Say What? Reagan Had Clarity?

I simply have a had time wrapping my head around this:

Matt Stoller explains:  

The video clip above is Barack Obama explaining his admiration of Ronald Reagan.  I’ve transcribed it here.

I don’t want to present myself as some sort of singular figure.  I think part of what’s different are the times.  I do think that for example the 1980 was different.  I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that 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.  I think they felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown but there wasn’t much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating.  I think people, he just tapped into what people were already feeling, which was we want clarity we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.

There are many reason progressives should admire Ronald Reagan, politically speaking.  He realigned the country around his vision, he brought into power a new movement that created conservative change, and he was an extremely skilled politician.  But that is not why Obama admires Reagan.  Obama admires Reagan because he agrees with Reagan’s basic frame that the 1960s and 1970s were full of ‘excesses’ and that government had grown large and unaccountable.

Those excesses, of course, were feminism, the consumer rights movement, the civil rights movement, the environmental movement, and the antiwar movement.  The libertarian anti-government ideology of an unaccountable large liberal government was designed by ideological conservatives to take advantage of the backlash against these ‘excesses’.

It is extremely disturbing to hear, not that Obama admires Reagan, but why he does so.  Reagan was not a sunny optimist pushing dynamic entrepreneurship, but a savvy politician using a civil rights backlash to catapult conservatives to power. 

Astounding isn’t it? Yep, let’s put the guy who brought us “Iran-Contra, “Star Wars,”  and “the largest deficits then ever known” up on a pedastal and claim he transformed this nation with “clarity” and “optimism.”

Natasha took the words right out of my mouth: “Another Liberdem?” Nothing like selling out the party that put you up on the national stage to try to sell your vision of unity to the party that sold out this country. Read Big Tent Democrat on Talk Left and SusanUnPC on NoQuarter.

The entire interview is here.

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About Pamela Leavey

Pamela Leavey is the Editor in Chief, Owner/Publisher of The Democratic Daily as well as a freelance writer and photographer. Pamela holds a certificate in Contemporary Communications from UMass Lowell, a Journalism Certificate from UMass Amherst and a B.A. in Creative Writing and Digital Age Communications from UMass Amherst UWW.
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19 Responses to Say What? Reagan Had Clarity?

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  2. alrudder says:

    I have to come to Obama’s defense a bit here. I am a child of the ’80s so I wasn’t a sophisticated observer during the times, but most Americans thought that Reagan genuinely believed in smaller domestic government and a strong military to confront communism. People respond to leaders who are genuine and clear, so he had a realigning election.
    As for Obama’s comment about “excess” I think he is saying government bureaucracy did get a bit too big, and tried to solve every itty-bitty social ill. It went a bit overboard. I am certain that Obama personally endorses the FDR-LBJ’s social and economic support system.

  3. Tom Driscoll says:

    Can you spell “distortion”?

    Here’s a quote from the same interview moments later.

    “I think Kennedy, 20 years earlier, moved the country in a fundamentally different direction. So I think a lot of it has to do with the times. I think we are in one of those fundamentally different times right now were people think that things, the way they are going, just aren’t working.”

    It’s amazing what a little editing can do.

    A candidate can be discussing how a political campaign can come to be representative of ideas and ideals, different candidates …different ideals. And the next minute, with a little prudent editing …POOF: “So Obama is a closet Reaganite! Gee whiz! Isn’t that bad to say in the middle of the Democratic primary season?”

    This is what they call D-I-S-T-O-R-T-I-O-N

  4. Darrell Prows says:

    Tom: Thanks for contributing because I need an intrepreter here. I read the first text and your addition, and I don’t have a clue what Obama is trying to say. He takes a hostage crisis and a hugely divisive campaign and turns it into “a hunger for change”? He takes all that BUSHCO is, does, and stands for and turns it into only “a hunger for change”?

