Opinion: Barack Obama goes on the attack; zings Hillary Clinton on guns


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In Barack Obama’s mind and within his braintrust, there must have been some temptation for him to deliver another big speech in an attempt to defuse the uproar sparked by his now-notorious effort to interpret the frustrations of small-town folk for urbane San Franciscans.

That approach, after all, worked well for him last month after the intemperate comments by his ex-pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, came to light. In the current contretemps, however, Obama has adopted a much more (dare we say it?) Clintonian response.


Since the story broke Friday afternoon, he’s made a nod toward his foul-up, acknowledging that he chose his words poorly in linking an embrace of guns and religion with the bitterness some of those who live off-the-beaten-track feel about their economic plight. But mainly, he’s gone on the attack, standing by the essence of his point and, on Sunday, delivering a mocking riff about Hillary Clinton.

During an appearance in Pennsylvania -- the state that gets the first crack at showing how much damage Obama has inflicted on his presidential hopes -- Obama told an audience in the town of Steelon that the outraged reactions from Clinton and Republican John McCain’s campaign to his discourse on small-town attitudes is a matter of ‘politics being played’ (gee, that’s a surprise).

Obama said he expected such from McCain. But he proclaimed himself ‘a little disappointed’ in Clinton’s response. We doubt that, but it set up a refrain he then used to punctuate his defense of himself: ‘She knows better; shame on her.’

He really got rolling when he ridiculed her ...

as a sudden defender of the culture of sportsmen. With a smile on his face and to the amusement of his crowd, he characterized Clinton as ‘talking like Annie Oakley’ and acting like ‘she’s out in the duck blind every Sunday, packing a six-shooter.’

He added, laughingly: ‘I want to see that picture of her out there in the duck blind.’

As noted, it played well with partisans. But Obama and his top aides know that this furor is nowhere near cresting, that it will dominate Monday’s morning shows, the cable news broadcasts (for untold hours to come) and will be a prime topic at Wednesday evening’s debate between the two Democratic presidential contenders.

Clinton has been endlessly frustrated that, in her formulation, Obama has rocketed to prominence -- and into the lead in their contest -- on the basis of words, not actions. The irony that his words may now represent her best chance to dramatically recalibrate the race no doubt is not lost on her.

-- Don Frederick