Speaking at a press conference Wednesday, Mitt Romney answered a question on a statement he made about Reverend Jeremiah Wright by saying, "I’m not familiar precisely with exactly what I said, but I stand by what I said. Whatever it was." That's an out-of-context soundbite about as damning as John Kerry's "I voted for it before I voted against it."
Buzzfeed's Andrew Kaczynski flagged the video:
A reporter had asked Romney about his February comments to Sean Hannity on his radio show about President Obama's onetime pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and he admitted he didn't quite remember what he said at the time. His February comments were:
I think again that the president takes his philosophical leanings in this regard, not from those who are ardent believers in various faiths but instead from those who would like America to be more secular. And I’m not sure which is worse, him listening to Reverend Wright or him saying that we must be a less Christian nation.
The reporter asked him Wednesday: "Do you stand by that? And do you believe that President Obama’s world view was shaped by Reverend Wright and do you see evidence of that in his policies?"
Strictly speaking, this isn't that interesting. Running for president requires you to say a whole lot of things, so of course you might not remember them all. Plus, Romney's intentions were sort of in good spirit, Wednesday, as he repudiated a Republican Super PAC for attempting to revive the Rev. Wright controversy. When he deferred to his earlier statement, it seems like he was just trying to talk about something else, but phrased it in the most inconvenient way possible.
It's damning because it hands his opponents an easily repeatable sound-bite that underscores the principal complaint with him: that he lacks conviction. Or as The Nation's Ari Melber tweeted:
Romney's comment is devastating because it captures his core weakness: Willing to say anything, even if he can't remember what it was.— Ari Melber (@AriMelber) May 17, 2012
The Obama campaign is already promoting the clip. Republicans did the same thing when they portrayed Sen. John Kerry as a flip-flopper and he provided them hugely effective ammunition when he said, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it." There was a deeper explanation behind the quote, but it's hard to remember all these years later just what it was.