  5. Tom Driscoll says:

    Though I’m not an insider with the campaign, I will tell you what I THINK Obama was trying to get across. The country is at a place of crucial decision right now. We are at the exhausted end of an era and where we go next is a central question. The two examples he gave, and equated, might be something of a clue. Kennedy came along after eight years of Ike and Nixon and Cold War anxiety. Obviously there was more of that anxiety to come, but Kennedy reinvigorated the nation with a sense of purpose and mission.

    Reagan came along and found the nation in a similarly exhausted and anxious place. If you’ll recall the incumbent president described our condition as a “malaise”. Like his methods or not (and I most certainly don’t) Reagan sold the country on a renewed sense of itself as “freedom’s geat shining light on a hill” or some other such rhetoric. That was the mirror, what happened in the smoke is another story. The country did undergo a profound change, not necessarily for the better, but it changed.

    I think the common theme Obama was trying to describe was that when the country hits these points of exhausted anxiety and malaise, we like to harken back to core principals. I think you and I might agree that Reagan sold a bit more than he delivered. There was promise Kennedy never got to deliver. With Obama, just maybe there’s a hope.

  6. Tom Driscoll says:

    Which president was it that announced that “the era of big government was over”?
    It has a Reaganesque ring to it but…

  7. Darrell

    I meant to link to the entire interview and forgot. You can watch it all here.

  8. Tom

    I think many progressives are concerned about Obama’s bid towards republican voters after 7 years of hell with BushCo and the Republican Congress. So to hear him invoke Reagan and distance himself from Clinton who came into office after 4 horrendous years under Bush 1, is offensive. I have to wonder if Obama would have even gone there if HRC wasn’t in the race because a lot of Democrats still love Bill, particualry on the issue of the economy.

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  10. Tom Driscoll says:


    I think you have to recognize that Obama is not interested in becoming the ranking Democrat in a divided country where the Democratic faction can elbow out its opponent by some slim margin. That speech way back when at Kerry’s nomination about one country was so powerful and powerfully delivered because Obama actually subscribes to those beliefs.

    I don’t think we can afford another campaign where the end result justifies any means, where undermining your opponent’s appeal to his own base is more important than actually persuding the whole of the American people.

    The fact of the matter is Ronald Reagan succeded in persuading a great many Americans and he did indeed lead the country in a new direction, one that the Clinton adinistration (in my opinion) managed to marginally redirect rather than change. I still recall Clinton signing welfare reform while announcing that he understood the harm it would do. We Democrats won’t get very far if we spend the next year telling half the American electorate they were stupid or morally bankrupt to vote as they did. We will be much better served trying to understand the past, acknowledge mistakes and move forward.

    There are aspects of The Clinton administration that have to look positively shining when viewed through the fecal lens of the Bush regime. I’ll grant you that. (Remember when “policy wonks” were ridiculed for having actually done TOO MUCH of the homework?)

    But I also view that administration’s legacy as something somewhat mottled. It might have been easier to rebuff the “vast right wing conspiracy” if we hadn’t given them Bill’s enormous foolishness to work with. Ultimately that administration became something about …well, not a lot more than itself. It’s remembered achievements …remaining in office aginst some difficult odds.

    There is an important distinction to be drawn between office holding and leadership.

    I know it is somewhat unfair to tar Hilary with Bill’s brush, but the former president hasn’t exactly gone gently into the good night. I do judge them togeher as something of a package deal. And pardon me, but I still can’t get the spectacle of Bill’s last ditch efforts to rescue Joe Lieberman in 2006 out of my head. He went on a whirlwind tour of the state trying to prop up Senator Joe in the face of Lamont’s primary challenge premised on opposition to the war. The message: “what’s a little war between party hacks …I mean friends?”

    By the way .. Lieberman just came out for John McCain.

    Go figure.



  11. Tom

    I am capable of judging what Obama is saying, I understand his point and I get that he is alienating some progressives. Are we so concerned at this point in time, with so many Republicans leaving the party and the Democrats raising so much more money than the Republicans that we can not win on the merits of what we as a party offer? I don’t think so. I think we can court Independents in a way that doesn’t involved dissing our own and touting Reagan who also once in office divided this country with his policies.

