From NBC/NJ's Athena Jones
YORK, Pa. -- Obama said Republicans' criticism of his work as a community organizer was more proof they were out of touch with the concerns of ordinary Americans, an argument that has become a major theme of his campaign in recent weeks.
In an eight-minute prmess conference in the scorching sun outside a factory here, Thursday he challenged Republican claims that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was being treated in a sexist way, saying they were trying to "work the refs" and that fair treatment meant withstanding scrutiny of her record and views.
The senator brushed off the Republican attacks, saying he had predicted them in his own acceptance speech last Thursday in Denver and, using another sports analogy, joked that he's been "called worse on the basketball court. It's not that big of a deal." When asked moments later as he got on the bus what he'd been called on the court, the senator told reporters they would have to "bleep" it.
On the community organizer criticism: "They [Republicans] haven't talked about the fact that I was a civil rights lawyer; they haven't talked about the fact that I taught constitutional law; they haven't talked about my work in the state legislature, in the United States Senate," he said. "They're talking about the three years of work that I did right out of college as if that's-- I'm making the leap from two or three years out of college into the presidency."
Obama added though that his work as a community organizer was relevant to who he is and the kind of people he's "fighting for."
"Why would that kind of work be ridiculous?" Obama said. "Who are they fighting for? What are they advocating for? They think that the lives of those folks who are struggling each and every day, that working with them to try to improve their lives is somehow not relevant to the presidency? I think maybe that's the problem -- that's part of why they're out of touch and they don't get it 'cause they haven't spent much time working on behalf of those folks."
On the accusations of sexist treatment of Palin: "If they want to work the refs they are free to do so, and I think the public can make their judgments about this," he said. "The notion that any questions about her work in Alaska is somehow not relevant to her potentially being vice president of the United States, doesn't make too much sense to me. I think she's got a compelling story, but I assume that she wants to be treated the same way that guys want to be treated, which means that their records are under scrutiny. I've been through this for 19 months. She's been through it, what four days so far?"
Obama and his surrogates have repeatedly argued that McCain does not understand the economy in general and that the Republican convention this week was ignoring economic issues. The senator has been saying for weeks that he is best-suited to tackle the problems hardworking families are facing.
"I believe that the American people need change, they want change, and I'm in the best position to bring it and on a whole host of issues from energy to health care to education," he said. "If at some point Sen. McCain is-- actually addresses those issues, then I think that's gonna be a useful debate for the American people to listen to."