What happened
Hillary Clinton hammered Barack Obama for saying that working-class Americans were “bitter,” and “cling to guns or religion” as a way to “explain their frustrations.” (USA Today) Both Clinton, Obama’s rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, and John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, said the comments were “elitist” and “condescending.” Obama said he was sorry if his wording offended anyone. He said he merely meant that Americans don’t vote on economic issues because they don’t think they can “count on Washington,” so they “take refuge in their faith and their community and their families and things they can count on.” (Time.com)

What the commentators said
Obama is “usually good at disguising” his disdain of small-town America, said William Kristol in The New York Times (free registration). But “the mask slipped” this time. Obama has “written eloquently” about his own religious beliefs, so “you’d think he’d do other believers the courtesy of assuming” they’d thought about their own.

“Give me a break,” said Ari Berman in The Nation’s Campaign 08 blog. “When Clinton was on the board of Wal-Mart and McCain was getting reprimanded for his role in the Keating 5 scandal, Barack Obama was a civil rights lawyer in Chicago.” And Clinton and McCain say it’s Obama who’s out of touch with “the struggles of working people.” That’s rich.

Obama clearly wishes he could take back what he said about the travails of Pennsylvania’s working class voters, said Robert Shrum in The Huffington Post. But regardless of how this plays in the state’s upcoming primary, “there is a powerful element of truth in his comments.” You don’t have to be a sociologist to detect “the frustration, anger, and yes, sometimes bitterness of people in depressed towns in the Keystone State who've had politicians promise them help that too seldom comes.”