I’ve written about this weasel before. I guess I find it amusingly ironic that someone with the name “Kristol” would see it as his duty to muddy issues — to make them anything but crystal clear.
Let’s look at the weasel’s latest spray of piss in the Times. Billy boy writes…
Obama was explaining his trouble winning over small-town, working-class voters: “It’s not surprising then that 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.”
“It’s not surprising then that they get bitter…” Does that clause seem a little odd to you? What’s the “then” for? Ah, of course. Rule #1 in the mudslinger’s handbook: if you’re going to quote your target, be sure to take it out of context. So maybe we should look at the full quote:
You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
There’s your “then.” Whether you agree with the statement or not, at least you understand the history that Obama is blaming for the situation. I can see why his opponents and their supporters would jump all over this. It’s incredibly easy to grab that last sentence and claim it’s equivalent to something like, “I need to find a way to tell these simple-minded rednecks that I can help them.”
But you need to think about the source. If I had said this (if I were stupid enough to try to run for elective office), it would be pretty safe to conclude that I meant it the way people are describing it. But that’s because I’m an atheist, I would support an effort to rewrite the second amendment to make it clear that it’s not about private ownership of guns, I feel thoroughly alienated when I’m in the Midwest (and I felt that way for the year and a half that I lived there), and frankly, I’m not particularly patriotic. I don’t personally think of myself as an elitist, but that’s just my opinion. But if I were a politician and I said something like that, I think it’s fair to say that my opponents would be justified in saying about me what they’re saying about Obama.
I’m not Obama. I didn’t lose my father when I was a baby. I didn’t lose my mother when I was a teenager. I wasn’t raised by my grandparents. I didn’t go to school on scholarships. For the most part, my parents paid my way. And I’m not a Christian. He is.
When the weasel compares Obama to Marx, he knows that it’s not applicable.
…[I]t’s one thing for a German thinker to assert that “religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature.” It’s another thing for an American presidential candidate to claim that we “cling to … religion” out of economic frustration.
And it’s a particularly odd claim for Barack Obama to make. After all, in his speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, he emphasized with pride that blue-state Americans, too, “worship an awesome God.”
What’s more, he’s written eloquently in his memoir, “Dreams From My Father,” of his own religious awakening upon hearing the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s “Audacity of Hope” sermon, and of the complexity of his religious commitment. You’d think he’d do other believers the courtesy of assuming they’ve also thought about their religious beliefs.
I agree. It doesn’t make sense. If I’d said it, no problem, because you’re not going to find a record of me saying the opposite. If Obama says it, considering his history, you can conclude that either his apparent respect for religion for the past twenty years has been an attempt to fool people, you can conclude that, for some reason, he wasn’t being honest to the people he was speaking with that day, or you can conclude that what Obama’s quoted as saying in California has some meaning other than the easily attacked “elitist” interpretation. See, weasel? More than one easy conclusion, and the one that you, your pals at Fox, McCain and Clinton have chosen, it seems to me, is the one that makes the least sense. Why would a religious person believe that religion is the opiate of the masses?
But whatever you choose to believe, don’t you have to wonder what Obama’s point was in making the statement in question? What does it mean that these people who didn’t experience much if any of the growth of the national economy during good times, and who’ve borne the brunt of bad economic periods more than most others happen to put a lot of reliance in (that is, “cling to”) the elements of their lives about which they feel most secure?
It’s pretty simple, if you ask me. They’re the Reagan Democrats. They’re a big part of the people who’ve been targeted for decades by operatives like Lee Atwater and Karl Rove. And what strategy was used on those people? Take the aspects of their lives that these people rely on, and scare them into thinking that your political opponents plan to take them away. Make them believe they’re going to lose their guns, that there’s a plot to seriously weaken their religious freedoms, or that their bitterness is the fault of someone other than the government that’s ignored them and the corporations that used them and then threw them away. In other words, they’re the people who receive nothing more than pandering and lip service from most politicians, who play on their fears to turn them into single-issue voters.
With that in mind, look at how Obama’s opponents and detractors have responded to what he said: they’ve denied that there’s any truth in his statement, and they’ve told the people he spoke of that they’re not bitter at all; that they’re proud, godly people with strong traditions. That is to say, they’ve pandered to them and blamed their troubles on someone else. Clinton in particular has tried to get their votes (most of which she already had) by pretending to be one of them and convincing them that people like Obama (the “elite”) are the enemy. She’s giving them one issue to override any other issue they may have been considering, hoping it will scare them enough to get them to vote for the alternative to the enemy she’s pointed out to them. And who is that alternative?
Atwater would be proud.
Tags: Bill Kristol