TERRE HAUTE, Indiana (CNN) –- Barack Obama was forced Friday to defend comments he made at a recent fundraiser where he described some Pennsylvanians as "bitter."
Obama came under fire from Hillary Clinton and John McCain for his remarks just weeks before the Pennsylvania primary.
"When I go around and I talk to people, there is frustration, and there is anger, and there is bitterness," Obama began. "I want to make a point here."
"[Pennsylvanians are] frustrated and for good reason, because for the last 25 years they’ve seen jobs shipped overseas, they’ve seen their economies collapse. They have lost their jobs, they’ve lost their pensions. They’ve lost their health care."
Obama then said that politicians from both sides of the aisle have promised answers but that "nothing ever happens."
"So…they don’t vote on economic because they don’t expect anybody’s going to help them," Obama said, adding that they end up voting on issues that include gun rights, gay marriage, and faith.
He then directly hit Clinton and McCain, mocking their earlier attacks.
"Here’s what’s rich," Obama said. "Sen. Clinton says, 'Well I don’t think people are bitter in Pennsylvania. I think Barack’s being condescending.' John McCain says, 'Oh, how could he say that? How could he say people are bitter? He’s obviously out of touch with people. '"
"Out of touch?" Obama said. "I mean, John McCain, it took him three tries to finally figure out that the home foreclosure crisis was a problem and to come up with a plan for it, and he’s saying I’m out of touch?"
"Sen. Clinton voted for a credit card sponsored bankruptcy bill that made it harder for people to get out of debt after taking money from the financial services companies, and she says I’m out of touch?"
He concluded his argument by telling the audience that it is, in fact, the opposite.
"No. I’m in touch. I know exactly what’s going on. I know what’s going on in Pennsylvania, I know what’s going on in Indiana, [and] I know what’s going on in Illinois. People are fed up."
(CNN) - Democrat Hillary Clinton is seizing on comments Barack Obama recently made in which he said some Pennsylvanians who have lost their jobs are "bitter."
"It's being reported that my opponent said that the people of Pennsylvania who face hard times are bitter," Clinton said during a campaign event in Philadelphia. "Well that's not my experience. As I travel around Pennsylvania. I meet people who are resilient, optimist positive who are rolling up their sleeves."
"Pennsylvanians don't need a president who looks down on them," she said. "They need a president who stands up for them, who fights hard for your future, your jobs, your families."
Obama's comments were reported earlier Friday by the Web site Huffingtonpost.com. The Web site says he made them at a fundraising event in San Francisco last Sunday. On Friday evening, it posted audio of the comments that verified their accuracy.
"You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them...And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not," he said.
"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 also said.
McCain's campaign also criticized the comment Friday. "It shows an elitism and condescension towards hardworking Americans that is nothing short of breathtaking," said Steve Schmidt, a senior advisor to McCain. "It is hard to imagine someone running for president who is more out of touch with average Americans."
(UPDATE: The Obama campaign responds after the jump)
Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki would not confirm Obama made the comments.
"No one from our press office was there - we don't have a campaign recording–we are neither confirming nor refuting."
UPDATE: The Obama campaign released a statement in response to the criticism: "Senator Obama has said many times in this campaign that Americans are understandably upset with their leaders in Washington for saying anything to win elections while failing to stand up to the special interests and fight for an economic agenda that will bring jobs and opportunity back to struggling communities," said Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor.
"And if John McCain wants a debate about who's out of touch with the American people, we can start by talking about the tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans that he once said offended his conscience but now wants to make permanent.”
(CNN) - As presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain battle over whether to accept public financing in the general election, a top McCain campaign official was on Capitol Hill Friday trying to reassure House Republican staff members that the campaign’s fundraising woes are not as bad as they appear.
McCain campaign manager Rick Davis described how a fundraising structure would be set up if McCain decides to take public financing, according to two aides who attended the meeting.
"This was the campaign saying that everyone is predicting doom and gloom, but we have a plan in place to compete with Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton," one GOP aide said.
At a briefing for about 100 GOP staffers at the Capitol Hill Club, Davis and other senior campaign advisors explained that the campaign plans to raise money through the party’s RNC Victory Fund and multiple state party Victory Funds. This would add to the $84 million in public money it would be limited to spending by the Federal Election Commission. Campaign officials emphasized that state party chairs would be given more responsibility and a greater role in the campaign.
(CNN) — Hillary Clinton wants her husband to quit talking about her trip to Bosnia in 1996, the former president said Friday.
"Hillary called me and said, "I misstated it, you said I misstated it, but you got to let me handle it because you don't remember it either'...I said 'Yes ma'am," Clinton said while touring the fire damage of a campaign office in Terre Haute, Indiana.
The comments follow those he made in Boonville, Indiana Thursday, when he strongly defended his wife over the recent coverage surrounding her 1996 Bosnia trip claims, saying the media acted as if she'd "robbed a bank."
"I got tickled the other day, a lot of the way this whole campaign has been covered has amused me, but there was a lot of fulminating because Hillary, one time late at night when she was exhausted, misstated and immediately apologized for it, what happened to her in Bosnia in 1995. Did y'all see all that? Oh, they blew it up," he said.
(CNN)— With the economic outlook looking dim and the continued war in Iraq, President Bush’s job approval rating hit an all time low Friday, according to a just released poll.
