January 18th, 2008
04:01 PM ET
10 years ago

Obama criticized for Reagan reference

President Reagan is causing a debate in the Democratic presidential race. (Photo Credit: Getty Images/AFP)

(CNN) - Republican presidential candidates often battle to outdo each other on who can invoke Ronald Reagan most often - but the former president's name is not nearly as welcome on the Democratic side.

Campaigning in union-heavy Nevada Thursday, John Edwards took direct aim at Barack Obama for "using Ronald Reagan as an example of change," and said he himself would never praise the Republican icon that way.

“He was openly - openly - intolerant of unions and the right to organize. He openly fought against the union and the organized labor movement in this country," Edwards said during a campaign event in Henderson, Nevada. "He openly did extraordinary damage to the middle class and working people, created a tax structure that favored the very wealthiest Americans and caused the middle class and working people to struggle every single day. The destruction of the environment, you know, eliminating regulation of companies that were polluting and doing extraordinary damage to the environment.”

“I can promise you this: this president will never use Ronald Reagan as an example for change," he added.

Obama told the editorial board of the Reno-Journal Gazette Monday he didn't view himself as the transformative figure Ronald Reagan was.

"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," Obama said. "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."

Obama's campaign has said the Illinois senator disagrees with much of what Reagan did, and he was merely pointing out that the former president changed the political landscape.

Edwards' comments come as he battles to win support from union members in Nevada who will heavily influence the Democratic caucuses this Saturday. Recent polls suggest all three Democrats are in a tight race there.

While Reagan had a rocky relationship at best with the major unions during his presidency, he once actually led a union himself. The onetime actor was the president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1947-52 and again in 1959.

- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John Edwards • Nevada
soundoff (654 Responses)
  1. BoricuaSport

    By reading all of this non-sense of opinionated gigs, no wonder this country is spiralling out of control. You people don't want change, you just want to keep getting screwed by our government officials. You are not ready for a change. Obama is too big of a change for this nation. I fear that if he gets elected, he would not last, before a white supremacist or our own goverments kills him. Just like Lincoln, like Kennedy, like Reagan (who survived), this nation is not ready for someone with Obama's caliber to bring down the few riches that exploit this nation in favor of the majority of us blue collar workers that really make this nation tick.

    Do you think is about being Democrat or Republican? It is about having a leader to work for the people of this nation. The party is not important, you Gumbos!
    If Hillary gets elected, who do think will be calling the shots in the White House. Oh whatever you say Dear Billy!!!
    You all make me sick with your commentary.

    January 18, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  2. Yamaka

    Obama is admiring Reagan, the Supply-Sider. This means Borrow and Spend – He is principally responsible for the nearly 10 trillion dollar Debt. He gave massively to the corporate welfare and welfare for the wealthy and spent on star war projects, so much so the Debt shot up astronomically.

    Reagan had broken the Bollen Amendment Law – he got involved in the Iran Contra Debacle; but for the timely death of Bill Casey, his CIA Chief, Reagan would have been impeached and convicted for Iran Contra money laundering crime to help the Contras against the Sandanistas in Nicaragua.

    Obama just talks the talk, but because he does NOT have the right judgment, intuition and experience he cannot walk the talk. His words are empty. Talk is cheap.

    We need a person who can Deliver the Change that we need.

    Vote Hillary to WH for the Better America.

    Obama/Ed are NOT Electable.

    Economy and Electability, Stupid.

    January 18, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  3. Molly

    I'm going to try again, as my original post made at 1:25 p.m. was not posted.

    Obama is courting the "Reagan Republicans" with this statement. It's a shrewd move designed to represent Obama to be all things to all people wthout actually saying anything.

    To paraphrase Shakespeare, Obama's campaign is “is a tale … full of sound and fury; signifying nothing.” He is an empty suit who will put a sheen of "hope" on the policies that his financial backers proffer.

    Edwards has the spine to be the voice crying in the wilderness. He is the lone candidate who is not beholden to anyone else except the American people. He has my financial support and my vote.

    To offer Reagan as a figure who changed the political landscape is a slippery way to imply that the trajectory subsequent to his adminstration was a good one. Does anyone else remember that the '80s were the "Me Generation?" It was a decade that brought us Wall Street and Gecko's "Greed is Good" credo. Look where greed has brought us: a nation pitted against itself and hell-bent on voting against its best interests. Pogo was right.

    As a combo deal, I'll include a distillation of my second post: "sea change" is a term which originated with Shakespeare's "The Tempest" and has been used to indicate a change in the dynamic/current/discourse.

    January 18, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  4. Jace

    Wake Up people...Politics is a game, and Obama DOES NOT know the rules! Which means he will get nothing done if elected...even Reagan knew that. We don't have a few years for him to learn on the job.

    Hillary '08
    Obama '16

    January 18, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  5. Chinnu

    Obama is PRAISING REAGAN from CALIFORNIA.......HIS NEXT RUN after Nevada.

    It is for the VOTES.

    January 18, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  6. Michael L. Cliff

    President Ronald Reagan was admired by many. Whether you diagreed with his policies their was one thing for certain, he brought the word PRIDE back to our country. That's something our current politicians just don't get. If we really want to change the landscape of Washington, the public needs to vote out those "career politicians", they have been in there way too long. When our forefathers established this constitition of the greatest land on the planet, I'm sure they didn't invision politicians making their lively hoods as a career politician. VOTE THEM OUT!!!!

    January 18, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    Ron Paul for President!

    January 18, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  8. Yamaka

    "The fact is, regardless of what he (Reagan) actually did, the vast majority of Americans loved Ronald Reagan"

    Not True. Only Republicans loved R R.

