Re: You Can't Say That Here

1

Eh. I can't see the issue, here. Obama has one explanation, and charging that his explanation is condescending isn't unfair.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 10:56 AM
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We perceive what we want to perceive based on our previously formed ideas and arrogance. There is another way of seeing, but Obama is showing us how he wants to see things. See:
http://christianprophecy.blogspot.com/


Posted by: Christian Prophet | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 10:58 AM
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The comments over at MSNBC are filled with people writing, "I live in rural IN/PA/NC and my house is about to be foreclosed on and yeah, I'm totally bitter."


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 10:59 AM
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It's a risky game he's playing. He's probably screwed, but maybe the American public will surprise us.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 11:04 AM
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There is another way of seeing, but it never occurs to us to remove our glasses.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 11:06 AM
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The context of what Obama said matters. In other words, this isn't just a broad case of the absurdity of our political discourse; it's also a narrower case of the media misleading people by playing gotcha with decontextualized soundbites.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 11:07 AM
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Sorry, 6 to 1. And I guess everyone else who cares.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 11:08 AM
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We're going to end up with President McCain and totally deserve it.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 11:16 AM
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7: I inferred that sort of context, and I still think calling it condescending--while acknowledging that it's meant to be accurate and charitable and sympathetic--is reasonable. It's not a novel argument, and--while I think it has a lot of truth in it--it fits comfortably in the "enlightened liberal noblesse oblige" category: they're fuckups, but it's not their fault. To be clear, I'm not saying it's wrong, but rather that the characterization of it as "elitist" shouldn't be unexpected and isn't unfair.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 11:22 AM
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The overt claim is that Obama is elitist, which is predictable bullshit. But I also suspect that in the background is the specter of the Angry Black Man, fear of which both the Clinton and McCain camps will be happy to stoke for as long as the campaign runs.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 11:29 AM
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And another follow-up from Obama's staff:

We won't be lectured on being out of touch by Senator Clinton, who believes lobbyists represent real people and is awash in their money and who can't tell a straight story about her lengthy record of supporting trade deals like NAFTA and China that have devastated communities in Pennsylvania and Indiana. She won't change the broken Washington system that all too often leaves American workers behind, but Barack Obama will.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 11:29 AM
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It's a risky game he's playing.

Agreed. It doesn't take Clinton or McCain to jump on those remarks as condescending to recognize that they'd be perceived as such by some voters. Yes, they sound more so taken out of context.

But our political discourse isn't bound by rules of truth, but different rules about which truths are allowable and which truths are "gaffes."

Yes. The same is true of (almost) any discourse.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 11:33 AM
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parsimon really means discours, but doesn't want us to think she is an elitist.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 11:36 AM
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I can't decide whether I think the Obama reply quoted in 11 is smart or not.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 11:42 AM
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Also, I wonder who the "we" who will deserve it if we wind up with a President McCain is.

Jesus, this is depressing.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 11:45 AM
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The reply in 11 is smart. Since Clinton's decided to run openly as the Republican kind of Democrat, there's no reason for him not to go on the attack.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 11:47 AM
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14: Obama ought to talk about persuading those people, and note that convincing them is predicated on keeping faith with them first. But there will be a lot of responses to this from his campaign, so maybe he'll get around to it.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 11:47 AM
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He seems to be hitting back rather than cringing, which is good. If he can swing this one by counterattacking, that makes him one of the all-time greats.

Seemingly his campaign did the obvious and recruited people in Pennsylvania and Indiana to get Obama's back on the comment lines, etc.

Maybe Obama will be able to break the Democrats' dysfunctional relationship to the stereotypical Common Man that Bill O'Reilly and the rest of the millionaires claim to speak for. Plenty of them are bitter, and two of them that I know were leaning Obama lst I talked to them.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 11:49 AM
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2: OMFG.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 11:51 AM
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17: Okay, agreed. My first thought was that more elaboration on the seemingly condescending remarks was called for, along the lines of: people's livelihoods are threatened, and when that happens we all look for explanations. There are easier ones and there are harder ones: it's not just an influx of immigrants, not just trade agreements ... these all come into play. Blah blah.

This would just be damage control. Merely going on the offensive against Clinton will seem to many to be avoidance.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 11:54 AM
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My first thought was that more elaboration on the seemingly condescending remarks was called for, along the lines of: people's livelihoods are threatened, and when that happens we all look for explanations.

That's what he did first -- a sort of variatio on Tom Frank -- delivered at two different campaign stops in Indiana. There are videos floating around.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 11:58 AM
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Here's some of what was said:

And so people end up- they don't vote on economic issues because they don't expect anybody's going to help them. So people end up, you know, voting on issues like guns, and are they going to have the right to bear arms. They vote on issues like gay marriage. And they take refuge in their faith and their community and their families and things they can count on. But they don't believe they can count on Washington. So I made this statement-- so, here's what rich. Senator Clinton says 'No, I don't think that people are bitter in Pennsylvania. You know, I think Barack's being condescending.' John McCain says, 'Oh, how could he say that? How could he say people are bitter? You know, he's obviously out of touch with people.'
Out of touch? Out of touch? I mean, John McCain--it took him three tries to finally figure out that the home foreclosure crisis was a problem and to come up with a plan for it, and he's saying I'm out of touch? Senator Clinton voted for a credit card-sponsored bankruptcy bill that made it harder for people to get out of debt after taking money from the financial services companies, and she says I'm out of touch? No, I'm in touch. I know exactly what's going on. I know what's going on in Pennsylvania. I know what's going on in Indiana. I know what's going on in Illinois. People are fed-up. They're angry and they're frustrated and they're bitter. And they want to see a change in Washington and that's why I'm running for President of the United States of America.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 12:01 PM
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Going on the offensive is not "merely".


