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What Obama Actually Said About Reagan to George Stephanopoulos today

vastleft's picture

Obama "explains" his Reagan quote (video) by — wait for it — ratifying Republican framing:

He leads off:

Well, I think that, keep in mind Ronald Reagan came in during the 1980s, at a time when, I think, Democrats still dominated Congress, when the view was that we were going to solve our problems, oftentimes, by expanding government programs, and he challenged many of those ideas.

He proceeds to criticize Reagan's policies and then says:

When Bill Clinton said "the era of small government is over," he was echoing some of the shifts that had taken place.

Let's assume that Obama merely misspoke and meant to say "big government," which is the correct quote. It would be unthinkable that someone besides the Clintons would indulge in skullduggery. So, seriously, let's give him a pass on misquoting the Big Dog into a perfect rightwing talking point.

Let's focus, instead, on how Obama might have framed Reaganism:

  • "Ronald Reagan ran on a platform of thinly veiled racism."
  • "Ronald Reagan ushered in an era that demonized the poor and venerated jingoistic, authoritarian power."
  • "Ronald Reagan created the illusion of small government, while actually replacing services for the neediest with 'welfare' for the wealthiest and best-connected."
  • "Ronald Reagan represented a disastrous 'triumph' of image over substance."
  • "Ronald Reagan brought or returned to power the corrupt, incompetent cronies whose fingerprints are all over our shredded Constitution."
  • "Ronald Reagan ran on a campaign of national security and then proceeded to illegally sell arms to our sworn enemy."

None of those, or zillions of other possible variations, would do. Because they wouldn't put the blame for our country's problems on the likes of Jimmy Carter, where they belong.

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Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Makes me want to smack something. I've been trying to stay out of that Barak-Hillary fight, because I'm an Edwards man, anyway. But, I am starting to think he believes this stuff. Any Dem in the General, but, this is really, really depressing.

leah's picture
Submitted by leah on

I assume that is an example of your Noel Cowardian touch, i.e., its an irony...just checking


Know exactly what you mean; listening to MSNBC and its perfect storm of Clinton-hating panel, Joe Scarborough, Margaret Carlson, Pat Roberston...even Olberman got into the act, critiquing Hillary's refusal to talk at length about her defeat, as if this was some example of shameless spin, instead of merely moving on. God, it's not as if this was some kind of final election for office that she lost, it was the next of a series of primaries, why should she talk at length about it? Margaret Carlson opined that Hillary's leaving for another state where she was having a town meeting rally was typical of the Clintons refusal to accept that rules apply to them, i.e., she should have congratulated Obama. Well, turns out she did make that ritual phone call, and in her opening remarks at the town meeting she congratulated Obama, but this actual evidence that what had been said was simply wrong, they cut away from Hillary so everyone could point out how little she'd said about the defeat. Did Obama say anything more when he was defeated in New Hamphsire, I mean about the fact that he'd been defeated?

Maybe Obama figures that Reagan was so long ago praise for him won't come back to haunt him when he attempts to put in place genuinely progressive policies. I agree with Krugman, as long as the fantasy narrative of Reagan's presidency remains unchallenged, it will act as club to be used to beat all liberal/progressive ideas over their pointy eggy heads.

Anna Granfors's picture
Submitted by Anna Granfors on

"And one more thing- I am up to here with the faux outrage. I spent the last five years dealing with Republicans outraged by every little damned thing- “ZOMG people put an ad in the NY Times questioning Petraeus! TRAITORS!” That is the same sort of bullshit I see coming from the Obama camp- “OMG, Bill Clinton said he was a kid! What a racist!”

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

I agree with Krugman, as long as the fantasy narrative of Reagan’s presidency remains unchallenged, it will act as club to be used to beat all liberal/progressive ideas over their pointy eggy heads.

