Despite some toughly-worded language from the Obama campaign on the video showing Mitt Romney discussing the “47 percent” who won’t vote for him, the White House itself tried Tuesday to stay above the fray, which is surrounding the president’s Republican opponent. The official line from press secretary Jay Carney came as several in the White House press corps were reminding him of the president’s own celebrated “unguarded moment” while a candidate for the Democratic nomination in ’08.
“When you’re president of the United States, you’re president of all people,” Carney told reporters at the regular White House briefing Tuesday, “not just the people who voted for you.” Carefully avoiding any specific jabs at Romney or alluding outright to the video — which was recorded at a private fundraising event for the GOP hopeful — the president’s top spokesman kept his remarks to platitudes on how his boss sees both supporters and opponents the same way.
Noting that many in the room had been watching Obama since he first ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004, Carney said that his message has always been “what unites us is far greater than what divides us.” He added that Obama never asked how many auto workers voted for him when he successfully pursued the auto bailout in 2009, or “how many of the 129 million Americans with pre-existing conditions were likely to be with him” when he supported and signed the Affordable Health Care Act into law.
In noting that “the campaign put out a statement,” Carney clearly was more comfortable addressing topics such as the recent violence in Libya and Egypt than he was what is increasingly known as “the Romney video.” This may have been because several among the reporters who cover the White House brought up Obama’s now-famous line from an 2008 video in which, while campaigning in the Pennsylvania primary against then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Obama said some frustrated voters in the Keystone State clung to their “guns and their religion.”
It wasn’t as important, Carney insisted, “what he said four years ago or eight years ago,” but what is important is what he has done as president of the U.S. Pressed again about the “guns and religion” remark, Carney simply said “a lot of ink has been spilled since then,” and Obama “is guided by what he thinks is best for the country.”
When one reporter asked if he remembered an article by then-journalist Carney criticizing Obama’s “guns and religion” quote in ’08, the President’s top spokesman said he didn’t. When the reporter offered to read him the article word-for-word, Carney politely declined and moved on to another question.