Via BuzzFeed, an easy lay-up after this afternoon’s embarrassing turnover. When I watched the clip of O, I thought in his fervor to shift blame to the GOP for his failures, he had stumbled into admitting that the entire premise of Hopenchange was naive crapola. (Telling Democrats “you were the change” at the convention was a more elegant means of blame-shifting.) But Jonah Goldberg makes a fair point:
His biggest lesson, meanwhile, is that “you can’t change Washington from the inside.” Wait a second. In the 2008 primaries, his whole argument with Hillary Clinton was over this exact question. She believed that you can change Washington from the inside and Barack Obama said you couldn’t.
For example, in a Nevada debate, Obama said he wasn’t a very organized person. But that didn’t matter because it was the president’s job to inspire people. The presidency “involves having a vision for where the country needs to go . . . and then being able to mobilize and inspire the American people to get behind that agenda for change.”…
Obama won that fight. But as president he conspicuously failed to inspire people, save for the tea parties who proceeded to drive a historic victory for the Republicans in 2010. For example, after over 50 speeches, statements and addresses on ObamaCare he never made it a popular piece of legislation.
And now he’s saying he had to learn an idea he never subscribed to was wrong. How introspective of him!
I never took O’s point in 2008 to be that Washington couldn’t be changed from the inside, period. I thought his point was that it couldn’t be changed from the inside by an insider, since an insider would already have been corrupted by the process. A Clinton could never be trusted to do it but Obama — allegedly an “outsider” — could. That was the whole point of the “Change You Can Believe In” slogan, I thought. Hillary was promising change too, but you can’t believe an old establishment hand like her who’s spent 15 years inside the Beltway. Better to trust a young Chicago machine politician who hadn’t achieved anything except a nice speech at the 2004 convention and winning a Senate race in a blue state against Alan Keyes. It was a populist rhetorical gimmick, designed naturally to play off liberals’ apprehensions about the Clinton machine. And of course, as Ace notes, it was opportunistic. Obama used to sing a different verse of the insider/outsider song:
“[Obama] wanted to marry and have children, and to have a stable income,” Kellman recalls.
But Obama was also worried about something else. He told Kellman that he feared community organizing would never allow him “to make major changes in poverty or discrimination.” To do that, he said, “you either had to be an elected official or be influential with elected officials.” In other words, Obama believed that his chosen profession was getting him nowhere, or at least not far enough. . . .
And so, Obama told Kellman, he had decided to leave community organizing and go to law school.
He had to become an insider so that he could run for president as an outsider and then discover that you can’t change Washington from the inside. Got it? Romney’s played this game too at times, once saying back in 2007, “I don’t think you change Washington from the inside. I think you change it from the outside.” All newbie candidates spout this platitude as a rejoinder to charges that they don’t have enough government experience. The difference with O is that “change” was less a promise in his case than the foundation of a messianic myth; to hear him admit that he’s learned hard lessons about how difficult it would be to achieve is like hearing FDR say in 1935, “Maybe Washington’s not ready for a New Deal after all.” Other presidents managed to change things from the inside, including his Great Society predecessor Lyndon Johnson. As Romney says, if he’s not up to the task, let’s him return him to the “outside” so he can work for “change” there.