So use it to beat the Republicans' over the head with. Turn their own fantasy against them. Romney is on TV doing the Reagan worship thing now. Ronald Reagan this... Ronald Reagan that... on and on (Mitt Ronney!). So, now is a good opportunity for everyone to take that Ronald Reagan mythology machine apart piece by piece; with a hammer; and bury the Republicans in the rusty broken parts. The Obama people wanted to drag that old thing out of the back of the tool shed... the least the rest of us can do is crush whats left of it and haul it off to the junk pile once and for all.


Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Well said.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

He "explained" his remark that the GOP was the "party of ideas" in the last 10-15 years that had challenged "conventional wisdom" by honestly stating CW was actually good and, thus, the ideas were bad. Right, "conventional wisdom" is not a pejorative.

And he again purposely confused his two statements: 1. GOP party of ideas the last 10-15 years; 2. Reagan was transformational. When asked about 1 (Which ideas were good?) he discussed 2. He totally dodged it.

Whatever. The false "race" narrative is killing Clinton. The corporate press is still peddling the myth that they inserted race into the campaign (overwhelmingly baseless) and refuse to apply any scrutiny to Obama's actual baiting since NH. And people believe it. At this rate, Obama could kill an old lady tomorrow and people will say, "Aw, he put her out of her misery," before breaking into chants of "O-bam-a! O-bam-a!"

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

I thought of Obama's position more as a statement about the American people than about Reagan per se.
DEMs had a solidly corrupt congress in place for a long, long time when the GOP brought Reagan's oratory skills into play. The America Joe was taken in by the promises made (not kept, as we know). Clinton would not have been able to break that lock without the help of the third party candidate. By and large, the reason Clinton took the left to the center was that it was the only way to win.
The 80's were good to a lot of people. And the Republican's dream greed machine kept promising just enough to keep the unwary in a rosy haze Meanwhile, they borrowed the capital that kept the pain at a distance - just as they are doing today.
Obama was correct. He never said that the ideas were good.
I agree that he worked around question one but wasn't that something that Bill had been saying all week even though Hillary didn't say it during the debate?
I think that DEM candidates can bring the American Jane's head up out of the sand by talking about exactly where their faith in GOPer talking points has gotten them. Spell it the fuck out.
Hillary should embrace this discussion and denote how she intends to be a different leader than Bill.
He owns NAFTA and China/India's rise which have hurt the American middle class.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Farmer: Bingo! The importance of that myth cannot be overstated. IMO, if it is allowed to persist, they will just keep coming back again.

A good analogy is one of those big briar patches that grows from a single cluster of roots until it fills a whole field and sucks up all the light and water and nutrients so nothing else can grow. If you try and get rid of it by just chopping off the branches, they come right back, like they're on a schedule or something. Once you get those branches gone, you better get to the root ball and pull it up and burn it. The Reagan myth is the root of the conservative movement culture and philosophy, or at least the biggest part of it. I guess Goldwater might be considered the seed.

(btw, Did you know that the words radical and radish are both derived from the same Latin word? I think that's kind of interesting.)

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on


I agreed with you about the "race" narrative kinning the Clintons being false up until the night of the primary, when Bill crossed a line and compared Obama to Jesse Jackson, which was a totally false note Bill Clinton himself needlessly injected into the campaign. It made the false media focus on race, finally, and unfortunately, true.

We'd better not hear that false note again or the general election can be kissed goodbye, as I don't think anyone contemplates any Democrat winning WITHOUT the black vote.

We'll see how this plays out, but I'm leaning toward thinking that Obama may win this thing, no matter what I think about it. Bill Clinton is clearly no longer helping his own cause. I agreed with many of his comments on the contest until this one.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

I said the charges were "overwhelmingly baseless," which allow a charge to possibly be true. Also, I said there was a gross double standard. Below are a just a few examples of how Obama has exploited his Media Darling status to purposely inject race into the campaign to smear the Clintons (Mind you, after NH the corporate press was desperate for any cover for their reflexive Clinton bashing and misogyny after being backhanded by NH voters). If Obama had been hurt by race, he never would've allowed the following to occur:

*The day after the New Hampshire primaries, Obama had his national co-chair, Jesse Jackson, Jr., go on national TV to proclaim that Clinton didn't care about Katrina survivors (overwhelmingly black), only her "appearance" after that now-infamous emotional moment on TV. Obama never fired Jackson nor apologized.

