On Tuesday President Obama responded to the Mitt Romney ‘47 percent’ video for the first time in an unusually serious interview with David Letterman that also touched on the budget crisis and the violence in Libya last week (while managing to squeeze in the requisite Clint Eastwood joke). Obama dismissed the idea that his supporters see themselves as “victims,” praised Republicans as “hardworking, family people,” and stressed that as president, you have to represent everyone in the country. “When I won in 2008, 47 percent of the American people voted for John McCain,” Obama said. “They didn’t vote for me and what I said on election night was: ‘Even though you didn’t vote for me, I hear your voices, and I’m going to work as hard as I can to be your president.’”
With Romney already under attack from pundits and politicians in both parties, Obama tried to appear restrained in his criticism. When asked about Romney’s comments, he said, “I don’t know what he was referring to,” and focused on the importance of unifying the country. Letterman brought up Obama’s secretly recorded comments on “guns and religion” from 2008 (which were actually about moving past partisan divisions), and the president admitted that everyone makes mistakes on the campaign trail. “When you run for president, you are under a microscope all the time. All of us make mistakes,” said Obama, adding that he immediately said he regretted the remark (unlike Romney). “What I think people want to make sure of is you’re not writing off a big chunk of the country,” Obama said.
Of course, the Obama campaign isn’t going easy on Romney. Around the same time that Obama was speaking with Letterman in the afternoon, his reelection team released a video featuring people’s reactions to the day-old controversy. “I actually felt stick to my stomach,” says one woman. “I think the fact that Mitt Romney’s made all these comments behind closed doors really shows his character,” says another. Don’t expect “all of us make mistakes” to be Obama’s final word on the matter.