PHILADELPHIA — I'm not bitter.
I'm not writing this just because I grew up in a house with a gun, a strong Catholic faith, an immigrant father, brothers with anti-immigrant sentiments and a passion for bowling. (My bowling trophy was one of my most cherished possessions.)
My family morphed from Kennedy Democrats into Reagan Republicans not because they were angry, but because they felt more comfortable with conservative values. Members of my clan sometimes were overly cloistered. But they weren't bitter; they were bonding.
They went to church every Sunday because it was part of their identity, not because they needed a security blanket.
Behind closed doors in San Francisco, elitism's epicenter, Barack Obama showed his elitism, attributing the emotional, spiritual and cultural values of working-class, "lunch pail" Pennsylvanians to economic woes.
The last few weeks have not been kind to Hillary, but the endless endgame has not been kind to the Wonder Boy either. Obama comes across less like a candidate in Pennsylvania than an anthropologist in Borneo.
His mother got her Ph.D. in anthropology, studying the culture of Indonesia. And as Obama has courted white, blue-collar voters in "Deer Hunter" and "Rocky" country, he has often appeared to be observing the odd habits of the colorful locals, resisting as the natives try to fatten him up like a foie gras goose, sampling Pennsylvania beer in a sports bar with his tie tight, awkwardly accepting bowling shoes as a gift from Bob Casey, examining the cheese and salami at the Italian Market here as intriguing ethnic artifacts, purchasing Utz Cheese Balls at a ShopRite in East Norriton and quizzing the women working in a chocolate factory about whether they could possibly really like the sugary doodads.
He hasn't pulled a John Kerry and asked for a Philly cheese steak with Swiss yet, but he has maintained a regal "What do the simple folk do to help them escape when they're blue?" bearing, unable to even feign Main Street cred. But Hillary did when she belted down a shot of Crown Royal whiskey with gusto at Bronko's in Crown Point, Ind.
Just as he couldn't knock down the bowling pins, he can't knock down Annie Oakley or "the girl in the race," as her husband called her Tuesday — the self-styled blue-collar heroine who reluctantly revealed a $100 million fortune partially built on Bill's shady connections.
Even when Hillary's campaign collapsed around her and her husband managed to revive the bullets over Bosnia, Obama has still not been able to marshal a knockout blow — or even come up with a knockout economic speech that could expand his base of support.
Even as Hillary grows weaker, her reputation for ferocity grows stronger. A young woman in the audience at a taping of "The Colbert Report" at Penn on Tuesday night asked Stephen Colbert during a warm-up: "Are you more afraid of bears or Hillary Clinton?"
Even though Democratic elders worry that the two candidates will terminally bloody each other, they each seem to be lighting their own autos-da-fe.
At match points, when Hillary fights like a cornered raccoon, Obama retreats into law professor mode. The elitism that Americans dislike is not about family money or connections — JFK and W. never would have been elected without them. In the screwball movie genre that started during the Depression, there was a great tradition of the millionaire who was cool enough to relate to the common man — like Cary Grant's C.K. Dexter Haven in "The Philadelphia Story."
What turns off voters is the detached egghead quality that they tend to equate with a wimpiness, wordiness and a lack of action — the same quality that got the professorial and superior Adlai Stevenson mocked by critics as Adelaide. The new attack line for Obama rivals is that he's gone from JFK to Dukakis. (Just as Dukakis chatted about Belgian endive, Obama chatted about Whole Foods arugula in Iowa.)
Obama did not grow up in cosseted circumstances. "Now, when is the last time you've seen a president of the United States who just paid off his loan debt?" Michelle Obama asked Tuesday at Haverford College, speaking in the shadow of the mansions depicted in "The Philadelphia Story."
But his exclusive Hawaiian prep school and years in the Ivy League made him a charter member of the elite, along with the academic experts he loves to have in the room. As Colbert pointed out, the other wonky Ivy League lawyer in the primary just knows how to condescend better.
Michelle did her best on "The Colbert Report" Tuesday to shoo away the aroma of elitism.
She said of her family while she was growing up: "We had four spoons. And then my father got a raise at the plant and we got five spoons….