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TOP OF THE TICKET / DON FREDERICK AND ANDREW MALCOLM

Obama can't seem to shed his 'bitter' remark

September 07, 2008|DON FREDERICK AND ANDREW MALCOLM

Barack Obama wanted to talk about the economy Friday as he campaigned in Pennsylvania, especially in light of that morning's government report showing unemployment increasing to 6.1% in August.

But at least one person wanted to talk instead about gun rights -- an issue Obama can't seem to avoid in the Keystone State. It was an issue that plagued him during the primaries because of his comment about "bitter" small-town Americans who "cling" to guns.

And campaigning Friday near Scranton, the Democrat was asked whether -- as some foes keep insisting -- he would take guns away if elected president. The Times' Noam Levey was on the scene at a factory in Duryea, and he reported that Obama fiercely denied any such intention, and then explained his position:

"Here's what I believe: that the 2nd Amendment is an individual right and it means something; that people have a right to bear arms."

But Obama had some choice words for the National Rifle Assn., which plans to unleash a major ad campaign opposing him this fall:

"Their general attitude is . . . if you even breathe the word gun control or gun safety, then you must want to take away everybody's guns. Well, that's just not true.

"But what we have to understand is that there are two realities about guns in this country. There's the reality of people who are lawfully and safely using guns for hunting and skeet shooting and protecting their families. And you've got illegal handguns being dumped in Philadelphia, in the hands of teenage gang-bangers and drug dealers who are wreaking havoc and killing people. And surely we can come up with a system that protects lawful gun owners but at the same time tries to do something about kids getting shot."

Many have thought so in the past. But so far, as Obama well knows, that's proved a challenge.

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Palin to be MIA on Sunday shows

Three of the four now-official candidates on the major-party presidential tickets are scheduled to sit down for questions on the Sunday interview shows: Democrat Barack Obama on ABC's "This Week;" his running mate, Joe Biden, on NBC's "Meet the Press;" and Republican John McCain on CBS' "Face the Nation."

Absent from this list is Sarah Palin, the no-longer-obscure governor of Alaska who is McCain's running mate.

McCain aide Rick Davis indicated that the campaign wasn't in any hurry to slot Palin for a Sunday show appearance -- but would do so only if he and other strategists were to determine that it would serve the ticket's purposes.

On MSNBC's "Morning Joe" show Saturday, he said: "I'd never commit to anything in the future. . . . Our strategy is in our hands, not the media's. We're going to do what's in our best interests to try to win the election. If we think going on TV news shows are [sic] in our best interests, we'll do it. If we don't, we won't."

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Excerpted from The Times' political blog Top of the Ticket, at latimes.com/topoftheticket.

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