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 12:01 PM
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from swimming freestyle:

"This video is exactly how Obama should have raised the issue: In the environment these voters live and with an appropriate anger. Rural working class voters have gotten the shaft. They have every right to be frustrated and even bitter about what's happened to them.

Obama now finds himself having to address the issue defensively, Unfortunately, the issue will now likely be obscured by the hysterical anti-Obama rants by the Clintons and McCains. Obama gave them that gift when he spoke in San Francisco last weekend."

http://swimmingfreestyle.typepad.com


Posted by: Jay McDonough | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 12:02 PM
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Obama's mistake was to lump religion in with xenophobia, especially with the verb "cling." It's neither politic nor especially fair nor really comprehensible from someone who himself clings to a fantasy of a miracle worker who flew up to heaven.

Had he qualified it as those religions that attack others or those people who attack others' religions, he would have been on firmer, and smart, ground.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 12:13 PM
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Um, well, having just looked at Talk Left and a few other places about this, the hysterical doomsaying seems a bit premature.

No, it's not good, but there are ways for Obama to clarify that could soothe ruffled feathers. As for the more general form of attack: Obama elitist, can't bowl or order orange juice correctly! I'm not sure it can't be handled, if with nothing more than a standard line: "We all wish we could do everything, but we can't! [shake head, them's the breaks] I just want to focus on righting the country. [nod firmly, do not grin]"


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 12:19 PM
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The explanatory sentiment is maybe true, maybe not, the spirit is certainly one that intends to be generous, but the effect is condescension. It's a real shame, because those most likely to feel condescended to are those he needed to work the hardest to win over. And Kraab is right - a religious person is not going to appreciate being described as clinging to her religion in the same way that one clings to guns or anti-immigrant sentiments.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 12:22 PM
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Yeah, the headlines have all been about "bitter," which strikes me as not just harmless, but you know, 'duh.' But "cling," now, that's trouble.


Posted by: marichiweu | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 12:22 PM
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"Having just been attacked for my own religious affiliations, I know how those people feel who think that I was attacking them with what I said."


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 12:23 PM
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29 doesn't work. Attacks on Obama's connections to Wright presuppose that religious beliefs and affiliations mean something deep and essence-like about values and behavior. Obama's statement about "clinging" suggests that religion is asked to fill a void and should be read as a symptom of a larger problem.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 12:25 PM
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Also, though I'm a fan of Tom Frank's, he gets a fundamental thing wrong in Kansas by arguing that it makes no sense for people to vote on anything other than their economic self-interest. People on the left do it all the time; why shouldn't people on the right?

In a narrow sense, I'd be better off with shifting the tax burden even further to the working class. Screw the folks who bought homes they couldn't afford; I've always lived within my means. Why should I subsidize the poor and the unsophisticated?

But I don't happen to believe in that kind of world, and so I vote my values, which makes me a traitor to my class. Not to mention that I vote for reproductive rights and racial equality and secularism. Why is it stupid for others to vote to save innocent babies?


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 12:26 PM
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22. God I love that man.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 12:27 PM
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a religious person is not going to appreciate being described as clinging to her religion in the same way that one clings to guns or anti-immigrant sentiments

I don't think a gun owner is going to want to be grouped in with the xenophobes, either. He phrased it well for a San Francisco (I believe) audience, not well for a national audience, and poorly for the audience he most needs at the moment. But the vote is two weeks away, still. It isn't the end of the world. He has proven himself adept at talking himself out of other tight spots before. And he starts with something of an ace card: he's likable.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 12:27 PM
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22 is excellent and what I wish he had said in the first place -- and that the media would pick up on, since that's his overall analysis, not one badly worded variation.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 12:32 PM
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a sort of variatio on Tom Frank

The fact that oudemia wrote this makes me unsure if "variatio" is a typo or the name of a rhetorical technique.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 12:35 PM
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I highly recommend Frank's One Market Under God, by the way. That's the one I wish had become a bestseller.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 12:37 PM
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37

Well, it's already been said, "cling" was not a good word to use, it has connotations of desperate and delusional.

How about "finding solace?"

But I am not sure it can be fixed. I have known a whole lot of rurals with good jobs who go hunting every once a month and church twice a week.

It may an irreparable condescension. I really don't think Obama gets the America portrayed in The Deer Hunter. Deer Hunter America doesn't get Obama.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 12:38 PM
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Deer Hunter America doesn't get Obama.

Thanks be to the Secret Service.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 12:39 PM
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35: I wondered the same thing.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 12:39 PM
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35: Neither? Music.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 12:41 PM
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Ogged means well and tries hard, but he just can't quite understand condescension.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 12:41 PM
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But 22 was very good. I don't exactly expect Liberal Constitutional Law Lecturers to be able to understand all the components of Deer Hunter America. But I have also always thought the economy was an easier road to reach Red America than the War.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 12:42 PM
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41: It's sweet that he tries, though. Really.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 12:43 PM
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Goddammit. This is the kind of shit that makes me kinda understand the people who say that they'd stay home and not vote if Hillary gets the nomination.

