So Barack Obama said today that change doesn’t come from inside Washington, it requires the engagement of the American people:
"The most important lesson I've learned is that you can't change Washington from the inside. You can only change it from the outside. That's how I got elected, and that's how the big accomplishments like health care got done, was because we mobilized the American people to speak out."That’s a fairly unremarkable comment; Obama has said similar things many times in the past. Naturally, the Romney campaign and too many reporters to count have pounced on it, twisted it beyond all recognition, and declared it a gaffe. As my former colleague Simon Malloy explains, they’ve twisted it into an admission by Obama that he can’t get things done, despite the fact that he talks about an accomplishment -- health care -- in the passage in question. (As an aside, it’s funny, in a sad way, to see the same people who have ranted for years about arrogant Obama thinking he’s the messiah now criticizing Obama for saying he can’t make change on his own.)
Buzfeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith calls Obama’s statement his biggest “gaffe” in four years:
Look: That’s just stupid. What Barack Obama said wasn’t new, wasn’t remarkable in any way. There is a gaffe* here, though -- one committed by the Romney campaign it its haste to distort Obama’s statement. Here’s the Romney camp attacking Obama:
Why is that a gaffe? Because Mitt Romney has said the same thing his campaign is attacking Obama for saying. Here’s a passage from NBC’s First Read, December 30, 2007:
But the suggestion that Romney is politically shrewd enough to cut through the partisanship and rigors of Washington at the same time that he's suggesting he's the candidate who can bring change to it seems to be a fine line. Asked that question early this afternoon, he explained to reporters: "Probably my best capability is in building a good team and working with people within that team and across the aisle to get the job done, and I'm not trying to take away from somebody else. They may have their skills. Sen. McCain has been there in Washington 27 years. So he certainly has political skill, but I believe that at this time, to change Washington, it would be helpful to have somebody who comes with more private sector skill, experience outside Washington. I don't think you change Washington from the inside. I think you change it from the outside."There you go. Mitt Romney’s campaign is attacking Barack Obama for saying something Mitt Romney says. That’s a gaffe. And that’s just one of many reasons why it is absolutely stupid** for the Romney campaign and reporters like Ben Smith to claim that Obama’s comments are a problem.
* I hate this word, and am using it mockingly. Forgive me for using it at all.
** This word, on the other hand, should be used more. This kind of stupidity should be called out for what it is: Stupid.