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. jack ny, ny

    Nalla- just for record I can't stand Obama.

    More people HATE Hillary than those who like her

    No one hates Obama and those who support him, love him, admire and adore him for what he is.

    He is truly inspirational to the masses and will get more done and will use the collective experience of the millions, instead of the slick willie and his old cronies.

    Go figure, Go Obama

    January 18, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  2. Mike

    Edwards = Hope; a worthy president with emotion and devotion.

    Clinton = Corruption; easy, she and Bill had their chance.
    Obama = Poser; talk the talk, but lacks the walk.

    January 18, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  3. Will

    Whoever wrote that Reagan's changes were the largest this country has ever made, thanks for that. It's been a long day and I needed a good laugh.

    Yes, St. Ronnie's giveaways to the rich, quadrupling of the debt, and legwork for the intolerant Christian Taliban could and should be looked at on par with the changes wrought by men like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, et al. Wait, not "on par" with them! Superior to them!

    And can I ask all you folks who don't want somebody so "partisan" in office, who like Obama because he's all compromise and ponies: what's the compromise position on torture? Habeas corpus? Rendition? Warrantless wiretapping? The deplorable treatment of active duty and veteran armed forces personnel? Outing an undercover CIA agent? Politicizing the DOJ? War crimes? How is Obama planning to undo the damage that the current criminal cabal in power has wrought on this country when his firmest stance is that we should all get together and sing "Kumbaya" around a giant campfire?

    January 18, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  4. Jennie

    It is profoundly sad and outragious to watch how the media especially CNN is creating a MEGA PHENOMENON out of Barack HUSEIN Osama who claimed to have learned his "FOREIGN EXPERTISM" in an islamic school at the age of
    5 – 10 years in INDONESIA, a country with the largest muslim population including terrorists. Does anyone try to find out what he learned there and what kind of impact it will have, if at all the worst nigtmare becomes real and he happens to be the next tenant of the famous WHITE HOUSE? Why in the world CNN allows the senile anti woman CAFFERTY to consume a good part of time in Situation Room with his disgusting CRAP and pathetic praise about Husein Obama? Consequently, you have lost substantial number of viewers in your neighboring Canada.
    We watch the developments alarmingly, because a brainless W.B became the darling of the media in 2000 and got elected that led to creation of a breeding ground for terrorists in Iraq and the whole world is suffering.

    January 18, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  5. Bryce

    Nalla –
    Please come back to earth. We all want the chance to say "Hi!"

    January 18, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  6. PS, KC, MO

    You know what this campaign has done? It has soured me on all 3 candidates. All the attacks and back-biting – I'm tired of it.
    I agree Obama's comments were taken out of context, but I think Hillary's were as well. I like Edwards' crusade for the middle class but he, too, has taken a swipe or two when expedient. In this particular case, I think it's a matter of making political hay and I'm willing to allow that he may not have heard the full context of Obama's comments.
    I do agree with Edwards that Reagan is NOT a good example for our next president to follow when it comes to economics, unions, big business, ecology, deal-making with corrupt governments or a number of other issues.

    January 18, 2008 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  7. ross

    Hillary for president. vision , style , experience , objectives , and a no nonsense attitude the epithets of a true leader

    January 18, 2008 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  8. Rachel

    What bothers me most about Obama's statement was NOT his remarks about Reagan, but his remarks about Bill Clinton. If any president in the past 50 years put our country on a positive "projectory," it was Bill Clinton, who built our economy, upheld civil rights, and improved our status in the world. I feel that Obama has no respect for Clinton's legacy. It was a careless and insulting comment.

    January 18, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  9. Jaaacque

    I still visualise Hillary smokin Bills cigar as he likes her to.

    Its a no brainer OBAMA OBAMA OBAMA!

    To the "awakened" its OBAMA to the "sleepers" its whoever!

    January 18, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  10. Dennis

    I'm not an Obama supporter. I will vote for Hillary. But I'm willing to cut him some slack on this, because I think he's trying to make a point - however muddled - about what tactics bring people together to make change. Barack strikes me as an extemely intelligent and visionary man, but the fact that he flubs this point and has not distinguished himself in the debates suggests that he's not quite seasoned for leadership. Still, I hope that if Hillary gets the nomination, she will run with him. They complement each other in tremendous ways. And with the influence of vice presidents growing with each administration, Barack could make extraordinary contributions in that role.

    January 18, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  11. Tom Davie


    ALL HAIL OBAMA. CNN wont ALLOW anything else.

    January 18, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  12. vince, Phoenix AZ

    I don't know if there is a blindfolded person throwing darts at a board as to which comments to allow on here. But those with rampant, rambling, diatribes outnumber thoughtful, rational posts.

    January 18, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  13. ross

    you guys in the USA never had it any better than when a Clinton was running the show so to speak. a booming economy , world respect , civil rights that were working and got results. an american that was united!!!

    January 18, 2008 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  14. Geny

    As the months go by, I keep analyzing all the candidates and I keep asking myself how ANYONE in their right MIND can still support Hillary Clinton?
    I mean are you people BLIND? or do you just not want to see the truth?
    Don't you see her little game, this is what she always wanted, this is the only reason why she forgave Bill for cheating on her numerous times, it was because she's always been POWERHUNGRY. I mean come on people do your reasearch, her HEALTH care plan is to make it mandatory for every American to buy health insurance with only a SMALL percentage of discount! Trust me she cares more about money than about the American people.
    I will NOT risk my son's life, or any other American's life in her hands!
    That is why I am NOT voting for Hillary Clinton!