Mind you, I'm voting for the Democrat no matter what. But still.


Posted by: My Alter Ego | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 12:47 PM
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We're still stick in the same old cliche, relentlessly reierated by the millionaires in the bought media, about the hard hats and Middle America. (I'm David Brooks, and I'm here to tell you about the real Americans.) Republicans milk that for all it's worth, and Democrats (including us) can't figure out anything to do but cringe (or vent, once we decide it's hopeless).

I think that if Obama comes back on the "bitterness" angle, and says that yes, people are bitter, and for good reasons, he can turn this around.

We really have become Other to an unnecessarily large demographic.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 12:54 PM
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Bet you any money that all those people he's supposed to have offended in these places won't be offended, that they aren't bothered by "cling" but that they do understand they're being condescended to when third parties who supposedly understand them tell them they will have a problem with this.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 12:56 PM
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44.1: Do you mean that the graceful thing for the Clinton campaign to have done would have been to pass over Obama's remarks in silence?

Probably. Which is why I wish Obama hadn't returned volley by attacking Hillary, per 11's quotation. I don't know: do the American people really need the battle narrated for them like that? Perhaps they do; I'm really not sure.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 12:59 PM
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I think that if Obama comes back on the "bitterness" angle, and says that yes, people are bitter, and for good reasons, he can turn this around.

I agree, and I think that was his intent. Also, if he can correct the impression that they need to be fixed in some fashion.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 1:02 PM
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45: I agree with JE that "attacking" is the only way out for Obama. The phrasing was unfortunate, the context understandable but irrelevant given the faux "voice of the regular person" stance of the monsters of the national political press.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 1:03 PM
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46: I'll take that bet. And I'll introduce you to my dad, whom you can count among the offended.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 1:10 PM
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Was your dad considering an Obama vote? I'm wondering if the folks who are offended were ever going to vote for him anyway.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 1:14 PM
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He wasn't ever considering it, and I think your wonder might be true in large part.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 1:17 PM
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It's the same for Democrats as for Republicans: they're not going to get 51% of the white rural vote, any more than the Republicans will get 51% of the Jewish or black vote. But if Democrats can trim the Republican advantage by 5% or 10%, that could turn the election.

Counterattacking and changing the terms of the argument is the only way to go, though. Fudging and backing off and apologizing and being defensive look weak.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 1:23 PM
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Variato - I could go on at length about the many faces of apophasis, but who wishes to struggle with the nuances of paralipsis, praeteritio, preterition, cataphasis, antiphrasis, or parasiopesis, much less occultatio, better to not even mention them. The worthy man will merely say "apophasis" and be done with it.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 1:32 PM
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Aargh! Variatio, variatio, variatio not variato ... my rhetoric teacher would be beside herself.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 1:34 PM
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"Apophantic" and "non-apophantic" are used I would say ten times in my dissertation.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 1:36 PM
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57: As I would've in mine, which is reason #52 that there was no thesis.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 1:39 PM
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I'm wondering if the folks who are offended were ever going to vote for him anyway.

There are still quite a few undecideds out there. If Obama is branded elitist, responding by pointing out that Clinton is as well (or is, at least, out of touch in a different way) doesn't seem the best approach.

We're in absurdly murky voter-psychology territory here, though. I'll ask my mom about my country cousins' latest thinking next time I talk to her.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 1:42 PM
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"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," he added.

Or maybe they have legitimate unaddressed beefs that the elites dismiss as entirely unfounded, perhaps because the elites seem to be aiming at screwing all non-elites.

People are fed up, they're angry, they're frustrated, they're bitter and they want to see a change in Washington.

Just so.

Clinton's comments echo sentiments expressed by Sen. John McCain adviser Steve Schmidt on Friday. He called Obama's thoughts on small-town Pennsylvanians a "remarkable statement and extremely revealing ... It shows an elitism and condescension towards hardworking Americans that is nothing short of breathtaking. It is hard to imagine someone running for president who is more out of touch with average Americans."

This from the same guy running for the neo-con nomination and who has repeatedly expressed similar sentiments? (Which is maybe why he got the edge for the nomination on the anti-war vote?)

"Sen. Obama's remarks are elitist, and they're out of touch. They are not reflective of the values and beliefs of Americans. Certainly not the Americans I know, not the Americas I grew up with, not the Americans I lived with in Arkansas or represent in New York,"

1) No matter what you do, you cannot win the nomination of the Republican party. You registered in the wrong race. D'OH! 2) They ain't gonna buy it; I'm pretty sure they don't even buy that in upstate New York. 3) God, you such a hopelessly incompetent nitwit! McCrazy/Clinton '08! Stupid Is As Stupid Does!

The Clinton campaign had been in jeopardy in recent weeks, with Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) reeling off a string of victories and building a formidable lead in the delegate count. His message of hope for a better future and change from the evil politics of the past had struck a chord among voters. But the Clinton campaign has now staged a major comeback by sticking to its theme: evil.
"Washington is not a nice place," Sen. Clinton noted. "Sen. Obama wants you to believe that things can change in Washington. That people can work together for the greater good. I am here to tell you that this will never happen. Americans are like rats, a teeming pile of corpse-eating pestilential scavengers. The rat at the top of the pile is the one who is willing to do anything to get ahead, who would gut her own mother with teeth in order to stand atop the festering heap. I am that rat, America."

