Bruce Springsteen Reads the Papers — and Backs Obama

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By: Greg Mitchell

As you must have heard by now, Bruce Springsteen has endorsed Barack Obama, at least partly in response to the current media obsession with the candidate’s recent remarks about “bitter” average folk in Pennsylvania. Springteen’s move is not exactly a shock right now but it’s another amazing step in an evolution I have watched closely since 1972, when I first met the fledgling rocker and co-wrote the first magazine article about him.

For the first few years that I knew him I swear I never heard a “political” sentiment escape his lips, and never saw him read a newspaper’s opinion section. Now he has become a new kind of political “Boss.” Move over, Boss Tweed and Mayor Daley.

Maybe he will write another op-ed piece that will be “born to run”– like his 2004 New York Times contribution titled “Chords of Change.” He confessed at that time that he was a “dedicated” Times reader and Paul Krugman fan.

He also slammed the press in a 2004 Rolling Stone interview, declaring, “The press has let the country down. It’s taken a very amoral stand, in that essential issues are often portrayed as simply one side says this and the other side says that….The job of the press is to tell the truth without fear or favor. We have to get back to that standard.”

Springsteen started his political transformation back in the “anti-nuke” days of the late-1970s. Then, when Born in th USA hit, he spoke out and donated a fortune to Vietnam veterans groups, and from there, many other causes, while refusing to endorse candidates. This “political” — in the broadest sense — focus continued with public statements and more donations as he recorded his “Tom Joad” and “Seeger Sessions” CDs. Now this.

It’s true, he did ultimately endorse and perform for John Kerry in 2004 (while denouncing tax cuts for “well-to-do guitar players”). But backing Barack goes to the next level — picking a candidate in a primary race, and at a key moment. Springsteen, of course, is a rich man now (he’s come a long way since that first piece for Crawdaddy in early 1973 that I helped write) but he retains credibility with the “working-class” kids and adults that Obama is trying so hard to reach.

Springsteen seems to be monitoring the over-the-top press coverage of the “bitter” controversy, noting “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.”

Obama, he writes, “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. 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.”

Bruce did me a solid recently, writing a preface for my new book on Iraq and the media, but his “solid” for Obama — runnin’ on the Barack streets? — will have wider impact, no doubt. You might say that Obama just collected one of America’s true “super-delegates.”
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Greg Mitchell’s new book is “So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits — and the President — Failed on Iraq.”

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