Opinion: Barack Obama, with 5 suits, puzzled by elitist charge


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Two weeks after Illinois freshman senator and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was flailed for telling a mansion full of rich San Franciscans that rural Americans are bitter about their economic woes and cling to guns and religion, the suit-clad presidential candidate was asked about well, his look.

At a gas station today in Indianapolis, where the presidential candidate had come to talk about energy policy, a reporter asked Obama whether he looks ‘too much like a GQ cover who’s aloof, and therefore has an image problem, can’t relate to working-class folk.’


Looking down at his suit, Obama launched into a riff about clothes, looks, bowling and the irony of his being tagged as out of touch with working Americans.

‘I think it is a fairly standard suit here,’ he replied. ‘You know, I haven’t changed my approach to dressing too much. Michelle has asked me to clean up, because when she first met me I had one suit.’

He noted that his wife finds the idea of her husband as an elitist dresser amusing, ‘because I basically ....

buy five of the same suit, and then I patch them up and wear them repeatedly.’

Continuing his requested sartorial assessment, Obama confessed that he has four pairs of shoes and has recently taken to getting a haircut more frequently because ‘my mother-in-law makes fun of me.’

Apart from his clothes, Obama acknowledged that ‘there was concern about my bowling score. And, you know, I have committed to practicing bowling so that I’m better. ‘

Then he ribbed reporters, especially those who watched the candidate’s sorry Pennsylvania bowling performance in person, for stories that suggested he had actually bowled 10 frames, calling it underhanded.


‘You know how -- there was only seven frames, and two of them were bowled by a 10-year-old. And remember the little kid with the 3-year-old that we carried the ball and put it down the rail? And none of that ever came out. What happened?’ Still, he confessed, ‘I make no claim -- I can’t excuse away the first two gutterballs.’

All the talk of his being an elitist, he said, has left him puzzled, he claims.

Then, he took a long breath and said, ‘It’s true that both the Republicans and my opponents, to some degree, have been trying to paint me as this elitist, out of touch. It’s hard for me to figure that out, given that I was raised with far fewer advantages than either of my two remaining opponents, that my work started off on the streets of Chicago as a community organizer, that my wife, Michelle, grew up in that same neighborhood with a mother and father who never went to college, and who worked as a secretary and a city worker, that we financed all our education on student loans, that I was raised in a setting, with my grandparents who grew up in small-town Kansas, where the dinner table would have been very familiar to anybody here in Indiana, a lot of pot roasts and potatoes and Jell-O molds.’

Vowing to re-introduce himself to voters, Obama said however that he didn’t want to ‘go out of my way to sort of prove my street cred as a down-to-earth guy. People know me.’

-- Johanna Neuman