I would like her a lot better if she actually ran on that platform.

"Our political discourse is so stupid."

That is entirely too complimentary to American political discourse.

max
['America: due for a dirt nap soon enough.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 1:43 PM
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I would like her a lot better if she actually ran on that platform.

I would need to see her gut her own mother with teeth on national TV. An exhumation would be ok.
Then I'd vote for her.

Hell, I am here to say I will vote for the 1st candidate that does that. That's a Real American.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 2:21 PM
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Oh, whine whine bitch, bitch bitch cry. Grow a pair, people! This is a bump on the road. Obama has so far survived the turban picture and the angry black pastor; one Kinsley gaffe isn't going to derail his campaign, especially when he's punching back with such gusto. Personally, I think he's handling it in just the right way: he's saying that people are pissed off and angry and bitter, which they are, and the people who are pissed off and angry and bitter are going to hear what he says and recognize that and respect him for speaking the truth.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 2:31 PM
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Yay, stras! I was thinkin' it, and look there: you said it!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 2:35 PM
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And can I add that it's a mighty sad day when Mr. The Human Race Will Be Extinct Within A Few Hundred Years has to be the optimistic one around here? Jesus! Buck up, people!


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 2:39 PM
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I beg your pardon. Quoting my 26.1: the hysterical doomsaying seems a bit premature

Thank you.

Meanwhile, speaking of wanting to punch someone in the face, doing some errrands just now I encountered some ass driving a giganto-truck who thought the best idea while he stepped into a couple of stores was to leave giganto-truck running, rumbling. Lest the air conditioning cool down, I guess. I was sorely tempted to step back into the store and tell him with concern that his truck was still, you know, ON.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 3:28 PM
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"Of course, Obama is correct ..."

Actually he isn't in as much he suggests that mass immigration and free trade haven't actually hurt anyone. In fact they have hurt a lot of people, some quite badly. You can still support them as on balance good for the nation (as I do for free trade but not mass immigration) but implying the people they hurt are just imagining things is not correct.

"... But our political discourse isn't bound by rules of truth, but different rules about which truths are allowable and which truths are "gaffes." ..."

And justifiably so, things like tact and balance should be important. And sometimes how you express yourself clearly marks your social circle. Obama's statements mark him as an academic lefty type, a type that many people find unattractive.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 3:36 PM
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I agree with Shearer. False consciousness type arguments sound inherently patronizing. Academic types use them a lot, but in politics they are poisonous. You're assuming people aren't capable of judging their own interests.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 3:38 PM
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And to be clear: the people are pissed off argument is a totally fine one, it's true. You just shouldn't seem to be imply people's concern with cultural issues is just some kind of unconscious displacement of their economic fears.

Obama understands this. I think he was sincere in saying he expressed himself badly -- I'm sure he does feel that way. The formulation in 22 was far better, very good actually.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 3:44 PM
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And yes, 67.1 is right to make clear, since I think it hasn't been yet in this thread, that there's a difference between the perfectly fine 'people are bitter' line and the problematic bit about people (simple-mindedly) finding substitute sources of consolation or explanation for their frustrations.

Look, I hear myself speaking the obvious.

If anyone thinks that a better way to conduct politics in this country is to speak the truth, the audience for politicking needs a reworking. Since that's not going to happen, we're actually wise to listen to, among others, the libertarians.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 4:02 PM
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And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to that cynical politicians try to take advantage of their pain with politics around 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."

Slightly better, though maybe not perfect. Anyway. Agree with PGD/Shearer that false consciousness is better for journalists than for leaders, and with stras/sifu that this is a setback for a news cycle or two.

Prepare for worse. There's still a week and a half, and more after.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 4:49 PM
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There is virtually no immigration, illegal or otherwise, in rural PA. Therefore, JBS' statement in 65 ("implying the people they hurt are just imagining things is not correct.") is simply false.

Let's reiterate that: any Pennsylvanian outside of Phila. (and maybe a couple other eastern counties) who thinks that his livelihood has been adversely affected by immigrants is wrong. Pittsburgh - second largest city in the state - had something like 150* immigrants from the Americas last year. Scary Mexicans are not taking the jobs of PAans.

So to say, "Well, accusations of false consciousness are BAD" is to say "Our political discourse is so stupid." Sorry to go all Godwin, but were Germans who blamed their sorrows on Jews correct? Or were they suffering from false consciousness?

Assuming that we can all agree it was the latter, the question that follows is how to correct the falsity. JBS and PGD are arguing that you have to turn a blind eye to it, lest you be seen as condescending or even wrong. But it's become blindingly obvious that, as long as people vote on false consciousness (I would add that, in 2004, the greatest threat to America was not gay marriage; but that's how millions voted), then our country will go into the shitter.

Obama seems to be willing to take the bull by the horns. If he makes his case, then we as a nation have a chance. If he fails, then it is not only he that loses.

