CNN’s Toobin, Cafferty: Obama’s ‘Bitter’ Comments ‘Factually Accurate’

NewsBusters.org |screenshot from CNN broadcastCNN’s senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, during a discussion on Friday’s "The Situation Room," defended Barack Obama’s comments, that small-town voters are often "bitter" and they "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them," and blasted Hillary Clinton for her criticism of the comments. "I think that is so ridiculous.... I mean that is not at all what Barack Obama said.... I mean Hillary Clinton is clearly distorting what Obama said. And, by the way, what Obama said is factually accurate." Jack Cafferty, a regular contributor to "The Situation Room," agree with Toobin, and went further. "Look, Jeff's right. They call it the 'Rust Belt' for a reason.... The people are frustrated. The people have no economic opportunity. What happens to folks like that in the Middle East, you ask? Well, take a look. They go to places like al Qaeda training camps. I mean there's nothing new here."

Toobin and Cafferty appeared with host Wolf Blitzer and CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger during the segment, which started 39 minutes into the 6 pm hour of Friday’s "The Situation Room. After Blitzer played a sound bite of Obama’s comments, he asked Borger for her take on the issue. She tried to explain away them away. "I think the people are angry. And maybe -- and maybe Obama's terminology was inartful, but I think he's expressing a sentiment of mad as hell voters not going to take it anymore that we've seen throughout this election. And that's why, perhaps, voters are saying over and over again that they want a change."

Blitzer then played some of Clinton’s reaction and criticism to Obama’s comments. It was after this that Toobin and Cafferty came to Obama’s defense. Borger then explained that "in this case, the Hillary Clinton campaign and the John McCain campaign have the same goal -- and that is to portray Obama as this sort of effete elitist who doesn't understand the real working class people or independent voters. And so they're both on the same side on this one and it's obvious why."

The full transcript of the segment from Friday’s "The Situation Room:"

WOLF BLITZER: There's new controversy right now involving something that Barack Obama said over the weekend on the campaign trail -- the audio of that only now emerging. Let's get back to the best political team on television. I'm going to play it for you guys. I'm going to play it for our viewers and then we'll discuss. Listen to this.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: '...they fell through the Clinton administration and the Bush administration. And each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are going to regenerate and they have not. 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.'

BLITZER: All right. Gloria, he's already being hammered by Hillary Clinton and John McCain, for that matter, for supposedly being an elitist and speaking ill of the people of Pennsylvania by suggesting that the economic problems there are causing them to become bitter and buying guns and becoming xenophobic and all of that. What do you think? Is this a real issue out there?

BORGER: Well, Hillary Clinton said today, you know, I don't see bitter people out there, I see struggling people or whatever it is. But she said that people aren't bitter. I think the people are angry. And maybe -- and maybe Obama's terminology was inartful, but I think he's expressing a sentiment of mad as hell voters not going to take it anymore that we've seen throughout this election. And that's why, perhaps, voters are saying over and over again that they want a change.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BORGER: So I think Hillary Clinton is trying to make him into the elite candidate but he's talking about people being angry.

BLITZER: All right, and Hillary Clinton responded to the Obama comments this way, Jeff. Let me play her little sound bite.

HILLARY CLINTON: It's being reported that my opponent said that the people of Pennsylvania who faced hard times are bitter. Well, that's not my experience. As I travel around Pennsylvania, I meet people who are resilient, who are optimistic, who are positive, who are rolling up their sleeves.

(APPLAUSE)

H. CLINTON: They're working hard every day for a better future for themselves and their children. Pennsylvanians don't need a president who looks down on them.

BLITZER: All right. Jeff, what do you think?

TOOBIN: I think that is so ridiculous.

CAFFERTY: I agree.

TOOBIN: I mean that is not at all what Barack Obama said.

BORGER: Right.

TOOBIN: I mean I just think this is an example of how a campaign between the two of them can be purely destructive and not elevate either candidate. I mean Hillary Clinton is clearly distorting what Obama said. And, by the way, what Obama said is factually accurate.

CAFFERTY: Right.

TOOBIN: It's been true throughout history that people who have economic problems lash out against various others. I just think it is embarrassing for the Clinton campaign just to hang on to this as if it's some sort of gaffe by Obama.

BLITZER: It's not just the Clinton campaign, Jack. It's also the McCain campaign. They issued a statement saying, 'It's a remarkable statement and extremely revealing. It shows an elitism and condescension toward hardworking Americans that is nothing short of breathtaking. It is hard to imagine someone running for president who is more out of touch with average Americans.'

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: Oh, really? And this is from John McCain? Amazing.

BORGER: Yes.

BLITZER: No this is from Steve Schmidt, a senior adviser for John McCain.

CAFFERTY: Look, Jeff's right. They call it the 'Rust Belt' for a reason. The great jobs and the economic prosperity left that part of the country two or three decades ago. The people are frustrated. The people have no economic opportunity. What happens to folks like that in the Middle East, you ask? Well, take a look. They go to places like al Qaeda training camps. I mean there's nothing new here. And what Barack Obama was suggesting is not that the people of Pennsylvania are to blame for any of it. It's that the jerks in Washington, D.C., as represented by the 10 years of the Bushes and the Clintons and the McCains, who have lied to and misled these people for all of this time, while they shipped the jobs overseas and signed phony trade deals like NAFTA, are to blame for the deteriorating economic conditions among America's middle class. I mean I'm a college dropout and I can read the damn thing and figure it out.

BORGER: You know, in this case, the Hillary Clinton campaign and the John McCain campaign have the same goal -- and that is to portray Obama as this sort of effete elitist who doesn't understand the real working class people or independent voters. And so they're both on the same side on this one and it's obvious why.

BLITZER: You know --

TOOBIN: I think --

BLITZER: Go ahead, Jeff. Do you want to make a little point?

TOOBIN: Well, I just think it's remarkable that Barack Obama, this guy who grew up in a single family household with no money, who lived in Indonesia, who, you know, was -- came from very modest upbringings, somehow he's the elitist? That's really a pretty extraordinary sort of contortion of his background. I mean --

BORGER: It's that Harvard/Yale thing, yes.

CAFFERTY: (INAUDIBLE) One hundred and nine million dollars in the last eight years, did he?

BORGER: Right.

CAFFERTY: No.

BLITZER: Yes. He made a few million on that book, but that's another story.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center