    Yes, Lieberman endorsed McMain. Yes – that was a month ago.

    Don’t you think it is a little hypocritical to fault Bill Clinton for stumping for Lieberman when Obama actually supported Leiberman’s re-election as well? I certainly do. It’s well known that Obama considered Lieberman a mentor.

    On the welfare act, I don’t how many welfare mothers you have known in your life, but I have known many and I’ve been one – during the Clinton years, after the act was passed. I saw that act help women I know get back on their feet and get proper training to get jobs instead of relying on Welfare.

    I for one will not hold the Clinton’s up to the “fecal lens” of the Bush regime. Nor will I “tar” her with Bill’s brush.

    I judge candidates on their records and their experience and what I feel they can do for me as a voter, as an only parent, as a business owner with out healthcare insurance.

  12. Darrell Prows says:

    Hell, I’m coming out for McCain myself. I’d call him Bob Dole lite, and that was some beating Bill gave him.

    We don’t want to tell the whole electorate that they are stupid or morally bankrupt. However, that is exactly the message that we need to deliver to the twenty some per cent of them who still refuse to admit how bad the whole Bush/Iraq thing is. They have shown that they will not be satisfied with even a single thing that is actually good for the rest of us, and it bothers me that Obama will not draw even this much of a distinction.

    On the other hand, I’m very dismayed over the issue that the two Las Vegas unions are having about caucus scheduling, and clearly do place at least some of the blame on the Clinton camp.

    I’m trying to love the Democrats this year but some of them are making it hard.

  13. Tom Driscoll says:


    I never questioned your ability to come to your own conclusion. We’re just apparently coming to very different ones. I don’t think Obama is actually “alienating progressives”. I think certain parties are choosing to hear him in part and then turning to amplify a false and fractured representation of what he was saying.

    As far as Senator Joe from Connecticutt is concerned I’d only remind you that Ned Lamont has endorsed Obama. He had a fairly intimate perspective on the goings-down.

    I do think it’s fair (and not so hypocritical) to draw a distinction between a perfuntory party appearance in March as Lamont was just beginning to establish an alternative voice and the whistlestop whirlwind Bill went on for Joe on the eve of the primary.

  14. Here we go again, reading too much into a candidates candid comments. I have now listened to this clip three times. In it, I don’t detect a lot of venom towards the Clinton’s that others obviously do. Senator Obama sounds more like a historian in his frank appraisial of political dynamics.
    He states clearly that when Senator Kennedy became president in 1960, it was largely due to a grass roots desire for change. JFK was a young, articulatem and dynamic candidate. We had just emerged from eights years of the lackluster presidency of President Eisenhower. His V.P. Richard Nixon was viewed as just ‘more of the same.” The sheer energy and charisma of JFK took the country by storm. We entered the days of ‘camelot” with a national sense of renewed optimism!
    Then, of course, Obama makes referrence to every Democrats arch-enemy, Ronald Regan. I certainly DID NOT get the impression that Senator Obama was praising Regan as being a champion of the American middle class. What he will simply saying, in a historical perspective,was that the 1980 election, like 1960’s was a water shed moment for America. We had suffered thru the Vietnam War and the shame of Nixon’s forced ouster due to Watergate. The citizenery cried out that Nixon should be held accountable for his crimes. However, they inherited a president (Gerald Ford) who issued Nixon a full and unconditional pardon. The electorate was outraged. This was the primary reason that Ford was not afforded the opportunity of a serving second term. Then we had President Jimmy Carter. Justly or unjustly, American’s, by-in-large, viewed him as a weak president. The holding of the hostages for 444 days doomed his chance for a second term.
    Then Obama committed the cardinal sin of carrying his annalysis of political dynamics into the Regan era. Again, all he was saying that Americans in 1980 had the same craving for change as they experienced in 1960. Like or dislike him, President Reagan earned his title as “The Great Communicator.” His oratorical skills and energy inspired people from both political parties. After the dismal presidencies of Nixon, Ford, and Carter he inspired American’s to once again view the glass as being half full instead of half empty. Of course, once he became president it became obviious to most that he was not an advocate for the poor or middle class.
    Why must be drag Senator Obama over the coals for making an accurate assessment of election year dynamics? I, like more folks than you think Pamela, again view 2008 as another water shed moment in the American political process. Basicaly people have to ask themselves if they want to continue with the politics of the past, or have the confidence to aspire to a brighter future. Do they want a nominee that already carrys eight years of heavy bagage left over from the presidency of her husband? Why must we continue to allow The House of Bush and The House of Clinton to maintain it’s two family executive rule? Pa Pa Bush was vice-president for eight years. Then PaPa Bush was president for four years. Then we had President Clinton for eight years. Now we have suffered through the tragic eight year reign of Baby Bush (aka “The Decider”) If Hillary serves as president for two full terms, we will have had either a Bush or a Clinton as a part of the executive branch for 36 consecutive years. Does this sound like change? If we really desire a monarchy perhaps we could invite Queen Elizabeth II to sale over to govern her former colonies!! Barack Obama rightlyfully views 2008 as an election with the same dynamics as both the 1960 and 1980 elections. If you have to, listen to the video again. I don’t specifically hear him praising the Regan era. Once again some are spining a candidates pronouncements in an effort to both discredit him and put the candidate of their choice in an unjustified favorable light! Buzz

