CBS ‘Early Show’: Hillary ‘Relentless’ on Obama Bitterness Gaffe

NewsBusters.org - Media Research CenterOn Monday’s CBS "Early Show,"a story on the controversial comments by Barack Obama that people in small Pennsylvania towns are "bitter," was introduced by co-host Julie Chen this way: "The battle among Democrats and Hillary Clinton's relentless attempt to turn Barack Obama's words against him." Rather than focus on what Obama actually thinks about small town voters, correspondent Dean Reynolds followed with a report in which he declared:

Clinton hammered Obama all weekend over his suggestion that Americans from small economically hard pressed towns turn inward, become bitter, and cling to their guns or their religious faith during tough times, rather than look to Washington for leadership. Clinton, who is trying to hold on to what polls say is a slim lead here in Pennsylvania, said she found the statement demeaning, even snobbish. And she said so just about everywhere she went.

With Obama looking like the victim, Reynolds went on to briefly mention that the Illinois Senator apologized for the comments: "Obama was thrown on the defensive, forced to acknowledge his words were clumsy and later to apologize if he offended anyone." However, Reynolds immediately followed with the Obama campaign’s defense: "But he said his opponent was intentionally twisting his meaning...Obama also said Clinton's attempt to paint him as the sportsman's adversary and herself as their champion was laughable."

Reynolds did describe how, "Despite Obama's counter-attack, some voters were clearly offended." Voters like Kim Stolfer, a Pennsylvania sportsman’s club owner: "This man is distant, doesn't understand his responsibilities. He doesn't understand what the people need." However, no religious voters were quoted.

Obama’s full quote was not read until a segment a few minutes later, which co-host Harry Smith prefaced this way:

Everybody's been talking about this all weekend long. But I want to actually put the quote of what he said up on the screen so people get a little bit of context here. He's talking to a group of supporters in San Francisco, talking about -- they want to know well, 'what can we do if we go there to campaign for you to help understand who we're -- who we're trying to convert?' He says "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."

Smith talked to radio talk show host Michael Smerconish and former Clinton White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers about Obama’s comments. Smith’s first question to Smerconish was actually rather tough: "Michael, let me start with you. Is this poison? Is this pure poison in Pennsylvania?"

However, after Smerconish described Obama’s statement as "wrong" and "condescending," Smith went on to resurrect Hillary Clinton’s latest scandal with Myers: "What's worse? Hillary Clinton's Bosnia, Tuzla, kind of fiction of what really happened when she was there and Bill Clinton's continuing to talk about it all the way up until last Friday, or this -- or this brand new fiasco with Barack Obama?"

Smith followed by fretting over the Democratic Party’s chances in November: "But as a Democrat, Dee Dee, you're listening to these two talk to each other in these tones. Listening to things they talk about and If you're a Republican, you're saying, ‘let's have a party, let's get the White House ready again?’"

Here are the full transcripts of both segments:

7:00AM TEASER:

HARRY SMITH: Just eight days before the vital Pennsylvania primary. And the Democratic race turns increasingly bitter. Do the remarks of Senator Barack Obama rub the voters the wrong way?

7:01AM SEGMENT:

JULIE CHEN: But first, the battle among Democrats and Hillary Clinton's relentless attempt to turn Barack Obama's words against him. CBS News Correspondent Dean Reynolds is in Pittsburgh with more. Dean, good morning.

DEAN REYNOLDS: Good morning, Julie. Well, judging from Hillary Clinton's reaction, it seems she believes that Barack Obama has given her perhaps a last chance to shake this race up. And judging from Obama's defensiveness, he appears to agree with her. Clinton hammered Obama all weekend over his suggestion that Americans from small economically hard pressed towns turn inward, become bitter, and cling to their guns or their religious faith during tough times, rather than look to Washington for leadership. Clinton, who is trying to hold on to what polls say is a slim lead here in Pennsylvania, said she found the statement demeaning, even snobbish. And she said so just about everywhere she went.

HILLARY CLINTON: His comments were elitist and divisive. Someone goes to a closed door fund-raiser in San Francisco and makes comments that do seem elitist, out of touch, and frankly, patronizing.

REYNOLDS: Obama was thrown on the defensive, forced to acknowledge his words were clumsy and later to apologize if he offended anyone. But he said his opponent was intentionally twisting his meaning.

BARACK OBAMA: She knows better. Shame on her. Shame on her. She knows better.

REYNOLDS: Obama also said Clinton's attempt to paint him as the sportsman's adversary and herself as their champion was laughable.

OBAMA: She's talking like she's Annie Oakley. Hillary Clinton's out there, you know, like she's out in the duck blind every Sunday. She's packing a six-shooter.

REYNOLDS: Ridicule aside, the front page emphasis was not flattering to Obama. And it headlined the kind of potentially revealing controversy that can make or break a candidacy. Despite Obama's counter-attack, some voters were clearly offended.

