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When It Comes to Controversy, Obama Tries to Power Through

By Perry Bacon Jr.
PHILADELPHIA -- Last year, when Barack Obama suggested in a debate he would meet with dictators of rogue nations without preconditions, it seemed like the kind of gaffe that would reinforce doubts about his foreign policy experience.

But he embraced the argument, suggesting it showed a major difference between himself and Hillary Clinton on foreign policy, even though both have essentially said they would meet with those leaders only under certain conditions. Can he do the same with his controversial remarks about voters being "bitter," leaving them to "cling" to things like religion and guns?

"Sometimes hope and anger go hand and hand," he said Monday night at the Philadelphia City Committee's Jefferson-Jackson dinner, where both he and Clinton spoke. "People really are angry, they really are fed up, some of them are bitter because Washington's forgotten them. And because it's not me that's out of touch, it's folks who think that folks are happy when they are out of a job."

"And I go to church, just like you go to church," he continued. "And sometimes we pray, 'Lord, I hope that things will get better.'"

Obama was loudly applauded by the Democrats in the crowd, but the largely African American audience was full of his supporters. Speaking before Obama, Clinton, perhaps aware that the audience largely favored her opponent, kept her remarks short and did not repeat her critiques of Obama's remarks.

But when she headed 30 minutes outside of the city, to a suburb called Bristol, she invoked the controversy again.

"The founders of our country, the drafters of the Constitution, could have decided that King George was a really a bad guy and they were just gonna be upset about it," she said, according to NBC News. "They were gonna be angry and all ripped up about it. They could have gotten bitter about the way they were treated ... but that's not what happened."

"I remember a friend of mine saying something that I have never forgotten," she said later in the speech. "You know, he said when life hits you hard, you have a choice, you can either get bitter or better."

By Web Politics Editor  |  April 15, 2008; 9:28 AM ET
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