* Not hyperbole; I just saw the numbers a few weeks ago


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 5:22 PM
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Claims of false consciousness are disastrously ineffective, not BAD. As part of a campaign, they're self-refuting: if you think people are all stupid, why are you running for office at all?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 5:24 PM
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if you think people are all stupid, why are you running for office at all?

Aren't most political campaigns based on precisely this premise?


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 5:49 PM
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73

Many are. But smart campaigns wisely refrain from telling people that they're idiots. 71 was my response to 70.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 5:52 PM
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Assuming that we can all agree it was the latter, the question that follows is how to correct the falsity.

It's not clear that Obama's formulation of the issues is correct. I'm not sure where he got the idea that rural PA folk were upset about illegal immigration because of job loss. Maybe he has good information on that. But it might just be an assumption that is pretty common, I think, among people on the other side of the issue/party divide.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 5:55 PM
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73: smart campaigns wisely refrain from telling people that they're idiots.

Exactly. That was a bad move. I guess he's not quite as articulate as I thought.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 6:00 PM
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He was talking about PA, Indiana, and rural white America generally, I think, and lumping several categories of issues that people got worked up about.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 6:02 PM
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My almost-80 Mom cheered Obama's statement. She said that she's been waiting since the end of the New Deal to hear someone talk explicitly about the silence most people get from Washington about their needs. That's what struck her, and I suspect what will strike many of the people Obama was talking about. (Mom is still at heart one of them: she grew up in the low end of the working class in Ventura, CA, during the Great Depression. Dad's family is academic and professional, but Mom never did let herself give up the awareness of how things look and feel from down the ladder.)


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 6:25 PM
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70

"There is virtually no immigration, illegal or otherwise, in rural PA"

This story suggests otherwise. As does this story which says in part "... By and large the people who moved here to take them were Hispanics from urban areas, who brought diversity, a different language, and in some cases big city problems that Hazleton had never had before. In the year 2000, Latinos represented just five percent of the population. Today, the figure is 30 percent."


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 6:29 PM
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Hazleton isn't rural PA -- and would fall into the eastern part of the state that Jroth exempted, anyway.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 6:30 PM
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Mom also thinks that there's much less false consciousness about people voting against their economic interests than you might think, too. She says that voting for a candidate who's campaigning on issues that would affect your livelihood and well-being only matters if the candidate then goes on to try doing anything about it in office. And that's where the experience of being less and less represented the poorer and less like your representatives' social niche you are comes into play. Ignoring health care in favor of stem cells and keeping gays unwed is stupid. But ignoring talk of health care that does not become action isn't stupid.

Now, Mom is more likely than many voters to make distinctions like "X tried but got rolled by the Republican machine" versus "X talked big and did nothing". (I got some of my mental quirks from somewhere, after all.) But it has been a long time since voting for people talking about actually dealing with the needs of the poor and working folks led to much of anything happen. She herself has no use for the goals of the NRA or OCA, but has said in the past that if she did, she could understand favoring them just because they sometimes (or even often) get things done.

She's doubtful that Obama can get much done, but feels that he's closer to understanding some of what needs to be done and having the mix of skills and inclinations necessary to get some of that done than any candidate for president she can remember in a good long while. "Faint praise", of course, but nonetheless.


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 6:39 PM
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79

"Hazleton isn't rural PA -- and would fall into the eastern part of the state that Jroth exempted, anyway."

JRoth excepted Philadelphia "(and maybe a couple other eastern counties)". I count about 18 counties as far east as Luzerne . And Obama didn't say "rural" Pennsylvania, he said "small towns in Pennsylvania". You guys claiming Hazleton isn't a small town in Pennsylvania?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 6:59 PM
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Holy smokes, I am agreeing with Shearer. He's right. I don't know what stats JRoth saw, but I'd be willing to bet they were either a) 2000 US Census, or b) 2006 American Community Survey*, and either way I'd bet my savings account that a lot of the recent immigration into rural/exurban PA isn't captured. Plus, just being Puerto Rican gets you viewed as an "immigrant" by a lot of folks even though the Census doesn't calculate you as foreign-born.

Hazleton isn't rural PA

Totally disagree. Hazleton is rural by any pragmatic definition (i.e., one that doesn't rely on farms in Lancaster County as the sole point comparison).

*Or they are other government stats on immigrants who *entered* last year, which due to quirks in data-gathering captures an extremely limited subset.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 7:13 PM
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Is a population of 25k really a small town?


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 7:15 PM
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Aha. Wikipedia says 23k, but that "Greater Hazleton" is 80k.

Actual honest question from a non-demographer: That's a small town in a rural community? I honestly don't know the standards here.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 7:22 PM
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To state the obvious, I think it's worth noting that Obama wasn't actually speaking to the voters of PA. Rather, he was speaking about these voters, to a group of fundraisers in San Francisco. If he had said the same thing at a campaign rally in PA, that would have been, perhaps, heroically (if fatally stupidly) trying to change the terms of the political discourse. But he didn't do, and nor should he.

But speaking about rural voters at a meeting of, let's face it, coastal elites...well, this is always, and at the best of times, fraught with perils and pitfalls. The condescension charge is going to be difficult to shake, if this continues to get media attention.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 7:23 PM
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Is a population of 25k really a small town?

Well, in all fairness, it's contextual. In Alaska, 25K is absolutely not a small town. But I'm realizing as I think about this more that IME in the industrial Northeast, "small town" is at least as much about culture as it is about numbers. Delaware County is right next to the city of Philadelphia, and I think the third-most-populous county in PA, next to Phila. and Allegheny County (Pittsburgh). But even Delco has pockets where the dominant religious practices, hunting/fishing habits, poverty, residual blue laws, and other factors are more culturally conservative/small town than they are culturally urban/cosmopolitan.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 7:23 PM
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Continuing my train of thought: Numbers really only tell part of the story. Wikipedia says that Bryn Mawr, PA has about 4500 residents, and of course a large number of those are students at the college. It's about 80% white, and culturally quite liberal. Go up north a little ways to Croydon and you see a community technically twice as big (about 10K), more white (90%), that has faced the disappearance of steel-mill and manufacturing jobs, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to find a lot more loss, bitterness, and anger, not to mention conservativism.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 7:33 PM
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and other factors are more culturally conservative/small town than they are culturally urban/cosmopolitan.

Agreed.

When my grandparents were fresh off the boat, they lived in Luzerne Co. Hey, we used to live in Wigan, and this place has coal too! They decamped to White Plains, NY in about a year.
I know, from the unhealthy amount of City Confidential watching I used to do, that the murdered father of the Menendez Brothers and the guy who killed Dominique Dunne are both from Hazleton.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 7:33 PM
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I tried to find a definition of "rural" awhile back, and there are many of them and the results were unsatisfying. IIRC, if you define "rural" as "living in towns no bigger than 30,000 people which are not part of an urban metropolitan area", even then the rural population is only about 20%. And some towns of 50-100,000 have a lot of rural aspects, for example if they're settled by recent migrant from smaller towns, are not near bigger cities, and don't have a significant university presence.

Better information is requested.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 7:33 PM
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I think that "college" vs. "non-college" is the big divide in American life. So do others:

Emerging Democratic Majority
Bartels
Crooked Timber

"Rural" would just be non-urban non-callege, and you could draw the urban / rural line where you wanted of since people in non-college urban ethnic neighborhoods would be similar in a lot of respects (religion and xenophobia, and bitterness, not so much guns and anti-environmentalism).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 7:40 PM
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guns and anti-environmentalism

Wait, what? IME there tends to be pretty good overlap between hunters and conservation efforts. Gotta have somewhere to hunt, ya know. Or were you talking about gun owners generally, not just hunters?


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 7:42 PM
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Also, for those interested in slice-and-dice amateur demographic analysis of the 2008 elections, there's a foundation-funded journalism project called Patchwork Nation that y'all might be interested in. Warning: Do not read if David Brooks/Bobos in Paradise generalizations raise your blood pressure.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 7:46 PM
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There's a lot of rural anti-environmentalism centered on land-use laws. Some hunters go the other way, but they tend to focus mostly on game animal habitat and not so much global warming, for example, much less species preservation.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 7:46 PM
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Of course there's wingnuts in the hunting crowd, but a lot of hunters and fishermen are good on enviro issues. The Sierra club says that approx. 20 percent of their members buy hunting and fishing licenses.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 8:04 PM
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Gunowners aren't necessarily hunters. The political wingnuts have convinced a lot of hunters that Nancy Pelosi and Hillary are going to disarm them, but the energy of the movement comes from people obsessed with self-defense against the government and others.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 8:09 PM
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Plus, just being Puerto Rican gets you viewed as an "immigrant" by a lot of folks even though the Census doesn't calculate you as foreign-born.

Arrrrrrgh. (Not at you Witt, at Pennsylvanians. And Hazleton doesn't have an illegal immigrant problem, it has a fear-of-Hispanic-people problem.)

The problem with Obama's statement was that it was the sort of pseudo-sociology, school-room, campaign-room kind of statement. It's the sort of thing that's true (people in Hazleton freak out because their economy sucks, and in driving out the Hispanic population worsen it, but they feel better looking at boarded-up shops), but not assertable given the nature of sound bites and the media.

You don't have to ignore it. You just say 'Washington is out of touch and doesn't realize the real problems - housing, economy, etc - we face' not 'You only think you're worried about illegals because you're a burned out steel town with a corrupt mayor and no middle class.'


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 8:11 PM
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the energy of the movement comes from people obsessed with self-defense against the government and others.

Heh. On the intertubes, the Freeper gun types have quite a bit of hostility towards the guys who own guns primarily for hunting, moaning stuff like how the "Elmer Fudd" guys just don't get how the Dems are going to collaborate with the U.N. to disarm the world.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 8:17 PM
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Judith Nathan was from Hazelton and still has family there. Which is why NYC paid security who visited there sometime during Giuliani's time as mayor.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 8:23 PM
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people obsessed with self-defense against the government

Yes, and it does so much to ameliorate that fear when our government gets into violent standoffs with fringe sects.

/sarcasm


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 8:26 PM
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98: That's right! Another dubious gift from Hazleton to the world.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 8:29 PM
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A friend of mine who does a lot of hunting and fishing and is a fairly liberal environmentalist academic said that in his experience, hunters and conservationists have been getting closer in recent years. He's apparently had quite a few "but if you go with Republicans in the election, shouldn't you worry about what's going to happen to the animals you hunt and their habitats?" conversations.

