Posted: April 14, 2008 12:30 PM
In 'Damage Control Mode,' Obama Lands Pa. Endorsements
On the defensive over recently publicized remarks that characterized working-class voters as “bitter,” a defiant Sen. Barack Obama took aim Sunday at Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s attacks, saying “shame on her” and questioning her vocal support for gun rights.
The sharp words were the latest twist in a current of controversy over the publication of comments Obama made at a closed-door San Francisco fundraiser a week earlier. At that event, Obama said some working-class voters are bitter over their economic situation and “cling to guns and religion” as a result.
Campaigning Sunday in Pennsylvania ahead of next week’s primary, Clinton suggested the comments could endanger Democrats’ chances for winning the White House in November.
“He is a good man and a very talented and gifted man, but I think his comments were elitist and divisive and the Democratic Party has been unfortunately viewed by many people over the last decade as being elitist and out of touch,” Clinton said in Scranton.
Speaking at a union hall outside Harrisburg, Obama said he was “a little disappointed” about Clinton’s response, The Associated Press reported.
“She is running around talking about how this is an insult to sportsmen, how she values the Second Amendment. She’s talking like she’s Annie Oakley,” Obama said.
As both candidates reach out to people of faith in Pennsylvania, the two participated in the Compassion Forum at Messiah College on Sunday, an event billed as “dedicated to discussing pressing moral issues that bridge ideological divides within our nation.”
At the forum — during which the candidates spoke in separate question-and-answer sessions —- Clinton was asked whether life begins at conception — a critical issue to opponents of abortion.
“I believe the potential for life begins at conception,” Clinton said, according to the AP. “For me, it is also not only about a potential life. It is about the other lives involved. … I have concluded, after great, you know, concern and searching my own mind and heart over many years, … that individuals must be entrusted to make this profound decision, because the alternative would be such an intrusion of government authority that it would be very difficult to sustain in our kind of open society.”
The New York senator added that abortion should remain legal, safe and rare.
Asked whether life begins at conception, Obama said he believed the answer was complex.
“This is something that I have not, I think, come to a firm resolution on. I think it’s very hard to know what that means, when life begins. Is it when a cell separates? Is it when the soul stirs? … What I know, as I’ve said before, is that there is something extraordinarily powerful about potential life and that that has a moral weight to it that we take into consideration when we’re having these debates.”
At the Sunday forum, Obama again addressed his comments at the San Francisco fundraiser and said his words had been distorted and misconstrued, according to The New York Times.
“That was in no way a demeaning of a faith that I myself embrace,” Obama said. “When economic hardship hits, they have faith, they have family, they have traditions that have been passed on from generation to generation. Those are not bad things. Those are the things that are left.”
The Wall Street Journal noted that Obama was “in full damage control mode” at Sunday’s forum where the controversy overshadowed endorsements he picked Sunday from the Allentown Morning Call and the Scranton Times Tribune.
Both newspapers were complimentary of Clinton, but said Obama’s ability to inspire is more likely to lead the country in a new direction.
“There is little doubt that a second Clinton presidency would further the deep divisiveness that characterizes American politics - a divisiveness that dug itself deep during the Clinton presidency, and even deeper during the Bush-Cheney years,” the Scranton endorsement reads. “The first task for the next president is to get past that. And it might not be possible if the presidential cycle goes Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton.”