Joe Klein: People Like Obama Aren’t Let Into Republican Country Clubs

Joe Klen, Time magazine Columnist | NewsBusters.orgIn a statement reminiscent of Howard Dean’s controversial statement from 2005 about the RNC and "people of color," Time magazine columnist Joe Klein blasted Karl Rove’s recent slam of Barack Obama on Monday’s "Election Center" program on CNN. "I just think that the image is kind of hilarious when you think about it: Barack Obama at a country club sipping a martini. It's kind of a parody of the Republican view of the world. Everybody belongs to -- since when [did] we start letting people like Barack Obama into Republican country clubs?"

"People like Barack Obama"? That sounds like Dean’s "You think the RNC could get this many people of color into a single room?... Maybe if they got the hotel staff in there."

"Election Center" substitute host Wolf Blitzer read Rove’s quote earlier in the segment, which began 22 minutes into the 8 pm Eastern hour of the CNN program: "Even if you never met him, you know this guy. He's the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall, and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by."

Besides Klein, CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley and Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez participated in a panel discussion moderated by Blitzer. After calling Rove’s words "a pretty tough statement," Blitzer turned to Crowley to comment. She agreed with Blitzer’s take, and replied, "[I]t's aimed directly at the people that vote the most. This is a middle-class, sort of -- remember this guy. He's an arugula eating, Harvard law -- you know, his problem really isn't... it's not so much that he's an African-American. People seems to have, for the most part seemed, to have cleared that hurdle. It's not so much that he's a liberal Democrat. They seem to not care. It is that he is perceived -- what is settling in is, he's perceived as an elitist...."

Blitzer then asked, "How does the Obama campaign fight that?" Crowley focused on Obama’s tours of factories and events with women, as well as his new "bio ad." Sanchez then got in own the discussion, and highlighted the Democrat’s apparent authenticity problem. It was after this that Klein made his "Republican country clubs" remark.

LESLIE SANCHEZ: But, you know, it just makes me think of him as a show pony. I'm sorry, it sounds terrible, like you're putting him in all of these really contrived situations, when I think the question is going to come down to authenticity. Which Barack Obama is real? Is it the one that is this elitist image or is it the one who really does not connect with middle-class and working-class voters.

BLITZER: But John McCain is married, as you know, to an heiress some say worth $100 million, a beer distribution...

SANCHEZ: The biggest difference -- look, that's a great point, but the difference is, you have a legacy of Senator McCain. You know who he is. You know he's the maverick, and he's proven. You don't have that matchup, not directly, with Barack Obama. You're not really sure what to...

BLITZER: You agree, Joe?

JOE KLEIN: Well, I just think that the image is kind of hilarious when you think about it: Barack Obama at a country club sipping a martini. It's kind of a parody of the Republican view of the world. Everybody belongs to -- since when [do] we start letting people like Barack Obama into Republican country clubs?

SANCHEZ: Oh! That's terrible. (shakes her head)

KLEIN: But, you know, I think that the elitism argument has been a very fertile ground for Republicans in the last two or three presidential cycles. I think that they're going to try and work it, and I think that what Candy mentioned is very true. In that bio ad, there's a picture of Barack Obama with his two white grandparents, who are not the sort of people you would find in country clubs.

BLITZER: And they're certainly not elitist. They were real working-class folks back in Kansas....

Klein and Blitzer are clearly pitching in to help counter the impression that Obama is an elitist as well, between their bringing up Obama’s grandparents and Blitzer bringing up Cindy McCain’s fortune.

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