Obama on Guns and Religion: 'I Didn't Say It as Well as I Should Have'


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Barack Obama admitted Saturday that he chose his words poorly when he told a group of California donors that small-town Americans "cling" to guns and religion and xenophobia out of bitterness over lost jobs, but for the second day in a row stood by the comments and weathered pointed criticism from Hillary Clinton.

"I didn't say it as well as I should have, because the truth is these traditions that are passed on from generation to generation, those are important," Obama said in Muncie, Ind., minutes before Clinton jumped in and called his remarks "elitist."

"But what is absolutely true is that people want to feel like they're being listened to. And so they pray, and they count on each other and they count on their families," Obama continued.

The original remarks, made a week ago and reported in The Huffington Post Friday, drew charges of classism from the campaigns of John McCain and Clinton.

When Obama attempted to explain them Friday, the two campaigns claimed he was only digging himself deeper.

Clinton, speaking in Indianapolis Saturday morning, amplified her attack, saying Obama has no right to challenge gun owners or those who believe strongly in God.

"I was taken aback by the demeaning remarks Sen. Obama made about people in small-town America," she said. "Sen. Obama's remarks are elitist and they're out of touch."

Clinton highlighted her own working-class roots and "midwestern values," and tried to paint herself as a humble product of middle America.

"Americans who believe in the Second Amendment believe it's a constitutional right. Americans who believe in God believe it's a matter of personal faith. Americans who believe in protecting good American jobs believe it's a matter of the American dream," she said. "People embrace faith not because they are materially poor but because they are spiritually rich."

But as he did Friday night, Obama on Saturday morning explained that he was only speaking to an evident reality -- that Americans who feel the government is not listening to their economic concerns turn to issues they can grasp, a response he said is understandable.

"It's interesting, right? Lately there's been a typical sort of political fight. Because I said something that everybody knows is true -- which is that there are a whole bunch of folks in small towns in Pennsylvania, in towns right here in Indiana, in my hometown in Illinois, who are bitter. They are angry. They feel like they've been left behind. They feel like folks aren't paying attention to what they're doing here," he said Saturday.

"So I said, 'Well, you know, when you're bitter you turn to what you can count on.' So people, they vote about guns. Or they take comfort from their faith, and their family and their community. And they get mad about illegal immigrants who are coming into this country. Or they get frustrated about, you know, how things have changed. That's a natural response."

His original comments were directed mainly at small-town Pennsylvania residents.

"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," he said a week ago.

Click here to read and hear the Obama comments that sparked criticism in The Huffington Post.


FOX News' Mosheh Oinounou and Aaron Bruns contributed to this report.




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