Sunday, June 8, 2008

Clinton supporters angry at Matthews, Olbermann, media

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By Matt Stearns

Bettyjean Kling is tough, she's mad and she's about ready to kick some pasty MSNBC butt.

"Chris Matthews, I can't even look at him anymore," Kling spat as she waited for Hillary Clinton to take the stage. "What's the name of that other nut?"

"Keith Olbermann," offered a friend.

"Keith Obama-man," growled Kling, a retired special ed teacher from Shippensburg, Pa.

Hillary Clinton's campaign valedictory was "the very definition of bittersweet," said Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., a longtime Clinton supporter, who insisted that the greater goal of a Democratic White House would unite those who gathered on a steamy day in the cavernous main hall of the National Building Museum.

It seemed to be more bitter than sweet for many, however, with special acid reserved for the media. Several of the hundreds gathered here said they thought that unfair news coverage helped Illinois Sen. Barack Obama win the Democratic presidential nomination. Other common culprits were the Democratic National Committee and the party superdelegates, who helped swing the nomination to Obama in the last few weeks.

"I'm mad at everybody," said Darla Stone, a prison nurse from Locust Grove, Va.

In the excitement over Obama's emergence as the first African-American to win a major party presidential nomination, it's easy to forget that Clinton very nearly made history of her own — and was favored to do for much of the past 16 months.

Not so easy, though, for those who saw their own hopes and frustrations reflected in Clinton.

"I've been really sad the last few days," said Donna Richbourg, a retired federal employee from Potomac, Md. who switched parties to vote for Clinton in the Maryland primary. "Before that, I was extremely mad."

Drawn to Clinton by "her tenacity, her resilience, her intelligence, the depth of her knowledge;" aghast at a media she felt ignored or belittled those things, Richbourg drew this conclusion from the campaign: "There's more sexism than racism in America."

Obama, meanwhile, has some work to do. Some Clinton voters said they'd vote for John McCain, the Republican nominee. Some said they wouldn't vote at all. Many were grudgingly accepting.

"Will I vote for McCain? No," said Angelia Ifantides, a teacher from Fairfax, Va. who wore a pink t-shirt with Clinton's face silk-screened on it in red. "Will I put an Obama sticker on my car? Probably not. I'll accept it in November. I have right to be angry 'til then."

Clinton gave a gracious speech, reminding those gathered and the 18 million who voted for her that much more united them than separated them; that "our paths have merged" with Obama's.

While Clinton acknowledged the heartache many of her supporters felt — and that she surely shared — she urged them to tough it out and put it behind them.

"Every moment wasted looking back keeps us from moving forward," Clinton concluded. "That's why I'm going to work my heart out to make Barack Obama president."

Applause — hardly universal, and scattered with boos — filled the hall.

At the back of the room, shoulders slumped, stood Bettyjean Kling. She slowly shook her curly-haired head side to side. She wiped away tears.

She didn't clap.

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