May 3, 2008


Only in America (Evan Thomas, Holly Bailey and Richard Wolffe, 4/26/08, NEWSWEEK)

[L]ately, McCain aides have been making gleeful jokes about Obama. On the campaign trail, at dinner with reporters, they sometimes order the arugula salad, poking fun at some comments Obama made last summer in Iowa ("Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula?"). "Do you see how much they are charging for this?" a McCain aide asked a reporter at one such dinner at a restaurant, pointing to the menu and feigning shock. Following Hillary Clinton's lead, the McCain team sees an opportunity to paint Obama as an out-of-touch elitist, a Harvard toff who nibbles daintily at designer salads while the working man, worried about layoffs at the plant, belts another shot. Though the McCain advisers are divided about who would make the more beatable candidate in November, they see a chance to peel off Reagan Democrats—older working-class voters—in key swing states of the rust belt if Obama is the Democratic nominee. While McCain himself is publicly neutral on which Democrat he would prefer to oppose, in recent weeks he has noticeably gone easier on Clinton than Obama, perhaps out of hopes of winning over some of her working-class base. [...]

Secretly taped by a "citizen journalist," then reported online, Obama's remarks to San Francisco fund-raisers—that some voters in economically depressed towns "cling" to religion and guns out of "bitterness"—did not sit well, nor did the endlessly replayed YouTube videos of Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., ranting against America. Richard Vallejo, 65, of Bristol, Pa., a typical working-class town, has voted Democratic all his life. But of Obama, Vallejo says: "He's prejudiced against white people. I'm in a small town and if I own a gun, it's not because I'm bitter. It is because of the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms." In Indiana, the next stop on the primary trail on May 6, Brenda Spreitzer, 42, told a NEWSWEEK reporter at a Clinton rally: "I think Barack's viewpoints and his past is too flamboyant. It's more radical than I want to go … I'm just not comfortable," she said, adding that she is concerned about Obama's practice of generally not wearing an American flag pin. (None of the candidates wear flag pins.) She has been researching Obama on the Internet and discovered that he wants to tear out the bowling alley in the White House (Obama has kiddingly said he wants to replace it with a basketball court). "That freaked me out because no matter if he bowls or not, it's a historic thing that should never be changed."

Hillary Clinton has described Obama's remarks about small-town bitterness as "elitist, out of touch and frankly patronizing." Clinton strategist Harold Ickes tells NEWSWEEK "she clearly has established a connection with people who work hard for a living and are having difficulty making ends meet." One Clinton ad, featuring a waitress in a diner, says, "She's worked the night shift, too" (never mind that she is a graduate of Wellesley and Yale Law). McCain's advisers, meanwhile, have enjoyed watching Clinton attack Obama over his remarks. "Manna from heaven," said one McCain aide, who did not wish to be identified gloating. Come the fall campaign, GOP operatives can be counted on to caricature Obama as a gutter-ball-throwing populist phony who is far more at home in a sherry-sipping faculty club than at a bowling alley.

The Republican Party has had a field day over the past half-century making fun of Democrats who are "effete"—first Adlai Stevenson, a cultivated brainiac who lost twice to Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s; then Michael Dukakis, a former professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government who made the mistake of being ludicrously photographed in a tank helmet and allowed himself to be cornered as somehow soft on crime (read: black crime); then John Kerry, a Yale man who seemed to enjoy windsurfing in Nantucket a little too much (forget that he was decorated for valor in Vietnam). Now there is Obama, a man who seems to want to think before he speaks and lacks Hillary Clinton's enthusiasm for hoisting a beer glass or throwing back shots of Crown Royal Canadian whisky for the ever-present cameramen.

You have to go some to be less a man of the people than Richard Nixon, who loved the White House bowling alley.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 3, 2008 11:49 AM

Wow, I've never seen two grown men pout so much.
Aww, they're taking shots at your candidate during a presidential election! Those mean mean Republicans.
Oh, wait, I just took another look at the byline - it took three people to write that passive-aggressive garbage! I wonder if any of them has ever portrayed a Republican as a moron. Of course, portraying Democrats as effete is wrong and portraying Republicans as stupid is right on the money.

Posted by: Bryan at May 3, 2008 12:59 PM

It is amazing to see the MSM-types blaming Republicans for any attacks on Obama (or on Hillary, for that matter).

All the fun is being generated within the Democratic primaries, the Republicans haven't even started yet. At the rate the Dems are going, McCain may not need to campaign for the general at all.

Posted by: sam at May 3, 2008 2:20 PM

Now there is Obama, a man who seems to want to think before he speaks...

Er, actually, Obie's problem is he cannot think before he speaks. All his speeches, including his "Lincolnesque Gettysburg" speech, were written/plagiarized by his speech writers/himself. They are rehearsed, and re-rehearsed speeches. From most accounts, his gaffes all happened when he spoke his own thoughts, unrehearsed, unmanaged by his minders.

Posted by: ic at May 3, 2008 3:15 PM

Evan Thomas??

Mr. 15%???

or was it 5%?

The gatekeepers can't close the gate - she went out on the web - and did her homework, Brenda did.

Posted by: Sandy P at May 3, 2008 3:28 PM

Evan Thomas??

Mr. 15%???

or was it 5%?

The gatekeepers can't close the gate - she went out on the web - and did her homework, Brenda did

Posted by: Sandy P at May 3, 2008 3:29 PM

My favorite bit of this highly entertaining piece was the scare quotes around "citizen journalist". Nothing burns up these guys up more than the fact some plebeian thought he was qualified to report some news. It just kills these people that there was no sage Editor to prudently spike the story and thus save the candidate. Indeed, that citizen journalist not only got a major scoop -- triggering professional jealously of which Thomas, Bailey and Wolffe are only partly conscious -- but he helped define a candidate who was going out of his way to remain undefined -- with lots of eager help from the three stooges who wrote this weepy epitaph and their non-citizen journalist peers.

I don't know about my other brothers, but I haven't had this much pure fun with a presidential election since Reagan's two runs. This is pure genius!

Posted by: QY at May 3, 2008 6:31 PM