The latest Gallup poll shows the president’s approval dropped to 28 percent, the lowest of his eight years in office.
The survey, which questioned 1,021 adults between April 6 and 9, with a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percent, found the decrease came largely because of Democratic and Independent dissatisfaction with his administration. Only 6 percent of Democrats questioned and 24 percent of Independents had a favorable opinion of President Bush, with about two-thirds support coming from Republicans.
The new estimate marks one of the lowest approval ratings any president has seen since World War II, with the exception of Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon and Harry Truman, who all had a mid 20 percent approval rating in their final years in office. The all time lowest presidential approval rating was 22 percent in 1952 during Harry Truman’s final year in office, who like President George W. Bush dealt with problems related to the economy and an unfavorable war.
Bush’s approval ratings have hovered around the low 30 percent range since July of 2007. It reached a high of 90 percent in 2001, just days after the September 11 attacks.
(CNN) - John McCain criticized Barack Obama on Friday for appearing to backtrack from a previous commitment to accept public financing - and the spending caps that come with it - for his presidential campaign.
"He committed to it," McCain told reporters Friday. "So in direct contradiction to his rhetoric, he’s now saying well he may not do it. So facts are facts. Facts are stubborn things." "I repeat my commitment to public financing if he will, and I call on him to keep his commitment that he made a year ago, and not flip flop," McCain also said.
The Arizona Republican's comments are in reference to those made by Obama earlier in the day, when he called America's public financing system "creaky" and suggested it need to be updated in light of the rise of internet fundraising.
"I think that it is creaky," Obama said of the current system that is financed by $3 dollar check-offs in tax returns. "The amount of money raised through the public financing system may be substantially lower than the amount of money that can be raised over the Internet, which presents candidates then with some pretty tough decisions in terms of how they want to move forward if they want to compete in as many states as possible."
Obama has raised over $230 million from about 1.3 million donors on the internet since his campaign began last year. McCain has raised approximately $80 million in the same time period. Should Obama accept public financing, he would be granted $84 million by the federal government and would be unable to spend any more, according to the Associated Press.
(CNN) - Amidst all the discussion of the war in Iraq this week was some good news for the men and women of the U.S. Army. President Bush announced that their tours of duty in Iraq will be reduced from 15 to 12 months. Three months might not sound like a lot but having been to Iraq and having seen the conditions under which the troops serve, I can assure you that those three months can make a big difference. That new policy will begin on August 1 of this year.
It means that American soldiers heading to Iraq before August 1 will still have to serve for 15 months in the country; those deploying after August 1 will have to serve in Iraq for one year.
Once the new policy goes into effect, the soldiers also will know that they will have a year at home for every year they serve in Iraq.
“This policy is intended to give units time to properly reset and allow soldiers, families and friends to reconnect,” the Army leadership said in a joint statement sent out to all soldiers. It was signed by the Secretary of the Army Pete Geren, the Army Chief of Staff, General George Casey, and the Sergeant Major of the Army, Kenneth Preston.
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana (CNN) - Democrat Barack Obama described America's public campaign financing system as "creaky" Friday, and said it needs to be reformed in light of the rise of fundraising over the internet.
"I think that it is creaky," Obama said of the current system that is financed by $3 dollar checkoffs in tax returns. "The amount of money raised through the public financing system may be substantially lower than the amount of money that can be raised over the Internet, which presents candidates then with some pretty tough decisions in terms of how they want to move forward if they want to compete in as many states as possible."
Obama has raised over $230 million from about 1.3 million donors on the internet this year.
Earlier this week, Obama told an audience at a fundraiser that his campaign already has something similar to a publicly funded system.
FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:
Some voters are worried John McCain will bring "old-fashioned" views into the White House if he wins.
Howard Dean, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee says that swing voters in focus groups raised the issue of McCain's age on their own.
McCain, at 72, would be the oldest president elected to a first term. Dean says voters were concerned about both his health and his outdated ideas. For example – Some women were shocked at his support for abstinence-only sex education and his opposition to health insurance paying for birth control pills. They reportedly said, "This guy is out of step with what modern views are." No kidding.
Dean says even though McCain's age is a factor for voters, he doubts the Democratic Party will use it as an issue during the general election, adding that "there's a somewhat higher ethical bar on our side of the aisle." Please.
To read more and contribute to the Cafferty File discussion click here
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President and Mrs. George W. Bush reported taxable income of $719, 274 for the tax year 2007 and paid $221,635 in federal income taxes, the White House said Friday.
They contributed a total of $165,660 to churches and charitable organizations, including the Crawford (Texas) Volunteer Fire Department, Susan G. Komen For the Cure, Malaria No More Fund, Martha's Table, and a St. John's Church.
Vice President Cheney and his wife earned $2,528,068, the White House said, and owe taxes of $602,651. The Cheneys paid $466,165 in taxes through withholding and estimated tax payments, and will pay the remaining $136,486 upon filing their tax return.
Bush's income included salary earned as president and investment income from the trusts in which his and his wife's assets are held. The tax return also reports a $150,000 advance received by Laura Bush for the children's book she co-authored with daughter Jenna.
Laura Bush donated all net proceeds from the advance to Teach for America and the New Teacher's Project, the White House statement said.