KIM STOLFER: This man is distant, doesn't understand his responsibilities. He doesn't understand what the people need.

REYNOLDS: However much the Obama campaign argues that this race is all about delegates, that he has more than she does, his maladroit statements have given pause not only to his backers, but to Hillary Clinton supporters as well, just at a time when they might have been considering asking her to drop out of the race. It's another example, that in politics, the most painful wounds are often self-inflicted. Julie.

CHEN: Wow, isn't that the truth? But Dean, before you go, how likely will this really hurt the Obama camp? And will it turn things around for Hillary Clinton?

REYNOLDS: It's unlikely that one event like this, one statement like this will upset the whole race, but what it does is it paints a very unflattering portrait of a guy that Americans are still getting to know. And that could hurt. Julie?

CHEN: CBS's Dean Reynolds in Pittsburgh. Thanks, Dean. And coming up in just a few moments, a discussion on just how damaging Obama's remarks were to his campaign and possibly to the Democratic Party.

 

7:09AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: Next week's Pennsylvania primary was always an important battle. It's become even more significant given the fallout over Barack Obama's remarks about bitterness. Joining us in Washington is Dee Dee Myers, former Press Secretary for President Bill Clinton, here in New York is Michael Smerconish, a talk radio host from Philadelphia. Good morning both of you.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH: Good morning.

DEE DEE MYERS: Morning.

SMITH: Everybody's been talking about this all weekend long. But I want to actually put the quote of what he said up on the screen so people get a little bit of context here. He's talking to a group of supporters in San Francisco, talking about -- they want to know well, 'what can we do if we go there to campaign for you to help understand who we're -- who we're trying to convert?' He says "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." Michael, let me start with you. Is this poison? Is this pure poison in Pennsylvania?

SMERCONISH: Well, first, it's flat out wrong. And it's kind of funny, Harry, because I spent the weekend -- our son was in a Confirmation retreat. And yesterday morning I was shooting skeet with a shotgun. I'm not bitter about anything. And I'm a Pennsylvanian and have been for 46 years. It comes at a terrible time, because I'm one of those who thought he was poised to win in Pennsylvania and to capture the nomination. But it's condescending. And it does come across as a form of psychoanalysis. He's not helped by the fact that he offered these sentiments, in all places, in San Francisco. I mean, I can hear the clicking of Chardonnay glasses in the background as I'm reading those words. And so I think that it is a potential real Achilles heel for him. Because 40% of the Democratic base are folks that could say, 'hey, he's talking about me.'

SMITH: That ends up being the real question. If people in Pennsylvania are sitting there saying 'he's talking about me,' he's got a serious problem. Dee Dee Myers, the question for you is, what's worse? Hillary Clinton's Bosnia, Tuzla, kind of fiction of what really happened when she was there and Bill Clinton's continuing to talk about it all the way up until last Friday, or this -- or this brand new fiasco with Barack Obama?

MYERS: Well, last week Hillary's comments were worse and this week Barack Obama's comments were worse. It's interesting how, you know, the next controversy moves the previous controversy off the front pages and we're on to the next set of questions. But I think this is the kind of thing -- I think both of Senator Clinton's mistakes last week -- compounded by President Clinton's adding on, and what Senator Obama said last week are the things that might keep coming back up. Certainly it changes the dynamic a little bit in Pennsylvania. Senator Obama was closing. We'll see if polls show that there's some stopping of his momentum. But I think by next Tuesday, when the primary actually happens, people will be on to something else. It's probably pretty likely that people will have moved beyond these remarks. But that doesn't mean they won't come back at some point.

SMITH: But as a Democrat, Dee Dee, you're listening to these two talk to each other in these tones. Listening to things they talk about and If you're a Republican, you're saying, 'let's have a party, let's get the White House ready again?'

MYERS: Well, yeah, I mean, I think one of the -- look, a contested primary's a good thing. It tests the candidates, it gives them a chance to sort of find their weaknesses, maybe address those weaknesses. But there is a down side. You keep going on -- this feels like a baseball game that was really exciting for the first 10 or 11 innings. We're now in the 16th inning, it's 2:00 A.M. and the fans want to go home. So, you know, it's just like somebody hit it out so we can get on to the World Series.

SMITH: There you go. And let me wrap up with Michael real quick. Eight days to go, you have a guess about what's going to happen?

SMERCONISH: If you had asked me on Friday, Harry, I would say that Barack Obama's going to win the thing by a whisker. At this point, it's a horse race. I don't rule him out, though. There's a -- the momentum has been on his side up until this minute. And it may continue to be -- I mean it may be more a fascination of the media than the electorate. That's what we're going to have to find out.

SMITH: There you go. Michael, thank you so much. Dee Dee, love the analogy on the baseball.

MYERS: Thanks Harry, good to see you.

SMITH: Is it the 16th or the 17th inning now? I'm not sure. Alright, thanks very much.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC