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Right Wing, Assisted By NY Times, Labels Obama "Elite"

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Nothing underscores the Corporate Conservative Establishment's fear and paranoia of losing their choke-hold on the minds of the American electorate so much as the recent manufactured flap over Barack Obama's "bitter" truth-telling.

Obama, at an April 6 fund raiser in San Francisco, began a speech by referencing a New York Times article that suggested white, working-class Americans will more likely vote against the black Senator because of his skin color. The skin-color-as-determinant-of-presidential-race-outcome prophets have sounded off all across the media spectrum: the Corporate Media implies it, the people read it and the people act the way the Corporate Media tells them everyone else is acting, whether or not it is actually true.

The Times has turned Obama's remarks into a seeming crusade against the man.

"Obama Tries to Limit Fallout Over 'Bitter' Remark," the Times trumpeted in a headline on Saturday. "Opponents Call Obama Comments 'Out of Touch,'" ran another headline on Saturday. "On the Defensive, Obama Calls His Words Ill-Chosen," ran a headline in Sunday's paper, followed by "Clinton Keeps Up Blast Over Obama's Small Town Remarks," followed by "Penn Surrogates Weigh Import of Obama's Words." This after the Times and Obama's critics narrowed in on Obama's words like snipers.

The Times doesn't like to take responsibility for its words, and there are plenty that deserve the scrutiny now being given to Obama's remarks. Reporter Michael Powell, recently used the slang phrase, "talks smack" to describe Obama's perfectly articulate criticisms of President Bush. Powell, and Jeff Zeleny, who is the author of the several of the latest hit pieces on Obama, also wrote that Obama basically learned to do politics in Chicago with crowbars. In that article, also, was the suggestion that if Obama gets down and dirty with Clinton "he risks taking the shine off."

"Shine," as you probably know, was once a well-known racist label for a black man who shines shoes for a living. Right now, Obama is playing by the white man's rules--he's a shine, Powell and Zeleny suggest, if he goes on the offensive and takes the shine off, he is, by inference, a full-blooded black man with a crow bar. The Times has never apologized for these word choices.

In the following paragraph are the actual words that Obama spoke. You really have to fill your heart with malicious cynicism to interpret these words as signs of Obama's media-manufactured ELITISM--a word that, remember, pertains to the very limousine executives who are responsible for crashing our economy and sending millions of Americans into foreclosure.

Obama began by saying that ordinary Americans feel bitter when politicians don't follow through on their campaign promises, a piece of the speech that is missing in the manufactured flap. "So it's not surprising then," Obama said, that [people in small towns] 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."

In the days since those comments appeared, these very words have been spun to suggest that Obama disdains people of faith. In Saturday's story, The New York Times reported in an article that was re-written since that, "Democratic and Republican critics alike accused Mr. Obama, of Illinois, of being elitist and demeaning to working-class Americans." The two critics the Times cited were Hillary Clinton and John McCain. Oh, and John McCain's spokesperson makes three.

Hillary Clinton is now using the opportunity to depict Obama as an "elitist," the right wing's favorite descriptor for liberals. Geoffry Nunberg, a linguistics expert, has pointed out that in the 1940's the word evoked images of Wall Street titans. Today it is tied to liberals who read The New York Times, or drink coffee, or drive Volvos, or eat sushi. Lifestyle choices...somewhat different than, "Hmm, which small island vacation palace shall I visit this weekend?"

"Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton," the Times reported Sunday, "activated her entire campaign apparatus to portray Mr. Obama’s remarks as reflective of an elitist view of faith and community."

Funny this sort of labeling should come from Clinton. Addressing the Democratic National Committee in January of 1995, Bill Clinton highlighted the irony that liberals should be branded elite: "It's a funny world that they're sketching--a world in which Big Bird is an elitist and right wing media magnates are populists."

According to linguistic experts, the word "elite" is poll-tested to arouse distaste when it becomes attached to a politician. Somebody run a Lexis-Nexis search for "Obama" and "elite," you'll probably find 200,000 hits in the days since this story broke.

Before we go any farther, let's recall that Barack Obama was a community organizer for a while. It's a job that takes one from door, to door, to door. In a year, a typical organizer can knock on 20,000 doors, talk to 10,000 people--see into the lives of 10,000 people! Do you know what you hear when you talk to this many people? "I'm sick of these immigrants coming across our border and taking all of our jobs." Or, "We'd have health care if the immigrants weren't going to all of our hospitals and closing them down, just look at that one in Texas." Obama was exactly correct.

And blame for the ignorance he describes falls on the media. It's not the immigrants that are causing our health care costs to rise, just ask George Halvorson, CEO of Keiser Permanente. It's people with one of five chronic diseases: asthma, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, diabetes and depression. These people, and others with chronic conditions, account for 75 percent of the costs in our $2 trillion health care economy.

Blame for American ignorance falls squarely on the shoulders of the media: Lou Dobbs, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Faux News; every day they make Britney Spears a headline story over health care; every day they do a puff piece about a cat stuck in a tree. The 6 o'clock news in America has the substance of cotton candy.

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Dean Powers lives in Castleton, VT. He has apprenticed at several newspapers including The Nation. He currently writes for OpEdNews. He can be found at

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