- The Washington Times - Monday, April 14, 2008

Sen. Barack Obama used his own “bitter” gaffe to criticize Sen. John McCain today, linking the presumed Republican nominee with President Bush.

Mr. Obama of Illinois told news editors gathered for the Associated Press annual luncheon in Washington his comments about rural voters who “cling” to guns and religion were poor word choices that are only a “distraction” from more important issues, but said he would not back down from his intended message.

“I regret some of the words I chose, partly because the way that these remarks have been interpreted have offended some people and partly because they have served as one more distraction from the critical debate that we must have in this election season,” he said.

“But I will never walk away from the larger point that I was trying to make and have made in the past,” Mr. Obama said. “For the last several decades, people in small towns and cities and rural areas all across this country have seen globalization change the rules of the game on them.”

The senator said voters tell him they are tired of politicians making false promises.

Mr. Obama did not mention his Democratic presidential rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who has repeatedly called him “elitist” for his remarks that some voters are bitter, and instead kept his focus on Mr. McCain of Arizona.

“Senator McCain and the Republicans in Washington are already looking ahead to the fall and have decided that they plan on using my comments to argue that I’m out of touch with what’s going on in the lives of working Americans,” he said. “I don’t blame them for this — that’s the nature of our political culture, and if I had to carry the banner for eight years of George Bush’s failures, I’d be looking for something else to talk about too.”

“If John McCain wants to turn this election into a contest about which party is out of touch with the struggles and hopes of working America, that’s a debate I’m happy to have,” he said. “I may have made a mistake last week in the words that I chose, but the other party has made a much more damaging mistake in the failed policies they’ve chosen and the bankrupt philosophy that they’ve embraced for the last three decades.”

The McCain campaign responded before Mr. Obama concluded his speech.

“It’s hard to keep a straight face when you’re accused of being out of touch by a guy who thinks the whole country is worried about the high price of arugula or that you hunt ducks with a six shooter,” said McCain senior advisor Mark Salter.

Mr. Obama, who praised several AP reporters that cover his campaign by name in his opening remarks, also quipped he’d “kept a lot of you guys busy this weekend with the comments I made last week.”

“Some of you might even be a little bitter about that,” he said, getting a few laughs.

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