Friday, January 25, 2008

Reagan Admiration

In the Democratic presidential debate of January 21, 2008 in South Carolina, Hillary Clinton alleged of Barack Obama "the facts are that he has said in the last week that he really liked the ideas of the Republicans over the last 10 to 15 years" and stated "you talked about admiring Ronadl Reagan."

The Illinois Senator responded "you just said that I complimented the Republican ideas. That is not true. What I said -- and I will provide you with a quote -- what I said was is that Ronald Reagan was a transformative political figure because he was able to get Democrats to vote against their economic interests to form a majority to push through their agenda."

As reported here, Obama had said "I think it is fair to say that the Republicans were the party of ideas for a pretty long chunk of time there the last 10 or 15 years in the sense that they were challenging conventional wisdom." That is actually true, and does not constitute praise of those ideas- which were bad ideas challenging sane, sensible conventional wisdom.

But Obama went further, stating "what I said was is that Ronald Reagan was a transformative political figure because he was able to get Democrats to vote against their economic interests to form a majority to push through their agenda, an agenda that I objected to." His statement about Reagan, however, did not include criticism of the latter's policies and constitued fulsome praise. As quoted by the New York Times' Adam Nagourney (who, incomprehensibly, does not believe the comments were favorable), Obama asserted

Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that, you know, Richard Nixon did not, and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. He tapped into what people were already feeling, which is, we want clarity, we want optimism, we want, you know, a return to that sense of dynamism and, you know, entrepreneurship that had been missing.

Note phrases "changed the trajectory of America," "put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it," "tapped into what people were already feeling," a man who brough "clarity....optimism....a return to that sense of dynamism....and entrepreneurship that had been missing." High praise, indeed, for the Repub icon.

There is one additional problem. The Illinois Senator noted in the debate that Clinton herself had praised the 40th president in an excerpt from Tom Brokaw's new book, "Boom! Voices of the Sixties." She is quoted as saying "when he had those big tax cuts and they went too far, he oversaw the largest tax increase. He could call the Soviet Union the Evil Empire and then negotiate arms-control agreements. He played the balance and the music beautifully.”

Thus, as our primary/caucus comes up, if John Edwards no longer is a candidate, we have the choice between an admirer of President Reagan and an admirer of President Reagan. But a little perspective: if they are to be believed, virtually every Repub candidate idolizes the anti-labor, anti-consumer, anti-egalitarian former president.

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