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. Chris from STL

    Good move senator. He who knows he erred. and make amends is destined to do great things!

    Opposite is the guy in the white house or the gal who is aspiring to be the VP, are destined to pull everyone to the ditch. They keep making more mistakes to cover up the one they just did ....

    October 15, 2008 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  2. marlies

    i never thought there was anything wrong with his statement in the first place.

    October 15, 2008 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  3. Brandon

    Best, and most Presidential candidate I've seen since I started following politics. McLiar will do what he's done consistently tonight - lie about Obama on topics that have been debunked more than once already, namely the Ayers controversy. I doubt McSame will bring up Daily Scandal Palin's ethics scandal from last week. Should be interesting. I just can't wait until the election's over so we can stop hearing about the McLiar campaign and Daily Scandal Palin.

    October 15, 2008 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  4. Tim, Cincinnati

    Nobama is trying to rewrite history once again. Ayres is just a guy who lives in his neighborhood. ACORN is just a group he's heard about. L-I-A-R.

    October 15, 2008 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  5. Dea Baldwin

    You are a strong enough leader to know you can admit when something didn't land quite right. I know what you meant I get it It is those who hang on to a sinking ship that will not admit they were wrong

    October 15, 2008 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  6. Republicans for Obama

    I dont like him but i'll vote for him anyway. i like his stance against the Iraq war though.

    October 15, 2008 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  7. Matt

    I guess going to Wrights church for 20 years was not a bonehead move. Getting caught was. How many must fall on the sword and get tossed under the bus for this charlatan to get elected.

    It's always someone else Barack, never you right? How many times can you go to the "I didn't know that about them" well?

    Barack Obama Paper Thin President.

    October 15, 2008 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  8. Shannon

    pandering for votes again, what a fraud!

    October 15, 2008 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  9. That One

    So I guess it is OK for your 12 year old seen to hear
    people yelling "Kill Him" and "terrorist" at the Palin rallies?

    Darn those liberals

    October 15, 2008 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  10. Dea Baldwin

    kudos OBAMA go go go straight to the white house!

    October 15, 2008 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  11. AJ

    Republicans are losing because people like Susan Moineri put a lame argument that it is not good to have a democratic President and a democratic congress, whereas it was OK for George Bush to have that circumstance in 2000 election. What was good for a goose is also good for a gander!!

    October 15, 2008 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  12. alpha_nu_916

    (1) KEATING 5;
    (2) IRAQ WAR;
    (3) GOV. "YOU BETCHA";

    October 15, 2008 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  13. OHIOmomforO

    Thank God we will finally have a President who can admit when he's misspoken or made an error in judgment.

    October 15, 2008 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  14. suzyku

    The comment was obviously deliberately misconstrued and used by Obama's opponents! If that's the worst mistake he makes, big deal!

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

    I love Obama and know he is a good person. Our country needs him. He is human and a decent human being at that.

    Obama/Biden '08

    October 15, 2008 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  16. DougInPA

    couldnt have said it better KJL! Its time for an intelligent, thinking man for president. Not one who rushes out on monday with an idea on how to deal with the economic crisis, then comes out tuesday with something different.

    We got your back Barack!

    Obama/Biden 08!!

    October 15, 2008 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  17. Karen Saucedo

    So, what's the problem? It's true. Some small-town Americans cling to guns and religion.....we don't have snake-handling in San Francisco to my knowledge....nor hunting....that's not to say that big cities don't have people clinging to other offensive things....like their noisy cell phones and their gas-guzzling Hummers! Fact is, his only mis-step was making the comment out loud during the campaign. Obama will be a great president at a time when this country sorely needs someone strong, intelligent, energetic, and in touch with the people. That IS Obama. That is NOT McCain. McCains' first bullet to his own foot was choosing Palin. It went downhill from there.....McCain is on a slippery slope to extinction. And, thankfully, we won't have to have a lying, press-evading, power abusing "soccer mom" for a VP.

    October 15, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  18. Houston

    Obama seems to set the definition of what's right and wrong for his disciples.

    October 15, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  19. John

    I'd have let that rest, and just been nice.

    But truth be told I smell a trap, baited with a drop of Obama's blood, to make John McCain come after him in the debate tonight.

    Hehehe!; I'm betting that even with this warning McCain will do just that.

    The Obama will have him just where he wants him!

    October 15, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  20. Flo

    Senator Obama you don't have to mention your "bonehead" mistakes, it is your experience and qualifications that is troubling. Without going into all the details all one has to do is listen to those who evaluated your qualifications and experience for the Presidency - Former President Clinton, Senator Clinton and yes even Senator Biden. Enough said.

    October 15, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  21. Nebraska Obama Moma

    I am a registered Republican, for the first time I will vote Democratic, John McCain has insulted my intellect by choosing such an incompetent, racist, right winged, extremist nut as Sarah Palin. I voted last week, and was absolutely thrilled to give my vote to Barack Obama. If I could, I would gladly cast another vote for him and his brilliant wife and the next first lady Michelle Obama.

    Obama/Biden '08

    October 15, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  22. Billy Jo, Tuscaloosa

    This is a slick double talker. The Bradley effect will bring him down on election day. Watch the Wal-Mart moms bury him along with those scum suckers Olbermann, Madow and Matthews.

    October 15, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  23. Gerry in Va. for Obama.

    IF one was a common thinker, not trying to read things into a comment that wasn't there, they would have understood just exactly what Senator Obama was saying. Thats why I think he will make the best president ever, because he speaks common language that the whole world should be able to understand. He speaks especially to us every day folks, just like his Grandmother and Grandfather raised him to speak.

    October 15, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  24. Jamie

    I'm so jealous of those of you who have had the chance to vote early! I can't wait to push the button for Obama/Biden!

    October 15, 2008 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  25. Penny

    With a man of such maturity and self confidence that he doesn't feel threatened by admitting a mistake or mis-step, how can anyone even consider McCain? McCain and his antics remind me so much of my boys when they were 16.......all huff & puff and full of themselves.....jumpin' around in their heads, tring to "find" themselves........they did, why can't McCain?

    Anyone read "make believe maverick"? Seems ole' John wasn't such a hero after all.....sang like a canary.....told waaaaay more than the other prisoners of war and saved his butt by telling the enemy (very quickly) who his "daddy" was..........

    October 15, 2008 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
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