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Legacy Content / EARLYBIRD

Pundits & Editorials

Obama comes in for a pounding from the pundits over his remarks on rural voters and "activist truckers" could start a citizens' revolt. Plus: Is Raul Castro the real "change" candidate?

April 15, 2008

Richard Cohen "distrust[s] what Hillary Clinton said about Barack Obama and his admittedly klutzy statement about guns, church, immigrants and bitterness -- 'elitist, out of touch and, frankly, patronizing,' she said. Frankly, I don't believe her."

• "Here are the two remaining Democratic candidates, Obama by speaking carelessly and Clinton by piling on shamelessly, doing all they can to make it easy for Republicans to pretend one more time that they are the salt of the earth," sighs E.J. Dionne Jr..

• Picking apart Obama's remarks on Pennsylvania voters, John Dickerson concludes that, "No matter what helping hand you extend him, Obama still claimed that voters have been hoodwinked on Election Day, and no one wants to be told that in the past they've been duped into voting for the wrong person."

 

• "The man who declares that 'words matter' seems to be having a lot of problems with his as of late," remarks Tara Wall, awarding Obama a "dunce award" for his comments.

• "In his San Francisco comments, Senator Obama fouled up when he linked frustration and bitterness over economic hard times with America's romance with guns and embrace of religion. But, please, let's get a grip," suggests Bob Herbert. "What we ought to be worked up about is the racism that still prevents some people from giving a candidate a fair chance because of his skin color."

• "Obama may be the fulfillment of modern liberalism," posits George Will. "What had been under FDR a celebration of America and the values of its working people has become a doctrine of condescension toward those people and the supposedly coarse and vulgar country that pleases them."

• "Obama is the closest thing to a rookie candidate on the national stage since Dwight Eisenhower," notes John Fund. "For all his winning ways and natural appeal to the camera, Mr. Obama hasn't really been tested in a major campaign."

• "There's always been a certain cultural lag time to Barack and Michelle Obama, a kitschiness that's been hard to pinpoint. But" Jonah Goldberg thinks he's "got it: They're self-hating yuppies straight out of the 1980s, which was to the Obamas what the 1960s were to the Clintons."

David Brooks was unimpressed by Obama's speech on the economy. "In the speech, he devoted one clause in one sentence to the single biggest factor affecting the workplace: technological change. He then devoted 45 sentences to one of the least important: trade deals."

• "Hillary 'Shot-and-a-Beer' Clinton has given us the perfect illustration of what's so insane about American politics: the philosophical dictum that could be summed up (with apologies to Descartes) as 'I seem, therefore I am,'" quips Eugene Robinson.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Tony Norman imagines Clinton's script for the Pennsylvania primary: "The movie's first scene opens at a bar festooned with all of the trappings of Western Pennsylvania working-class life, according to the Clintons' egalitarian view of the world.... Among these proud men and women of Western Pennsylvania, no one is 'bitter' about having been dealt a bad hand by the indifference of several generations of politicians and presidents."

• Writing in USA Today, political reporter Michael Barone sees almost no chance of a brokered Democratic convention. "The reason: The old-style conventions operated as a communications medium at a time when other communications media were unavailable."

• As Democrats search for a resolution to their interminable primary race, they should remember that young people -- whose "preferences in the primaries so far are clear" -- "will still be a major electoral force in the 2050s and beyond. If the party alienates them, it will be a mistake whose reverberations will be felt for decades to come," warns sociologist Jerome Karabel in the Los Angeles Times.

DeWayne Wickham takes issue with the Tennessee Board of Regents' decision not to grant honorary degrees to 13 former Freedom Riders, writing that they "deserve honorary degrees for the price they paid risking their lives for rights many Americans now take for granted."

• "Forty years ago, the Kerner Commission concluded in its landmark study of the causes of racial disturbances in the United States in the 1960s: 'Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white -- separate and unequal.' Today we are still moving toward two societies: one incarcerated and one not," worries political science professor Marie Gottschalk in the Washington Post.