    Most Independents (like me) and most Dems hated him for what he did to the PATCO members, Iran-Contra scandal, our humongous Debt situation as a Borrow and Spend supply sider etc.

    Obama as well change the Party and become a Republican, for a Change he wants!

    Shame on you Barack Hussein Obama! You will NOT get the nomination of the Democrats.

    Real heroes are FDR and Bill Clinton.

    January 18, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  9. john

    As for Obama, I do think he has that special quality that excites an electorate like Kennedy and Reagan did. I think the Clintons are damaged goods and people will not give them another chance. I think Obama would atleast get a fair chance by the american people. With the Clintons they are one scandal away from making american voters look like fools. They pardoned Rich, a fugitive from justice. I can't believe the american people would let them have another chance to pull that stunt again. You can bet the republicans mention that a lot in the general elections. I'm shocked that Obama and Edwards has not brought that subject up in the debate. Since Hillary is claiming her husbsnds political career as her experience, Her and her husbands scandals are now fair game.

    January 18, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  10. Troy

    Edwards is so desperate for some attention and votes he should drop out of the race and stop wasting money. Like Slick Willie and Slick Hillary Edawrds is a huckster.

    January 18, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  11. :( Billy

    Bill Clinto a hero?


    January 18, 2008 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  12. charlotte

    I'll bet this gets as many hits as Hillarys' MLK's blog got. What ya think?

    January 18, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  13. ross

    hiya guys , i am from birmingham UK and following all of the election. i love the usa and american people. Over here Hillary Clinton is well liked and seen as an advocate for the people. with a failing US economy and basically a loss of world respect America isnt the nation it was in the 90's. Hillary along with Bill are the only people who can restore America to its former glory. With all the race debate goin on fueled by the media, its tearing apart the democrats and making life easier for the republicans. Clinton is a strong leader in Blacl / hispanic and asian people being treated equal to whites and having the same oppurtunites.
    As good as Obama may appear he lacks knowledge of the system and really has no ideas for health care, often in his debates all he repeats is the word "change" and never backs it up with his plans.

    my only concern if obama was to be nominated is that he wouldnt get in over a republican , mainly because AMerica is viewed by the world as a racist country still.May be in 5 or 10 years obama would be matured enough to take the presidency.

    January 18, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  14. IM Canadian

    Edwards has now exposed his acceptance of being – out – so wishes to crank up his upcoming "spoiler" status so he can keep playing longer, garner attention, and push the two front-runners into a competition for his endorsement. I mean, get serious, Edwards... that Reagan was a Republican should be meaningless. That Reagan was a wanker just as much as he was an effective agent of change is obvious. Praising his high-points does not imply anything more than simply – that.

    January 18, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  15. Kathy Sammons

    Obama lately reminds me of something I read in a book about Beagles: they love the sound of their own voices.

    (does that make me a doggist?)

    This Reagan thing alongside his "democrat for a day" campaigns makes me think that the democratic party is being highjacked.

    January 18, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  16. Peter

    It is hard to like the Clintons after trying to intimidate voters. I am ashamed someone would do something like this.
    I am now supporting sen. Obama!

    January 18, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  17. Mike T

    Ronald Reagan was a GREAT man. I know that history will show Ronald Reagan among the greatest presidents of the 20th century. Anybody who is comparing themselves to him has some B-I-G shoes to fill. Good Luck.

    January 18, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  18. HeatherH

    Molly above – I am having the same problem with one of my posts. Interesting that they only post strident tirades.

    January 18, 2008 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  19. Chris

    And, while Reagan was President of the Screen Actors Guild, he was an informant for the F.B.I. He and his then-wife, Jane Wyman, were special agents who secretly sent his fellows' names to J.Edgar Hoover when their politics didn't suit him.

    January 18, 2008 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  20. Paul, Tampa, FL

    I certainly don't support JE, but he's absolutely correct about President Bonzo. I am continually baffled when people heap praise on Reagan. What's next Obama, praise for GW and his economic policies?

    January 18, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  21. AJ, IL

    Obama Rocks!

    January 18, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |

    Obama wants the unions to back him...but I wonder if he actually knows what Reagan thought about unions and how he tried to do away with them....and Reagan used to be a democrat in charge of a big UNION!!!....Obama will not get the union vote in Nevada tomorrow.....especially the union members that won't caucus at work fearing the union bosses will not let them vote the way their hearts are telling them to vote..................I predict that Obama will not win the Nevada Caucus....

    January 18, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  23. Ren

    Reagan may have created change, but the "change" he created hurt the middle, working, and lower class. Even though Obama is correct about the fact that Reagan created change, I wouldn't want to use a leader that created negative change in my argument to get people behind me if I'm talking about creating change. Not a smart comparison to link to Obama. I wonder who advised him on this one... that person needs to be fired from the campaign.

    January 18, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  24. Mike T

    "Does Edwards realize that the majority of Americans are sick of unions gouging this country?? "

    Uh, as a currently underemployed computer professional, I can say with certainty that if the IT industry had a union, we wouldn't have seen our industry go to crap from outsourcing and H-1. A real union would never have allowed any of that. But since IT professionals would rather fight amongst themselves than organize, we've lost millions of jobs and will continue to lose millions more.

    Unions have a place, there was a reason they were formed in the first place. Give up your unions, and you can join the unemployment line when your company replaces you with an illegal immigrant of a foreign visa worker.

    January 18, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  25. charlotte

    I'm with you Molly, do comments that are forever in moderation just get bypassed or what? I think that is why we sometimes see the same comments twice. Mine is in limbo also.

    January 18, 2008 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
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