I lived for many years in Pennsylvania, the battleground state currently being fought over by Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. There was a saying when I lived there (later expropriated by James Carville) that Pennsylvania consisted of Pittsburgh on one end, Philadelphia on the other, and Alabama in between.
There is some truth to that. Pennsylvania has the largest rural population in America. The land between its two anchor cities is mountainous and vast, much of it populated by flannel-shirt-wearing, deer-hunting, Yuengling-drinking working types. Since I am an occasional hunter and an avid fisherman, I got to know many of them.
So I've closely followed the latest brouhaha over Obama's "bitter" remarks. When Obama responded to a question at a fund-raiser about his difficulty in winning over rural voters, he responded, in part: "It's not surprising ... 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."
Seeing Obama's statement as a way to wedge herself into working-class hearts, Clinton immediately proclaimed the Illinois senator an "elitist" and compared him to Al Gore and John Kerry, as being perceived as "out of touch" with blue-collar Americans.
(Hillary, Karl Rove called. He wants his playbook back.)
Then, as is her wont, Clinton took it a step too far. She went to a tavern, had the bartender pour her a glass of whiskey for a photo op, and proclaimed that she was a church-goin' duck-hunter from way back, a real woman of the people, who loves her guns and her God. The campaign then quickly created "I'm Not Bitter" bumper stickers and buttons.
The next day, a reporter asked Clinton when was the last time she shot a gun or went to church. Her response: "It's not relevant."
Here's the thing: I grew up in rural America. I've drunk lots of whiskey in small-town Pennsylvania taverns. Obama spoke the truth. These folks are bitter, or, as they might say, pissed-off at the way they've been shafted by corporate America. And unfortunately for Hillary, they know a phony when they see one.