Also, based on the link in 92 and earlier links, I think Witt is Christian Scientist in disguise.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 8:32 PM
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Actually, among the links posted at that link in 92 is a post about (general) public financing that is 1) wrong about what Obama said last year (it was not a promise), 2) completely ignores McCain's a) shady loan using the promise of (primary) public funds as collateral, b) McCain skipping out of (primary) public funding without an ok from the FEC and c) McCain's having exceeded the limit of public financing for the primary just recently, a fact which could lead to d) fines or prison time (most likely neither, in practice).


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 8:39 PM
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(that said, Obama is in sort of a bind about public financing anyway, because of his new politics agenda)


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 8:41 PM
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but implying the people they hurt are just imagining things is not correct.

I don't really agree with this reading of Obama's original statement, but I think he responded well by

1 - forcefully saying the exact opposite of this, and
2 - telling people that's he's merely repeating what he said before.

Had Obama taken a more defensive approach, the media narrative would have been about Obama backing off statements, and that therefore, the original remarks were necessarily offensive and wrong.

This way, the media narrative is: Obama says he said this, Hillary/McCain says he said something else. There's no way we can figure it out, so we'll just present both sides of this controversy and move on.

I think Obama has shown himself to have a gift for counterpunching.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 8:59 PM
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The other thing that ticks me off about this latest nonsense is that of the three, Obama is actually the only one who has had something approximating a normal life within the last twenty-five years.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 9:04 PM
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Exactly, B.

Also, there are some things that one can see better from a distance, but it when it comes to finding out what people outside your circle are thinking and (particularly) feeling, there's no real alternative to getting out there among them. And who's going to be representative of the poor and working classes anywhere someone like Mark Penn or John McCain is likely to see it? Obama's experience with urban poverty gives him a huge leg up here - no guarantee, of course, but surely bringing him into a region of better odds.


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 9:23 PM
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Obama's experience with urban poverty gives him a huge leg up here

Yes, and not only that, but, as B. notes, Obama is likely to have, say, run out to White Hen for a pack of smokes in the past 10 years, neither McCain nor Clinton has interacted with the world like that in a long time.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 9:33 PM
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There's an "and" missing up there.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 9:34 PM
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With the McCain&Hillary vs. Obama campaign entering its third month, it would be understandable if a low-information voter decided to sit out the elction if we end up with McCain & Hillary un-setting un-aside their differences and trying to run against each other again.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 10:08 PM
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Sorry, should be "McCain&Clinton vs. Obama campaign". since Bill and Hillary have both teamed up to endorse McCain against Obama.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 04-12-08 10:13 PM
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The other thing that ticks me off about this latest nonsense is that of the three, Obama is actually the only one who has had something approximating a normal life within the last twenty-five years.

Yes. This is the flip side of the "inexperience" thing. His rise has been so meteoric, it's really unprecedented. Basically, 5 or 6 years ago he was just a reasonably successful upper middle class dad. Rising as a politician, but within the very local, unglamorous, and ordinary world of the state legislature.

Another thing on Obama's quote: I've never really bought the "what's the matter with Kansas" argument that cultural issues are displaced economic frustrations. I think it's a way of wishing away a real cultural divide.

I also think the economic frustrations themselves are extremely real, though.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-13-08 12:02 AM
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5 or 6 years ago he was just a reasonably successful upper middle class dad

Who joined the Illinois State Senate in 1995 and ran for congress in 2000.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 04-13-08 12:04 AM
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But until he was a senator, he could probably go to the grocery store.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 04-13-08 1:37 AM
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Obama's experience with urban poverty gives him a huge leg up here - no guarantee, of course, but surely bringing him into a region of better odds.

I thought W and Dick's arrest records and experiences would make them sympathetic to the rights of the accused.


Posted by: Econolicious | Link to this comment | 04-13-08 2:20 AM
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State Senators are, in fact, reasonably successful upper middle class guys.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-13-08 7:59 AM
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Depends on the state, I guess. In some state senates and houses (or Maryland's unicameral assembly!), they're not in session enough for folks to quit their days jobs. A friend's mom in Chicago was in the IL state house and she, you know, did the grocery shopping and cleaned her own toilets.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-13-08 9:05 AM
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oudemia, was it you who told me to read the Nadia Abu El-Haj article? Because if it was, I'd like to have a word with you. That was a very mad-making article. And I'm now I'm very mad. It's Sunday, before 8:30, and already I'm very mad. Grrr.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 04-13-08 9:10 AM
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Yes. I made you read it because it made me mad. I'm pretty sure I've had a stroke.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-13-08 9:15 AM
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Let's not leap to conclusions on the basis of inadequate information. Maybe she just thought of cleaning toilets as a relaxing traditional craft like knitting.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-13-08 9:20 AM
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117: Bible archaeology and textual scholarship are the most insanely ideologized areas of scholarship imaginable. The Israel-Palestine disputes are just laid on top of the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religious disputes.

WHich Abu-haj article?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-13-08 9:25 AM
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It's hilarious that the Campus Watch attack on Abu El-Haj uses Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead as examples of what scholarship should be. Both ar in ill repute, especially Mead. and Mead was accused of distorting her conclusions for political reasons.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-13-08 9:29 AM
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This month's New Yorker.

