Barack Obama’s “Enemies” UPDATED

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UPDATE: Barack Obama has corrected the record since this post was originally published. On the Michael Baisden radio show Monday afternoon, the president admitted to misspeaking: “And you know, it’s interesting right now, there was a — I had a conversation with a Hispanic radio outlet, Univision. . . .” the president said. “And I said, well, you can’t punish your friends when  — the folks who’ve been supporting it.  Now, I did also say if you’re going to punish somebody, punish your enemies, and I probably should have used the word, ‘opponents’ instead of enemies.  Now the Republicans are saying that I’m calling them enemies.  What I’m saying is you’re an opponent of this particular provision, comprehensive immigration reform, which is something very different.”

Last week, President Obama made a blunder. In a radio interview with Univision, he called Republicans “enemies.” Here is the quote.

If Latinos sit out the election instead of saying, ‘We’re going to punish our enemies and we’re gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us,’ if they don’t see that kind of upsurge in voting in this election, then I think it’s going to be harder and that’s why I think it’s so important that people focus on voting on November 2.

The proper word here is “opponents.” No doubt this was the word he meant to use. “Enemy” is, in fact, exactly the kind of rhetoric that Obama opposed both as a candidate and a president, the sort of militant escalation of the debate that he identifies with the worst parts of cable television. It was a small mistake, but it was compounded by his advisers who refused last week to admit that it was a mistake. Asked in a press briefing Thursday, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs refused to admit the president had blundered over a word.

GIBBS: I think that the President was making a pitch to Latino listeners that he has made progress on issues important to them, that he hopes that they show up on Tuesday, and in the process of early voting, in numbers similar to what they did in 2008.  And I would note that enthusiasm among Latino voters has increased over the past several weeks, and I think that the President — the President is serious about doing something about immigration reform. . . .

Q    And those who fundamentally have a different approach to immigration can be called enemies?

GIBBS:  Again, I think the President was talking about those that have and have not supported — I haven’t asked him about the specific word.  I think — again, I think the President was making an argument about helping those that have been a true friend to the Latino community.

By not admitting the mistake, the White House have handed John Boehner, the apparent speaker in waiting, a huge gift, which he plans to use later today. Per Mike Allen’s Playbook, here are the prepared remarks.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a president in the White House who referred to Americans who disagree with him as ‘our enemies.’ Think about that. He actually used that word. When Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush used the word ‘enemy,’ they reserved it for global terrorists and foreign dictators — enemies of the United States. Enemies of freedom. Enemies of our country. Today, sadly, we have president who uses the word ‘enemy’ for fellow Americans — fellow citizens. He uses it for people who disagree with his agenda of bigger government — people speaking out for a smaller, more accountable government that respects freedom and allows small businesses to create jobs. Mr. President, there’s a word for people who have the audacity to speak up in defense of freedom, the Constitution, and the values of limited government that made our country great. We don’t call them ‘enemies.’ We call them ‘patriots.’

So a nick has become a deep bruise. And it is just a matter of time before President Obama has to publicly announce that he made a mistake by using the wrong word, ensuring yet another bad news cycle.