SARASOTA, Fla. -- In his latest broadside against President Obama, Mitt Romney on Thursday characterized a remark by the president that “you can’t change Washington from the inside” as an acknowledgment of weakness -- a charge that Obama’s campaign said was “wildly” out of context.
Appearing at a forum sponsored by the Spanish-language network Univision on the heels of Romney’s earlier appearance, Obama reflected on his inability to change the tone in Washington.
“I think that I’ve learned some lessons over the last four years, and 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,” Obama said. “That’s how I got elected, and that’s how the big accomplishments like health care got done -- [it] was because we mobilized the American people to speak out. That’s how we were able to cut taxes for middle-class families.”
Romney, campaigning in Sarasota, said that his rival “threw in the white flag of surrender again. He said he can't change Washington from inside, he can only change it from outside.”
“Well, we are going to give him that chance in November -- he is going outside,” Romney said. “I can change Washington; I will change Washington. We will get the job done from the inside. Republicans and Democrats will come together. He can't do it. His slogan was ‘Yes, we can.’ His slogan now is ‘No, I can't.' "
The Republican National Committee joined the fray, issuing a statement that said Obama "completely undermined the rationale for his reelection by admitting he can’t change Washington."
But Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said Romney “is trying to take the heat off himself by taking the president’s words wildly out of context.”
“What the president said today is no different than what he has been saying for many years -- that change comes from outside Washington, not inside,” Smith said in a statement. “When Americans came together and stood up to special interests, we reformed health care, cut taxes for the middle class and put in new rules for Wall Street. And that’s why we have elections. Mitt Romney apparently doesn’t believe that change comes from the American people.”
Obama, after making his remark at the Univision forum, went on to say: “Something that I’d really like to concentrate on in my second term is being in a much more constant conversation with the American people so that they can put pressure on Congress to help move some of these issues forward.”
By Thursday evening the Obama campaign was circulating a new web video that juxtaposed his full statement to Univision with Romney's secretly recorded remarks at spring fundraiser that 47 percent of the country is dependent on government handouts and his job is not to worry about them. The video closes with text asking, "Do you want a president who thinks change comes from you? Or one who has totally written you off?"