*Immediately after Sen. Clinton's benign remarks about MLK, LBJ (She had been specifically asked about MLK about "false hope"), Obama spokesperson, Bill Burton, chose to fuel, rather than defuse, racial tension by stating, "People were offended at her words, and she can explain them however she'd like," in spite of knowing full well that the controversy was baseless. Obama himself also chose not to defuse the racial tension, in contrast to how he responded to Biden.

*Here's Bill Moyers' excellent essay on the MLK/LBJ matter:

*A few days later supporter Michael Eric Dyson said any criticism of Obama was "racial in subtext" and that, despite evidence to the contrary that there wasn't even a Bradley Effect, he said Clinton voters were likely racist. Again, no apology from Obama.

*The Obama camp made a South Carolina primary memo of absolutely baseless charges of "racism" to smear the Clintons with (the article effectively debunks the overwhelming list of charges):

*Obama refused to denounce a race baiting ad in Spanish by one of his supporters, UNITE-HERE which accused Clinton of not respecting Latinos ("nuestra gente" does not simply mean any generic group of people, but specifically refers to Latinos). This was after the supposed "truce."

*Obama supporter, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, once again falsely injected racism into Bill Clinton's "fairy tale" remark, using it to attack him at a church ceremony for MLK with him in the audience. No apology from Obama.

*Just days ago Dick Harpootlian, former Democratic chair for South Carolina (a white man), smeared Bill Clinton by accusing him of being like Lee Atwater. This is the full video that puts into context Clinton's remarks, "Shame on you."

Clinton fired and directly apologized for Shaheen (To be fair, what he said was absolutely true but foolish to say publicly unless they purposely wanted to bait the Obama camp). Clinton fired a staffer and even volunteers for passing on e-smears of Obama. Bob Kerrey apologized for praising Obama on the same terms that numerous op-eds do (see: Andrew Sullivan). Bob Johnson, the most inexcusable, apologized but, again, to think the Clintons encouraged him to say such a thing when the last thing they needed was more race talk is crazy.

She's held personally responsible for even volunteers and false charges manufactured by the press while Obama actually injects ugly racism with impunity.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

I think Bill should step up and say that his Jesse Jackson line was poor sportsmanship, which it was, and that it was an especially unfortunate statement to make coming after all the unfair mischaracterization of his and Hillary's statements and beliefs about race.

A lot of people in the media have had their jollies injecting false narratives about the important and sensitive topic of race into perhaps the most important election in America's history, distracting from the issues that all the Democrat candidates are dedicated to working on. The 2006 election shows that the American people are ready to move past the failed policies of the Bush administration, policies that have been extraordinarily hard on the poor and minorities, and I am proud to be supporting a candidate who is dedicating to taking the country in a new and better direction.

Y'know, something like that.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

My first election as a voter was in 2000. I was 19. I worked on the Gore campaign. The rabid, ruthless anti-Gore press floored me. I never forgot how Bill Bradley exploited it, most viciously with the Willie Horton smear. The constant smearing created a permanent narrative in the GE: Gore was a compulsive liar, willing to do anything to win, mean-spirited, etc.

This is one of many reasons why this race scandal upsets me so damn much. Now more than ever, people need to see the candidates clearly. Yes, I'm voting for Clinton (by default; ugh), but Obama is honestly a bad candidate (e.g., notable pattern: dividing the left); how he'll handle the crises in store for him at every level as president is beyond me.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Not to mention the Black vs Gay conflict he created not so long ago by going on stage with a very famous black homophobe.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Yes, the Jesse Jackson comment was wrong. Also wrong: HRC not immediately disavowing it. Why they haven't got ahead of this is odd.

Goddamn, I've posted too much. I'm out.