You can find a copy here.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-13-08 9:29 AM
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Don't read it, John. Take it from me: you'll become very angry if you read that article.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 04-13-08 9:36 AM
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The New Yorker is weekly: foiled!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-13-08 9:42 AM
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Oops. I guess that's why they pile up so very quickly.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-13-08 9:45 AM
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Hey, happy ending!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-13-08 9:59 AM
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Maryland's unicameral assembly!

Wait, what now? Did they abolish the State Senate without telling me?


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 04-13-08 10:25 AM
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Yeah, that was just totally wrong.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-13-08 10:30 AM
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127 -- Tired of all that condescension from coastal elites, Nebraska has changed its name to "Maryland."


Posted by: NĂ¡pi | Link to this comment | 04-13-08 10:31 AM
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But doesn't she get tenure in the end? The system works!


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 04-13-08 10:32 AM
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130: It's Celebrate Procedural Liberalism month. Get your hats and t-shirts!


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 04-13-08 10:34 AM
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131: This is one of those areas where I fall into the Emerson/mcmanus camp. Winning doesn't validate procedure; it indicates that it's a propitious time to burn the other guys' ideological houses to the ground. Then we can celebrate procedural liberalism. Identifying "other guys" remains a hard problem.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 04-13-08 10:42 AM
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I'm off to the zoo with my kids, Tim. Plus, I don't have the heart to argue about the specifics of this case. My self-hatred is running at a boil after reading that article.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 04-13-08 10:44 AM
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127 -- Tired of all that condescension from coastal elites, Nebraska has changed its name to "Maryland."

Fatti maschii parole femine, yo.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 04-13-08 10:46 AM
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I have a militant atheist friend who claims that a.) Jesus never existed, more or less (i.e., if there was any historical person, the facts about him are unrecoverable and totally obscured by legends and corruptions from a multitude of sources), and b. nothing in the Old Testament before 535 BCE (the Second Temple) can be taken seriously, except that the Second Temple was built by people sent form Babylon.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-13-08 10:52 AM
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A Paul Rabinow signed the anti-tenure petition. Hopefully not the Paul Rabinow.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-13-08 10:55 AM
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136: That would indeed be startling, so I looked it up.

The name "Paul Rabinow" is among the signatures on Ms. Stern's petition. However, Mr. Rabinow, a prominent anthropologist at the University of California at Berkeley, says he was not the one who put it there. He was not even aware of the petition until he received a note one day from Ms. Abu El-Haj, an acquaintance, who had been startled to find his name.

To remedy the situation, Mr. Rabinow contacted an administrator at Columbia to make sure that the incident would have no bearing on Ms. Abu El-Haj's career. But he did not sign the counterpetition either. "Petitions about people's tenure cases are completely out of order," he says. "It's a breakdown of a set of standards of debate. I guess the alternative then is demagoguery."


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-13-08 10:59 AM
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Yeah, that article made me extremely mad. The point is, whenever there's an extra-academic anti-tenure claim, it is always a claim made on the basis of none of the evidence that an actual tenure claim would be made on. For example, the quality of the book might figure into an actual tenure decision, while only the title and a few quotations would be evidence for anti-tenure. I mean, if Ms. Stern wants to put Abu El-Haj on her personal list for a two-minutes hate, no one can stop her, but why involve herself in career decisions that she admittedly knows nothing about? If a book with the same title and argument had been written by someone who didn't have an Arabic name, would she have even bothered to glance at it?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-13-08 11:09 AM
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I suppose state senators are "reasonably successful," but mainly I was questioning whether or not that's really an "ordinary" life. Five or six years ago Obama wasn't really any less of a person entering a professional political career than Clinton or McCain - just younger and not as far down that path.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 04-13-08 11:31 AM
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It's ordinary in the sense that he wasn't insanely wealthy, for starters. It's probable that he still had a household budget that resembled the household budgets of most umc American households, for instance.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 04-13-08 11:42 AM
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Yes, if you strip the politics from his life, it was pretty ordinary. It's funny, though, I was just looking at where the Clintons were at the same age and Bill had already been Governor of Arkansas (starting at 32). Obama has certainly had more time living a kind of ordinary life - even before the Illinois Senate - than they ever did.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 04-13-08 12:05 PM
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@bitchphd

In terms of ordinary life, I remember reading that he and his wife just paid off their student loans either last year or the year before. So, yeah, I think he is probably much more in tune with regular life than the Clintons.

It is just amazing to consider that between Bills two terms in Arkansas and two in the White House that the Clintons spent 16 years of their adult life having personal drivers and a chef cook their meals for them.

Not to make this a negative comment about them, but similar to empty nest syndrome, I think one of the reasons they are so motivated to get back in the White House is precisely because they are so unused to living more ordinary lives. Despite the fact that they are multi-millionaires, he's an ex-President and she is a sitting Senator, I can imagine that they feel a bit of dissonance or dislocation about not being at the center of everything and particularly at the apex of government. It is just contrary to their self-perception of their identies as they have lived them for so long.


Posted by: Bubba | Link to this comment | 04-13-08 11:51 PM
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Drum's take makes a lot more sense than Ogged's.

Drum: "... what really strikes me as odd about Obama's statement is that, on its merits, it's largely untrue, ..."

Ogged: "... Obama is correct. ..."


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-14-08 1:50 PM
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