NPR logo Romney Distorts Obama's '60 Minutes' Words, Taking Them Out Of Context

Romney Distorts Obama's '60 Minutes' Words, Taking Them Out Of Context

Mitt Romney campaigns at a lumber mill in Madison, NH, Monday, Dec. 12, 2011. Jim Cole/AP hide caption

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Jim Cole/AP

Mitt Romney campaigns at a lumber mill in Madison, NH, Monday, Dec. 12, 2011.

Jim Cole/AP

It's probably not the wisest thing to misquote the words of someone, particularly a U.S. president, whose actual comments were seen and heard by millions and are readily available on the Internet.

But that's exactly what Mitt Romney did in an interview with the Monday.

Referring to the president's "60 Minutes" interview with CBS News journalist Steve Kroft, Romney misstated what Obama said. The relevant excerpt from

"He actually did me a big favor," Romney said. "Last night on '60 Minutes,' the president ... said that to fix this economy is going to take another president. He's right. I'm that other president. To fix this economy is going to take someone who understands how America works, and I'm going to put America to work again."

If Obama had actually said that, that certainly would have generated some fairly big headlines Monday.

But you already know where I'm going with this. Obama didn't say what Romney claims he did. The president actually wasn't talking about the economy but the project of changing how politics happens in Washington.

Kroft asked Obama about the 2007 announcement of his candidacy for the White House and Obama's diagnosis then of what was wrong with Washington. Here's their exchange:

KROFT: You declared your candidacy. And you said, "The reason we've not met our challenges is a failure of leadership, the smallness of our politics, the ease with which we're distracted by the petty and the trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our presence for scoring cheap political points instead of rolling up our sleeves and building a working consensus to take on big problems." I mean those were eloquent words and true words. Unfortunately, they're still largely true today. Did you overpromise? Did you underestimate how difficult this was gonna be?

OBAMA: I didn't overpromise. And I didn't underestimate how tough this was gonna be. I always believed that this was a long term project. That reversing a culture here in Washington, dominated by special interests, it was gonna take more than a year. It was gonna take more than two years. It was gonna take more than one term. Probably takes more than one president.

Somehow, in Romney's hands this became the president saying it would take another president to fix the economy.

Maybe Romney was confused by his own campaign's quickly produced, anti-Obama ad that plays off a metaphor the president used in the 60 Minutes interview of being the captain on a storm-rocked ship, the nation being the ship of state, of course with many of its citizens sea sick from stormy economic waters.

The ad makes the economic argument that the nation needs a new captain. But like a previous Romney ad that was widely criticized for taking Obama's words out of context, the "new captain" ad does the same thing, slapping the aforementioned Obama "more than one president" quote at the end of the ad.

The result is that the ad, just like Romney in the Politico interview, distorts Obama's words, falsely reporting on what he actually said.

One problem a campaign that does this repeatedly creates for itself is the obvious loss of some credibility. It also raises suspicions, at least in some minds. If a candidate and campaign will do this with information so readily checked out, what might they do with less easily verifiable information either as a candidate or in the White House?