Monday, April 21, 2008

Obama : What bitterness means

Obama Sweeps Newspaper Endorsements
John Nichols. The Nation


Even in this era of "new media," the oldest media matters -- in fact, it may matter more than ever.

In Pennsylvania, a state where most of the political machinery statewide and in the critical vote-generating center of Philadelphia is geared up to provide Hillary Clinton with a Democratic presidential primary win on Tuesday, the state's largest newspapers are urging voters to consider Barack Obama.

As in other primary and caucus states, the senator from Illinois has gained the lion's share of newspaper endorsements. That's important because newspaper editorial pages have long maintained a love affair with Arizona Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee. The strong editorial support for Obama in the race for the nomination provides one more indication that he will be able to compete with McCain in ways that Clinton cannot.

In Pennsylvania, newspaper endorsements have favored Obama in such a lopsided manner that the senator's campaign is making them a centerpiece of its final push for primary votes.

"There's a reason every major newspaper's endorsed Barack Obama," begins a new television advertisement that is running statewide. "'He knows how to bring people together, he's ready' -- says the (Philadelphia) Inquirer. The (Pittsburgh) Post Gazette calls Hillary Clinton's attacks the 'cynical responses of old politics.' She'd 'further the deep divisiveness' in our country. The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News says 'Barack Obama offers real change in the White House.' 'He isn't tied to lobbyists and special interests' He'll 'listen to and represent all Americans,' says the (Allentown) Morning Call."

It's no wonder that, as the mastheads of the state's best-known publications flash on the screen, the candidate cheerfully announces, "I'm Barack Obama and I approved this message."

While Richard Mellon Scaife's extremely right-wing Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is urging Democrats to back Clinton, most of the rest of the newspaper rack favors Obama.

In addition to the Inquirer and the Post-Gazette, the dominant dailies, respectively, in the populous eastern and western regions of the state, Obama also has the endorsement of the scrappy Philadelphia Daily News and key papers across the state. In addition to the Morning Call and the Patriot News, the Wilkes-Barre Citizen's Voice is for the Illinois senator. The Bucks County Courier in suburban Philadelphia says that, "While the Courier Times Editorial Board usually sits out primary elections, we're motivated to get involved this year and offer an endorsement... Barack Obama inspires like no other candidate; indeed, like no other individual on the national stage. He has mobilized new voters and young people in general to get involved in the political process for the first time. And his themes of hope and change, which ring so authentic, have likewise invigorated many who otherwise might have sat out the election."

The Times-Tribune -- which serves the hometown of Clinton's late father, Hugh Rodham -- has emerged as perhaps the state's most passionately pro-Obama newspaper. After Obama said he "had detected bitterness among small-town voters in the Midwest and Pennsylvania, due to the loss of good jobs and resulting poor economic conditions that had made them bitter and caused them to rally around issues concerning guns and religion," the newspaper noted, "Mrs. Clinton and her minions say this is elitism on the part of Mr. Obama -- you know, elitism by the candidate raised by a single mother and his grandparents who excelled at prestigious universities to which he had gained admission on merit. Elitism by the guy who entered politics through the door of social service and civic activism in some of the poorest neighborhoods in Chicago."

In fact, the Scranton paper's response to the whole controversy over Obama's "bitter" comment has been far more pointed -- and far smarter -- than most national news coverage of the dust up.

"Many of the small-town voters to whom he referred are angry that the manufacturing jobs to which they used to have access no longer are available. Many of them are worried because, largely due to the preceding circumstance, they don't have health insurance. Those who do have health insurance are dismayed because the premiums erode more and more of their income. They're angry at the gas pump as they see the dollar meter race ahead as the gallon meter crawls. They're angry at the supermarket as food prices inexorably climb. They're angrier still as the nation borrows hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars for a war that does not have any clear direction, much less a clear end in sight. They're upset because many of their college-age students will have even more trouble financing their education amid the credit crisis. Many of those voters don't have enough income to save anything for retirement beyond what they expect from Social Security, which itself is approaching a crisis," declares a Times-Tribune editorial.

"As amazing as it may seem, Mr. Obama seems to have concluded that things like that can lead to bitterness. His mistake, of course, was saying so. The rules call for him to see only what's right, everywhere he goes, while fixing what's wrong. What candidates are supposed to do, and what they too often do, is declare the genius of the local folk and then go to Harrisburg and Washington to wield the power of the government in favor of narrow interests that work contrary to the interests of those local folk. Sure, my tax bill will result in your job going to Malaysia, but check out my patriotic lapel pin."

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