October 15th, 2008
06:00 PM ET
14 years ago

Obama calls 'bitter' comments most 'boneheaded' move

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/15/art.obama.gi.jpg caption="Obama said his 'bitter' comment was 'boneheaded.'"](CNN) - It’s a presidential campaign during which Barack Obama has noticeably made few damaging missteps, but the Illinois senator says one in particular was downright "boneheaded."

Speaking to the New York Times in an interview set to be published Sunday, Obama said his now-infamous comments at a San Francisco fundraiser last April - during which he said some small town Americans "cling" to guns and religion - was "my biggest boneheaded move."

"How it was interpreted in the press was Obama talking to a bunch of wine-sipping San Francisco liberals with an anthropological view toward white working-class voters," Obama told the Times. "And I was actually making the reverse point, clumsily, which is that these voters have a right to be frustrated because they've been ignored. And because Democrats haven't met them halfway on cultural issues, we've not been able to communicate to them effectively an economic agenda that would help broaden our coalition."

The comments, first reported by a Huffington Post blogger 10 days before the crucial Pennsylvania primary, immediately set off a firestorm of criticism and charges from Sen. Hillary Clinton that Obama was "elitist and divisive."

"People don't need a president who looks down on them, they need a president who stands up for them," Clinton said at the time of the comments many political observers thought had the potential to derail Obama's candidacy.

John McCain also called the comments elitist, though the Arizona senator has made little mention of them in his general election match-up with the Democratic presidential nominee.

Obama went on to lose the Pennsylvania primary by nearly 10 points, though it's unclear if the "bitter" comments specifically contributed to his defeat there. Exit polls showed Democrats didn't view Obama any more out-of-touch than they did Clinton, suggesting the New York senator’s elitist charges didn't stick.

soundoff (222 Responses)
  1. Sarah, Missoula MT

    AND he can admit his mistakes and be self-deprecating. It is so refreshing after 8 years of nothing-I-do-is-wrong Bush.

    I cannot wait to elect this great man.


    October 15, 2008 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  2. Monroe W. DeVos

    It's refreshing to see someone take a look at something they said and acknowledge it as "boneheaded" as opposed to avoiding and trying to explain it away.

    Barack Obama is an example of someone that I want as my next President. You can't be perfect to acknowledge same is a sign of strength.

    October 15, 2008 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  3. HONG



    October 15, 2008 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  4. joe kiloz




    October 15, 2008 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  5. Kathy from Seattle

    This is really refreshing! Remember when Bush was asked what mistakes he had made and he couldn't think of any???

    October 15, 2008 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  6. realistic

    he admits his failings.

    a lot more than i can say of mccain.

    and the only person left in this campaign who will stand up "for" us instead of "to" us is Obama.

    Bring on President Obama.

    October 15, 2008 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |

    I FORGIVE you ..... I VOTED for you 2 weeks ago.... plus, I have SAID some "BONEHEADED" things to.... it's human

    October 15, 2008 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  8. Michael

    Oh please, if a few words could derail a Presidency Bush wouldn't have won – twice!!!!

    Obama will win because the only other choice includes Palin. Seriously, that misstep was not dumb words on the part of McCain is was clear cut actions that undermined ALL of America and put us in dangerous hands – both sets of them. McCain's and Palin's.

    October 15, 2008 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  9. Wendy in NC

    He doesn't need to apologize. I was bitter then and even more bitter now. My husband (a model working man) was laid off at the first of the year and has not been able to find work, while everything costs us more and more. It feels like we're falling off a cliff. I'm permanently disabled with advancing MS after working my butt off for 31 years, so yeh, we are still bitter, especially while our tax dollars (YES we still have to pay a LOT) bails out CEO's and wealthy investors.

    October 15, 2008 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  10. Vic

    Early voting is the way to go.

    Registered Republican "voted" Obama/Biden 08.

    October 15, 2008 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  11. joe kiloz


    October 15, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  12. Amy

    Anyone can be misunderstood. That's what happened with the comment/point he was trying to make. Kudos to Obama for being open and honest about it.

    October 15, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  13. mike

    I already forgave you. We have issues to talk about, Barack and that is the economy....

    October 15, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  14. Justin

    What real men do, own up to their mistakes and learn from them. Being a reflective leader is a great trait, and Barack has it. I am glad he is willing to admit his errors and learn from them, like real men do.

    October 15, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  15. KJL

    I get tired of the "elitist" baloney, especially from John McCain, who along with his wife is worth a cool hundred million and has more homes and cars than he can count. Just because neither McCain nor Palin excelled at college – which takes brains and hard work – they have no right to criticize those who have.

    Personally I prefer my leaders to be smart, cool-headed, well-educated, and able to work well with others of the same caliber. Sorry, John.

    October 15, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  16. Lucy

    If that's as bad as it gets, well, I think we've picked a Gentleman of a President.
    Go OBAMA/BIDEN '08

    October 15, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  17. Sherly

    I hope people leave the past in the past and let's look for a better future. Obama has made mistakes but he knows what it takes to take care of this country.

    October 15, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  18. Barbara - 65 yr old white female in NC

    We don't pay any attention to those things.

    The negative attacks or statements just make us more for you, Obama, because you are obviously the only one concentrating on making our lives better.

    We despise the ones MAKING the awful statements and implications.

    October 15, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  19. John

    i love his response – i hope it gets the press it deserves, especially from people like Sean Hannity – they need to know he admits his mistake – and he gave a perfectly legitimate explanation for what he meant to say. As a white voter (can't believe I even need to lower to mentioning race, but apparently it's on everyone's mind) in PA and a registered Republican, I appreciate his honesty

    October 15, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  20. Annie from WI

    It was a "boneheaded" statement but I believe Senator Obama when he says that his intention was not a negative or elitist one. In addition, what I am most impressed with now is that he has no trouble admitting a mistake. Barack Obama is going to be a great President. (P.S. I am not an "obama-bot"–I was for Hillary in the primaries. But both Hillary's and Obama's behavior in this general election convinces me that we Democrats had a "can't-lose" choice in our primary. We are so lucky to have them both.)

    October 15, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  21. alpha_nu_916

    a politician admitting a mistake or a lapse in judgment, how refreshing.

    now if only mchate would admit his biggest mistake of the campaign – PHALIN.


    October 15, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  22. yellowdoggie

    Actually, I'm from small-town America, and Obama was right.

    October 15, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  23. Mir

    He also called his real estate deal with Rezko "Boneheaded." Is this judgment we can trust?

    October 15, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  24. Dennis

    It's nice to see someone stand up and admit it when he's said something stupid. This country could use a lot more of that.

    October 15, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  25. Bill

    Obama's not just boneheaded. When he gets caught, he tries to lie his way out. This guy is total fiction-a product of someone's or something's imagination. Go ahead, CNN, moderate this away as you usually do but you can't hide the truth forever.

    October 15, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
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