Gibbs: Um, maybe Ahmadinejad isn't the "elected leader" of Iran after all

What was the euphemism The One’s team used last year whenever someone on their side said something mind-blowingly stupid and then had to walk it back the next day?

Ah, that’s right. “Inartful.”

On Air Force One today, Gibbs told reporters that he wanted to “correct a little bit of what I said yesterday. I denoted that Mr. Ahmadinejad was the elected leader of Iran. I would say it’s not for me to pass judgment on. He’s been inaugurated, that’s a fact. Whether any election was fair, obviously the Iranian people still have questions about that and we’ll let them decide that. But I would simply say he’s been inaugurated and we know that is simply a fact.

Asked if the White House recognizes Ahmadinehad as the leader, elected fairly or not, Gibbs said it’s not “for us to denote his legitimacy, except to acknowledge the fact.”

Does the White House think the election was fair?

“That’s not for us to pass judgment on,” Gibbs said. “I think that’s for the Iranian people to decide, and obviously there are many that still have a lot of questions.”

Today in Kenya, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said of Ahmadinejad, “we don’t always get to deal with the government that we want to…We take the reality that the person who was inaugurated today will be considered the president.”

Note how much slicker Hillary’s statement is than the one given by her boss’s paid professional mouthpiece. A few lefties were trolling me on Twitter last night insisting that Gibbs merely “misspoke” and never meant to imply that Ahmadinejad was fairly elected. Watch the clip; the whole point of the question was about Dinnerjacket’s legitimacy, with Gibbs rambling about Iranians “choosing their leadership” before capping the exchange with a concession to the fact that he’s the “elected leader.” If he can’t figure out a way to say “you play the hand you’re dealt” without stumbling into a gaffe so spectacular that it was picked up by Iranian state media then he’s not cut out for this job. Exit question: If it was just a slip of the tongue that Gibbs never intended, why didn’t they issue a statement to correct the “mistake” immediately after he made it?

Update: It’ll all be worth it if Iran “unclenches its fist,” though, right? A progress report:

Visibly angered by the slight, Mr Ahmadinejad struck a characteristically defiant note despite hundreds of protesters chanting “death to the dictator” almost within earshot.

“We heard that some of the western leaders have decided to recognise but not congratulate the new government,” Mr Ahmadinejad said in an acceptance speech before the Iranian parliament. “Well, no-one in Iran is waiting for your messages.”

“The Iranian nation neither values your scowls and threats, nor your smiles and greetings.”