Wednesday, November 10, 2010

From the Top (New York Times Building, 52 Stories Up)

The New York Times’ Peter Baker has tackled a subject rarely discussed within the “New Elite“ of which he is a part. Baker writes about “Elitism: The Charge Obama Can’t Shake.” Here are Baker’s key points affirming his elite does have a problem:

➢ For all the discussion of health care and spending and jobs, at the core of the nation’s debate this fall has been the battle of elitism.

➢ “elitist” has become one of the favorite attack lines of the surging Republican campaign effort this year. . . By elitist, politicians do not mean simply those with money. . . but those who control the state and the culture, including news media outfits like The New York Times.

➢ [The] perception promoted by his critics [is] that [Obama] is a Harvard-educated millionaire elitist who is sure that he knows best and thinks that those who disagree just aren’t in their right minds.

➢ Republican[s believe] Obama ha[s] not connected with popular discontent. [One] said. “When you’re unemployed and you’re sitting in your living room and you hear the president say, ‘You don’t understand what the problems really are — you’re just scared,’ that makes people really, really angry.”

Baker seems to acknowledge Democrats have supplied Republicans ammunition for their attacks on liberal elitism. He writes:

➢ in a time of economic distress. . . Michelle Obama’s summer vacation at a five-star Spanish resort . . . generate[s] quite the . . . heat. . . Obama managed to deflect [the elitism charge] in 2008, [but he’s] having more trouble this time as the leader of the party in power.

➢ Katie Couric of CBS News. . . probably did not help last week when she talked to the “Daily Beast” about visiting “the great unwashed middle of the country” in the Midwest.

➢ Former President Bill Clinton . . . mocks voters for knowing more about their local college football team statistics than they do about the issues that will determine the future of the country [when they say, in effect,] “Don’t bother us with facts; we’ve got our minds made up.”

➢ [Similarly,] Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. . . in his introduction of Mr. Obama [said,] “Facts, science, truth seem to be significantly absent from what we call our political dialogue.”

Like all “New Elite” members, Baker believes the real elite are the people with money, not those with brains:

➢ [Actually,] Obama was raised in less [than] exalted circumstances by a single mother who he said once needed food stamps. [And] although he went to private school, he took years to pay off his college loans. Something about Mr. Obama’s cerebral confidence has made him into a symbol of something he never used to be. [emphasis added]

➢ the president has fought back [hammering] away at the gusher of secret money poured in by special interests to influence the outcome of the elections, arguing in effect that the elites of Wall Street and corporate America were trying to hoodwink everyday voters into casting ballots against their own interests to benefit the powerful [by extending] tax cuts for the rich.

In the same vein, Baker quotes Anita Dunn, an ex-Obama White House strategist, who calls the elitism argument “false” because Obama “talks about people’s economic interests and middle-class families.” Dunn warns those supporting Republicans will be ”very surprised” by that party’s “corporate sponsorship,” and assures us, “The president I don’t think has an elitist bone in his body.”

Give credit to Baker and his New York Times editors. Providing readers a sense there’s an elite besides the moneyed, Republican elite the newspaper’s readers normally hear about represents a step toward “news fit to print” this reader is in fact surprised to see.

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