Robert D. Novak finds the source of Barack Obama’s “bitterness” comment:
Obama fans, attention to that comment he made in San Francisco is not a matter of jumping on a statement or refusing to accept his explanation or not putting the best construction on everything. This is an issue of Obama’s ideology. It is important to know his political philosophy. Does he believe that economics and economic oppression account for people’s social and religious beliefs? That is, in fact, the common assumption among many people on the left. He is campaigning on the promise to transcend liberal/conservative ideologies. It is surely legitimate to inquire what he believes. Isn’t it?
Obama’s new resemblance is less to Kennedy or Reagan than to leftist author Thomas Frank, whose 2004 book, “What’s the Matter With Kansas?,” answered the liberal conundrum: Why do ordinary Americans vote against their own economic interests to support Republicans? Frank explained that “deranged” and “lunatic” Kansans were led away by Republicans from material concerns to social issues. Obama similarly described small-town Americans turning to guns and the Bible in frustration over government’s failure to take care of them — a more genteel version of Frank’s thesis. That raises the question, “What’s the matter with Obama?”
Almost everybody I encounter in politics is familiar with Frank’s bestseller. Democrats are united in embracing his theory but are divided about its rhetoric. While sophisticated Democratic politicians regard the book as condescending toward lower-income Americans who voted for Reagan, grass-roots party activists consider it gospel. They tell me that Obama should not back away from what got him in trouble: his declaration at a closed-door fundraiser in San Francisco that “bitter” small-towners in Pennsylvania and elsewhere “cling to guns or religion.”