You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania, and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years, and nothing's replaced them. And it's not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.After the predictable criticisms from his opponents, Obama now says, according to the BBC, that he "didn't say it as well as I should have," that he meant to say "when you're bitter you turn to what you can count on":
So people -- they vote about guns, or they take comfort from their faith and their family and their community. ... The truth is that these traditions that are passed on from generation to generation, those are important. That's what sustains us.In fact, this is less a paraphrase than an about-face. What he's saying now is true. But what he said April 6 is true, too. Many of the traditions that sustain us in times of trouble, alas, are anti-trade, anti-immigant, anti-outsider, anti-any-religion-but-mine -- indeed, well-nigh anti-everything. They are the traditions of North Korean dictators and Saudi monarchs, of Osama bin Laden and Timothy McVeigh. They are traditions to be overcome, not embraced, and our leaders should be honest in telling us so.