President Barack Obama on Thursday came under fire for saying the "most important lesson" he's learned during his time in office is "you can't change Washington from the inside."
The quote quickly made its way around the Internet as it seemed to undermine the president's very argument for getting re-elected. Obama went on to cite "the big accomplishments like health care," which he said only happened because the American people were mobilized and spoke out.
"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," Obama said during a Univision forum in Florida. "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."
The liberal-leaning Media Matters for America sought to quickly dismiss the idea that Obama made a gaffe, saying 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.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was quick to jump on the president's remark, however, telling a crowd in Florida that Obama "threw in the white flag of surrender again."
"He said he can't change Washington from the inside, he can only change it from outside. Well we're going to give him that chance in November, he's going outside," Romney said. "I can change Washington, I will change Washington, we'll get the job done from the inside...his slogan was 'yes we can,' his slogan now is 'no I can't.'"