Four years after Barack Obama campaigned on a promise of "hope and change," he now is admitting that a president isn't able to change Washington "from the inside" -- an admission that rival Mitt Romney promptly blasted as "the white flag of surrender."Ever since that interview, instead of acknowledging the gaffe, the president has doubled down on his framing of the statement:
President Obama, at a forum Thursday hosted by the Spanish-language TV channel Univision, lamented the challenge of shaking up the status quo in the capital.
"The fact that we haven't been able to change the tone in Washington is disappointing," Obama said, in response to a question about his greatest failure. "The most important lesson I've learned is you can't change Washington from the inside. You can only change it from the outside."
In many ways, this "change comes from the outside" sentiment embodies the president's method of governance. His modus operandi is decidedly characterized by imposition. Some in society don't have health insurance? Make everyone buy it! Children aren't eating enough healthy foods? Force every public school cafeteria to conform to strict calorie standards. Not enough people are buying electric cars? Give enormous tax credits that force everyone to subsidize those who do buy them.
The now infamous 2001 interview that Barack Obama did with Chicago Public Radio contains the essence of this philosophy [emphasis mine]:
The Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society. To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, at least as it’s been interpreted, and the Warren Court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. Says what the states can’t do to you. Says what the federal government can’t do to you, but doesn’t say what the federal government or state government must do on your behalf.
Change from the inside is apparently too hard to control and takes too long. Short term satisfaction can be achieved through raw power rather than persuasion. But it is rare to hear someone so publicly and blatantly disparage what is almost a truism about the superiority of internal versus external change.
Not all cliches are bad, and although it sounds trite, true and lasting change must come from the inside. This goes for Washington and politics as well. Our founders often warned that our Constitution and system of government would only function well under people of character. Until the people in politics and Washington change, no amount of Hope and Change from the outside will make a difference.