Getting "You Can't Change Washington From The Inside" Completely Wrong

Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

Today during a Univision forum, President Obama explained the lessons he'd learned during four years in office, telling moderators Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salines: "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."

Buzzfeed reported on Obama's remarks, focusing on the phrase "you can't change Washington from the inside" and claiming that Obama "seemed to undercut a central premise of his 2008 election, and even to raise questions about the urgency of re-electing the president. The comment reinforces the perception that Obama could not accomplish what he set out to do."

That's completely backwards from what Obama actually said. Look at it again, watch the video -- the president credited the outside pressure from Americans as key to the big changes he has enacted while in office (i.e. health care reform). It's a fairly straightforward political message: change happens in Washington when Americans get involved and pressure political leaders to act.

How that "seems to undercut a central premise of his 2008 election" or "reinforces the perception that Obama could not accomplish what he set out to do" -- he cited specific accomplishments and went on to say that he planned to use this lesson as a strategy to achieve more in a presumptive second term -- is anyone's guess.

But the overriding urge seems to be to transform this into a "gaffe," stripping or ignoring context where necessary.

Here's the video and transcript of Obama's remarks.

OBAMA: 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 how we were able to cut taxes for middle-class families. So 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.

Posted In
Taxes, Health Care Reform
Show/Publication
BuzzFeed
Stories/Interests
2012 Elections
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