic of them? When he looks out at Americans does he see people who are, on some deep level, broken, bitter, angry, and unable to cope with the vicissitudes of life?

It appears that he does. And if he does, it certainly explains his support for paternalistic government and for the nanny state. It has become unfashionable to point out that for all the problems we face, those of us now living in America are the most fortunate people in history. We live in a nation of extraordinary wealth and scientific and medical advancements. This country, while not without its flaws, has made great strides in alleviating poverty, discrimination, and injustice. We are free to speak, vote, worship, and associate with others. Americans now live longer and better than any previous generation. Our nation remains a force for good in the world. That doesn’t mean our citizen’s lives are without challenges or concerns. It only means that, relative to the rest of the world and relative to history, we’re in pretty good shape.

On some deep level, Obama doesn’t see this. He looks out at America and sees a nation needy, crippled, and desperate for succor from the federal government. A friend of mine wrote to me yesterday:

The supreme arrogance of this man [Obama] comes through with every new defense. I just saw his remarks to the steelworkers in Pittsburgh and, again, it’s everyone else who’s out of touch. Also, it really is a slander against millions of people. I’ve belonged to small town churches all my life (and still do) and I belong to [a gun club in his home state of Minnesota]. It’s hard to find more positive, affirming, communities than small town churches and the hunting/fishing/outdoor culture. What he really doesn’t “get” is the non-materialistic nature of these cultures.

That sounds about right to me. Barack Obama is running as the candidate of hope–but he views America as more or less a wreck and its people as beaten down. From this flawed assumption flows much else, from his rhetoric to his policy proposals. And it helps explain why Obama’s off-the-record comments to a group of wealthy liberals in San Francisco weren’t a “distraction,” as he now characterizes them, but rather a real insight into the mind and sensibilities of the junior senator from Illinois.

One of the things worth noting about Senator Obama’s comments about the “bitter” working class voters who “cling” to guns, religion, and nativist sentiments because of their “frustrations” is this: Obama’s view of America and Americans is almost unremittingly bleak. In his increasingly prickly and aggressive defense, Obama insists that his comments about ordinary Americans are accurate. He is, he insists, completely “in touch” with the struggles that define modern American life. At least that’s how he defines things: if you review Obama’s speeches, his portrait of Americans is of a people broken and dispirited, anxious and angry and without hope (and for whom Obama, as you might have guessed, is the balm).

Obama has spoken about crumbling schools, growing divisions, and shattered dreams. He speaks about the one father who goes to work before dawn and lies awake at night wondering how he’s going to pay the bills, and the father who’s worried he won’t be able to send his children to college . . . about the mother who can’t afford health care for her sick child and the other mother who saw her mortgage double in two weeks and didn’t know where her two-year old children would sleep at night . . . the woman who works the night shift after a full day of college and still can’t afford health care for a sick sister . . . the senior who lost his pension when the company he gave his life to went bankrupt . . . the teacher who works at Dunkin’ Donuts after school just to make ends meet, and on and on. The American public, Obama believes, has justifiably become cynical, frustrated, and bitter.

It’s also worth considering the views of those to whom Obama is closest. His wife Michelle has said that America is “downright mean.” It’s a nation whose soul is “broken.” And it’s a nation in which she had never, until her husband ran for President, taken pride. Obama’s longtime friend, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Jr., describes America as fundamentally racist, the “U.S. of K.K.K,” a “Eurocentric wasteland of lily-white lies.”

Senator Obama, in casting himself as a change agent, wants to focus on the failings of our nation. That is typical fare for a presidential candidate. It’s perfectly legitimate, and even right, to call attention to problems that need to be solved and the struggles people are having.

The question for Obama, however, is whether his portrait of America is defining. Does he believe that his comments about working-class people are actually characteristic of them? When he looks out at Americans does he see people who are, on some deep level, broken, bitter, angry, and unable to cope with the vicissitudes of life?

It appears that he does. And if he does, it certainly explains his support for paternalistic government and for the nanny state. It has become unfashionable to point out that for all the problems we face, those of us now living in America are the most fortunate people in history. We live in a nation of extraordinary wealth and scientific and medical advancements. This country, while not without its flaws, has made great strides in alleviating poverty, discrimination, and injustice. We are free to speak, vote, worship, and associate with others. Americans now live longer and better than any previous generation. Our nation remains a force for good in the world. That doesn’t mean our citizen’s lives are without challenges or concerns. It only means that, relative to the rest of the world and relative to history, we’re in pretty good shape.

On some deep level, Obama doesn’t see this. He looks out at America and sees a nation needy, crippled, and desperate for succor from the federal government. A friend of mine wrote to me yesterday:

The supreme arrogance of this man [Obama] comes through with every new defense. I just saw his remarks to the steelworkers in Pittsburgh and, again, it’s everyone else who’s out of touch. Also, it really is a slander against millions of people. I’ve belonged to small town churches all my life (and still do) and I belong to [a gun club in his home state of Minnesota]. It’s hard to find more positive, affirming, communities than small town churches and the hunting/fishing/outdoor culture. What he really doesn’t “get” is the non-materialistic nature of these cultures.

That sounds about right to me. Barack Obama is running as the candidate of hope–but he views America as more or less a wreck and its people as beaten down. From this flawed assumption flows much else, from his rhetoric to his policy proposals. And it helps explain why Obama’s off-the-record comments to a group of wealthy liberals in San Francisco weren’t a “distraction,” as he now characterizes them, but rather a real insight into the mind and sensibilities of the junior senator from Illinois.

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