From Chicago Sun-Times:

A disturbing trend has emerged from the long Democratic primary. Whenever Sen. Hillary Clinton is trailing in the polls, a racially divisive issue pops up.

Clinton loses 11 consecutive races, and the photograph of Sen. Barack Obama in Somalian garb shows up.

Clinton falls behind in pledged delegates and gets caught in a lie about her Bosnia adventure, and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. story reignites.

The fallout over Obama’s “bitter” comment fits that same pattern.

He’s quoted as saying: “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.”

Obama was apparently referring to rural voters, a demographic he has had difficulty reaching.

The comment is being characterized by some pundits, Clinton and the GOP nominee John McCain as “elitist,” and evidence that Obama is “out-of-touch” with ordinary Americans.

But during his bus tour through Pennsylvania two weeks ago, Obama made the same point at several town hall meetings and crowds applauded.

Although he may not have used the exact same words that have caused such a furor, he offered the same assessment: When people believe they are getting a raw deal, they become bitter.

Here we go again

With polls showing that Obama has begun to narrow the gap in Pennsylvania — a state Clinton was predicted to win by double digits — Clinton is stirring up a backlash that her campaign hopes will net her some swing voters.

“Pennsylvanians don’t need a president who looks down on them,” Clinton told a crowd in Philadelphia.

Her campaign has fueled the controversy, with supporters passing out “I’m not bitter” stickers in North Carolina.

But Clinton and McCain’s outrage has more to do with the demographic Obama called bitter than the words he used.

Indeed, neither of them said a word when Obama used harsher language to tell a predominantly black audience in Beaumont, Texas, that they needed to do a better job parenting.

“We can’t keep on feeding our children junk all day long, giving them no exercise. They are overweight by the time they are 4 or 5 years old, and then we are surprised when they get sick,” Obama said, drawing loud applause.

Obama also chided parents for letting their kids eat “potato chips for lunch or Popeye’s for breakfast.”

He gave a similar speech at a town hall meeting in Pittsburgh, and black people applauded along with everyone else.

Obviously, it is tough for African Americans to be called out on a subject that is rarely discussed publicly, let alone in mixed company.

But blacks in the audience took the attitude that Obama wasn’t talking about them — he was talking about their cousin.

At least one expert, Bart Landry, a sociology professor of the University of Maryland, criticized Obama for his remarks, saying he gave black parents a “bum rap.”

But there wasn’t anywhere near the blowup that happened after angry sermons by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s former pastor, were looped on the Internet.

Obama takes the high road

Indeed, given that Gov. Ed Rendell, who is leading Clinton’s campaign in Pennsylvania, has said publicly that “conservative whites” would not vote for Obama because he is black, Obama could have had a lot more to say about the mind-set of rural voters in that state.

Instead, throughout his campaign across Pennsylvania, Obama took the high road. He left race out of the conversation, and focused on the issues that voters raised during town hall meetings.

Clinton, who not once has challenged Rendell’s disgraceful stereotype of Pennsylvania voters as racist, has consistently seized upon polarizing issues in an effort to boost her campaign.

Obama has tried to end this latest battle of words, saying: “If I worded things in a way that made people offended, I deeply regret that.”

He had no reason to apologize.

In attacking Obama as “elitist” and “arrogant,” Clinton is again appealing to the lower nature of voters.

She has once again proved that she is willing to feed the ignorance of voters like the ones Rendell has described.

But worst yet, Clinton is now communicating to these voters that she that can put an “uppity” black man in his place.