    January 18, 2008 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  15. Joann

    OK... all of you Obama supporters, followers, whatever you want to call yourselves. PLEASE post here what he has said that will help this country other then the same thing, "I will change." Give me some facts, let me know how you are going to change this country. Sorry I will NEVER support this man until I see what is plans are. He may be a good speaker, but I see him speaking in circles, the same thing over and over. It amazes me how wrapped up people can get by a snownball effect of media attention. I have listened to him speak, lord how could I not with all of his media coverage. Sorry all but I have to agree to disagree on why Obama is liked so much. I have heard nothing to sway my thinking, and to be honest there is something just not right and bothersom to me about Obama, however at this point I can't put my finger on it, but in time I am sure it will come to light.

    January 18, 2008 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  16. Steph

    I think Obama lives in la-la land, and his supporters are too self-righteous. Its annoying. I can't believe he stands around and compares himself to people like JFK and MLK.

    A man is a man is a man...however, a WOMAN may shake things up.

    January 18, 2008 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  17. John G, New York, NY

    Heck....if Obama can reach across the aisle like Reagan could and create a fan base in the other party (Reagan Democrats), more power to him!

    "Obama Republicans" – I like the ring to that!

    January 18, 2008 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  18. hank

    Obama is really trying to have it both ways. Let's not forget what a corrupt administration Reagan headed. Iran-contra just to name one. His worst crime is that he delivered Washington DC into the hands of the American Taliban. If his vision is seen to its fruition, the argument over a national language will be moot, because we will all be speaking in "tongues" !

    Let's face it. Edwards is the only candidate with half a chance in a general election.

    Now, go back to your televisions! Wonder who will lose the most weight this week? Can't wait to see who they vote off next! Blaaaggghhh!

    January 18, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  19. Ana

    All presidents, for better or worse, change the political landscape.

    If you don´t agree with Reagan, why use him as an example?

    You can use Hitler, he also changed the political environment.

    January 18, 2008 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  20. Kate from Il

    A democrat running on a platform for change and the promise of improving life for blacks, Hispanics, the poor and middle class who likens himself to the uniter Ronald Reagen, is scaring me. I was undecided, but quickly leaning towards Clinton. Ronald Reagan supported the rich and stomped on the poor. He did nothing for the future of women, poor and minorities. Why do you think the majority of his support comes from wealthy Americans?

    Wake up America. Obama is speaking out of both dises of his mouth.

    January 18, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |


    January 18, 2008 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  22. Truethis

    All Obama is saying back in the Reagan era the country was ready for change and alot of Democrates voted for Reagan in the 1980s which this country is ready for change now. He's telling the truth even the news commentaries are saying the same.

    January 18, 2008 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  23. Captain America

    I'm starting to wonder about CNN. First CNN plays up the incident involving Bill Clinton being confronted by a reporter regarding a lawsuit in Nevada by the Teachers union against caucuses in Nevada casino's saying it gives members of the Culinary Workers Union, which has endorsed Obama, an unfair advantage. Then we have this story by a CNN poll on the politics page that says Poll: Majority of black Democrats support Obama. and underneath * Clintons play good cop/bad cop on trail, which is about the same incident I mention above. A few more CNN topics on the politics page, Obama takes the gloves off...
    Watch Obama talk tough, and try comedy in Las Vegas. (CNN) – Democrat Barack Obama launched sharp...
    * Clinton frets over possible union pressure in... ( which is about the same incident I mentioned above)
    * Michelle Obama flubs 'Nevada' pronunciation (lol a fluff piece)

    Then I go to a John Edwards story:
    "John Edwards said Friday that Barack Obama needs to “speak up, if he really means what he says” about ending divisive politics and denounce a Nevada ad funded by an independent group that supports the Illinois senator’s presidential bid. The spot, running on Spanish-language radio in the state, criticizes Hillary Clinton for a lawsuit filed by some of her Nevada supporters that had sought new restrictions workplace caucus sites this Saturday. The buy is funded by the Unite Here Campaign Committee on behalf of the Culinary Workers Union, which has endorsed Obama." –Edwards hits Obama on independent ads Posted: 12:39 PM ET

    But this isn't mentioned anywhere else. CNN seems to be posting everything that the Clinton camp does with a negative slant, and Obama is always shown in a positive light.

    Majority of black Democrats support Obama.
    Clintons play good cop/bad cop on trail,
    Obama takes the gloves off...
    Watch Obama talk tough,
    Democrat Barack Obama launched sharp...
    Clinton frets over possible union pressure in...

    Very interesting....

    January 18, 2008 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  24. john

    Here we go!

    This has been what we have been waiting for!

    We all know Obama is the most honest candidate. When he speaks the truth forcefully, the hogwash and calculated political rhetoric of the sinking ship that is the USSClinton, doesn’t stand a chance

    January 18, 2008 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  25. Glyn

    Ross, your so misguided.

    America looks for character in a president, not clintonesque deception. Countries hated america when he was president too. Just remember the song. Its easy as ABC (Anyone But Clinton)

    And guess what America still rocks.

    Presidents in list of Character and Vision. Lets hope our next president (again, anyone but Clinton) can get to at least the Bush Leagues (pun very much intended)

    Bush (43)
    Bush (41)

    January 18, 2008 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
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