• "The activist truckers" who shut down highways across the country on April 1 in protest of high diesel prices "understand their protest to be part of a larger effort to 'take back America,' as one put it to" author Barbara Ehrenreich. In the Philadelphia Inquirer, Ehrenreich indicates that "truckers may be vanguard of a revolution for change."

• In the New York Times, journalist Richard Conniff proposes "we stop saying 'taxes' and start calling them 'dues'.... We need language to remind us that this is our government, and that we thrive because of the schools and transit systems and 10,000 other services that exist only because we have joined together."

• "Experts and the public alike agree that the tax code could use a good housecleaning. The most sensible model to follow is the landmark Tax Reform Act of 1986, which respected members of both parties have praised," policy analyst Aviva Aron-Dine suggests in the Washington Times.

Bret Stephens once again shakes his head over former President Jimmy Carter. "In meeting with a former U.S. president," Hamas seeks "to burnish their reputations as legitimate Mideast players, not outlaws. Perhaps Mr. Carter knows this, or perhaps he doesn't. Whichever the case, his actions bespeak more than he intends."

• "Silvio Berlusconi is set to become Italy's prime minister again, following a convincing victory in" Monday's "parliamentary elections," the Wall Street Journal's Matthew Kaminski reports. "The Berlusconi coalition's victory said as much about Italians' disillusionment with 20 months of shambolic center-left rule as the media tycoon's appeal."

• "Welcome to the latest Olympic sport: Put Out the Torch -- a game being followed, at least in" Anne Appelbaum's "part of the world, with enormous enthusiasm.... It will show some of the Chinese people what some of the world thinks of their repressive system -- and quite rightly, too."

• "Although the Six-Party Talks have been sliding into dangerous territory for some time, the Bush administration has repeatedly said that North Korea's complete, verifiable disclosure of its nuclear program was a sine qua non of any deal. No longer," former Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton laments in the Wall Street Journal.

• Examining an unusual cultural exchange currently taking place in India, business professor Tunku Varadarajan writes in the New York Times that, "With the Redskins cheerleaders on Indian soil, one can safely declare that the British cultural influence in India has been entirely replaced by an American one, cricket notwithstanding."

From The Editorial Boards...

• "It doesn't take a health policy expert to recognize that something has gone terribly wrong when patients have to pay thousands of dollars a month for drugs that they need to maintain their health -- and possibly save their lives. Congress needs to determine why this is happening and what can be done about it," the New York Times urges.

• Clinton and Obama "are racing across the country promising Americans that they will clean up a process that 'favors Wall Street over Main Street.' Fat chance," scoffs the Wall Street Journal. "Their party and most Republicans just voted for a housing bill that is the biggest victory for corporate special interests in years -- and there's much more to follow. Happy Tax Day."

• "It is time to stop playing games with judicial nominees," scolds the Washington Post. "As senators cross swords and point fingers, seats remain empty, sitting judges get swamped, and cases drag on."

• "American Catholics are a more diverse, contentious group than they were a few decades ago. The pope's trip will be a gauge of how well he can blend pastoral understanding with doctrinal rigor," previews the Boston Globe.

• The Los Angeles Times observes that "the pontiff is on two distinct missions: a pastoral visit to American Catholics and a diplomatic mission to the Bush administration, the international community and non-Christian religions. Actually, both aspects of the pope's visit will test his diplomatic skills."

• "A new 'stakeholder' mentality is emerging among the financial supporters of American universities in recent years," applauds the Washington Times. "The typical American university today is not very accountable to either students or donors. If it takes lawsuits to rein in empire-building administrators, nutty faculty or runaway boards, so be it."

USA Today predicts that change is coming slowly to Cuba. "Slowly, with little notice, President Raul Castro has been enacting changes. They are small-bore, to be sure, but increasingly numerous."

• "Voters who don't see" Obama "as your typical politician must be disappointed by his squirming to get out of a commitment to public financing in the presidential campaign," the Philadelphia Inquirer sniffs.

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