  15. Buzz

    Is it not equally unfair for folks to rake HRC over the coals because of Bill? I mean come on, she’s not Bill. She has a Senate record that is very progressive and she’s come a long way during this campaign. She’s her own person. Women should never be equated to their husbands to be a person.

  16. Darell

    Clinton has said many times she feels the caucus process is an unfair way to “vote.” I think if the teachers assocation had endorsed her there would be more room for question, but they didn’t. There’s some ugly stuff going down in Nevada. The ad against Clinton from the branch of the Culinary workers was none too pretty. Can’t wait until this is over frankly. The whole damn mess. I may need to go back to pulling the covers over my head.

  17. I would never equate a woman to her husband. Hillary is articulate, experienced, and intelligent!! If she is the Democratic nominee, I will do all that I can to get her elected. I was in no way implying that she was a clone of Bill’s.
    What I was pointing out is that the Clinton’s will bring lot’s of baggage with them to the White House. Don’t doubt that the Repblicans see her as very vulnerable. They will be ready to trot out” Paula Jones, Vince Foster, her failed attempt to overhall medical care, the impeachment proceedings, Ken Star, the Arkansas land dealings etc. etc. I don’t hold either Bill or Hillary in ill repute for any of these but we will likely be revisiting them all. American’s thus have to remeber that the GOP will replay this political soap opera to the max. I say this fully realizing that Obama will also carry the baggage of being black and having a relative lack of experience when compared to Hillary.
    Although Hillary is a strong independent woman, I think anyone would be totally naive to think an ex-President, who just happens to be her husband, will not have some influence over her executive decisions. Some have gone as far to say that he would be almost a quasi-president. Back when Bill was running in 1992, one of his campaign motto’s was with US you, “get two for the price of one.” You sure don’t hear Hillary expounding this sentiment in 2008. Most of the electorate, however, is smart enough to realize that, to some extent, we will have another dual presidency.
    As for myself, I don’t view this as bad because they are both excellent leaders. However, our main goal must be do get the most electable person as our nominee. As for myself, I just feel that Obama is more electable. You can rest assured, Pamela, that I will fully support whoever the democratic nominee happens to be. The GOP is running a bunch of clowns!! My response is not meant to be a rebuff of you being a Hillary supporter. We just desperately need to win! Happy New Year Pamela!!! Buzz

  18. Buzz

    I don’t know that anything that they throw at her will stick at this point. Time will tell. In the meantime, we do need to win this one. Absolutely! You’re the best!

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