By Johanna Neuman and Noam N. Levey
Bruce Springsteen, the rocker who made "Born in the USA" a signature of working-class pride, endorsed Democrat Barack Obama for president today.
"He has the depth, the reflectiveness and the resilience to be our next president," Springsteen said in a letter posted on his website and distributed by the Obama campaign. "He speaks to the American I've envisioned in my music for the past 35 years, a generous nation with a citizenry willing to tackle nuanced and complex problems, a country that's interested in its collective destiny and in the potential of its gathered spirit, a place where 'nobody crowds you, and nobody goes it alone.' "
Springsteen did not mention Obama's Democratic rival, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, by name. But the bard of New Jersey, who has written lyrics about the economically devastated towns of the Northeast, seemed to challenge her recent criticisms of Obama for saying that working-class Americans are bitter about their financial hardships, and for fanning the controversy over Obama's involvement with the fiery Rev. Jeremiah Wright..
"Critics have tried to diminish Sen. Obama through the exaggeration of certain of his comments and relationships," Springsteen said in his letter. "While these matters are worthy of some discussion, they have been ripped out of the context and fabric of the man's life and vision ... often in order to distract us from discussing the real issues."
With less than a week to go before Tuesday's showdown primary in Pennsylvania, where blue-collar Democrats could make the difference, Springsteen urged voters to consider "the terrible damage done over the past eight years," and to undertake "a great American reclamation project."
The Illinois senator, he said, "is the best candidate to lead that project and to lead us into the 21st century with a renewed sense of moral purpose and of ourselves as Americans."
Clinton, who has been endorsed by musician Elton John, today picked up the backing of the Operative Plasterers' and Cement Masons' International Assn., representing about 45,000 plasterers and cement masons in the construction industry. "We need a leader with Hillary Clinton's ability to turn around the economy and rebuild the middle class," said association President Pat Finley. "She has a clear record fighting for working families, and is the strongest candidate to go toe-to-toe with John McCain in November."
With Obama and Clinton prepping for tonight's debate in Pennsylvania, McCain had the field largely to himself. Holding a panel discussion on the economy this morning in south Milwaukee, the Arizona Republican discussed his economic agenda with several chief executives and academics before several hundred invited guests on the vast factory floor of Bucyrus International, a manufacturer of heavy machinery for mining.
But in a speech to union members gathered in Washington for the Building and Construction Trades Department's annual legislative conference, Clinton blasted McCain for continuing the Bush administration economic policies.
:"He wants more tax cuts for corporations," she said, arguing that McCain is only digging the U.S. economy into a deeper hole than the one the administration started. "He has very little understanding of how we're going to get ourselves out of that hole and get back on top."
And in Pennsylvania, Democratic Rep. John Murtha, who is 75, said that McCain, who is 71, is too old to be president.
"This is no old man's job," Murtha said of the presidency. While stumping for Clinton, the veteran Pennsylvania congressman said that the pressure of the campaign is too much for guys in their generation.
Meanwhile British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he has been fascinated by the U.S. presidential campaign and looks forward to meetings with all three candidates during this week's three-day visit.
"What's fascinating about the campaign in America is the level of interest," he said on ABC's "Good Morning America." Asked who he would prefer to work with after President Bush leaves office, Brown demurred, saying, "These are decisions for the American people."
But Brown noted that all three candidates have embraced climate-change proposals not favored by the Bush administration, including a cap on industrial carbon dioxide pollution and a trading system for emissions like the one used by the European Union.
No matter who wins the election, Brown said, there was likely to be closer ties with Europe.
"It's partly because the divisions within Europe over Iraq will come to an end," he said
Read Springsteen Letter to Fans and Friend published on his website:
Dear Friends and Fans:
Like most of you, I've been following the campaign and I have now seen and heard enough to know where I stand. Senator Obama, in my view, is head and shoulders above the rest.
He has the depth, the reflectiveness, and the resilience to be our next President. He speaks to the America I've envisioned in my music for the past 35 years, a generous nation with a citizenry willing to tackle nuanced and complex problems, a country that's interested in its collective destiny and in the potential of its gathered spirit. A place where "...nobody crowds you, and nobody goes it alone."
At the moment, critics have tried to diminish Senator Obama through the exaggeration of certain of his comments and relationships. While these matters are worthy of some discussion, they have been ripped out of the context and fabric of the man's life and vision, so well described in his excellent book, Dreams of My Father, often in order to distract us from discussing the real issues: war and peace, the fight for economic and racial justice, reaffirming our Constitution, and the protection and enhancement of our environment.
After the terrible damage done over the past eight years, a great American reclamation project needs to be undertaken. I believe that Senator Obama is the best candidate to lead that project and to lead us into the 21st Century with a renewed sense of moral purpose and of ourselves as Americans.
Over here on E Street, we're proud to support Obama for President.