Obama Answers Republican Ridicule

Obama Answers GOP Ridicule
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama fired back Sept. 4, 2008 at the ridicule he received at the Republican National Convention

Republicans have spent days heaping scorn on Barack Obama, with Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin leading the way in her debut Wednesday night, reports CBS News correspondent Dean Reynolds.

"What does he actually seek to accomplish after he's done turning back the waters and healing the planet?" she asked an energized crowd at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn. "The answer is to make government bigger."

Today, Obama fired back.

"You're hearing an awful lot about me, most of which is not true," he told a group of union workers at a hydro plant in York, Pa. "What you're not hearing about is you."

Obama said the St. Paul gathering won't discuss issues because it reminds voters of Republican failures on many fronts.

"You haven't heard a word about how we're going to deal with any aspect of the economy that is affecting you and your pocketbook."

In Virginia, running mate Joe Biden echoed that complaint.

"Not one time did I hear the phrase middle class pass their lips," he said.

Democrats noted the repeated attempts to ridicule Obama's work as a community organizer among unemployed steelworkers in Chicago as a way of questioning his experience.

"He worked as a community organizer. What?" former Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani told the convention crowd, prompting laughter.

"I guess a small town mayor is sort of like a community organizer except that you have actual responsibilities," Palin added later in the night. The line drew cheers and derisive laughter, but not from Obama.

"Why would that kind of work be ridiculous?" he asked Thursday. "Who are they fighting for? … They don't get it because they haven't spent much time working on behalf of those folks."

How many of the Republican delegates, 93 percent of whom are white, are familiar with community organizers is debatable. More than half have a net worth in excess of $500,000 and may have no need for someone like Julio Medina of New York.

"We're talking about being in touch with the homeless, being in touch with the under-educated, being in touch with the unemployed," said Medina. "A community organizer is that presence for hope when hope doesn't exist."

Obama said he was not surprised by the Republican rhetoric.

"I've been called worse on the basketball court," he said. "It's not that big of a deal."

Though Obama caught only a small part of Palin's speech last night, his aides watched and were impressed. She is a skilled politician, they said, and deft at going on the attack.

  • Dean Reynolds
    Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.