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. AtlantaVoter

    The comment I posted @ 3:24PM is still awaiting moderation after 8 hours! What's up? Should I have not ended with "Hillary Clinton '08!!" ??

    C'mon CNN - your viewers and readers deserve better.

    January 18, 2008 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  2. HeatherH

    Interesting! I made a post (twice) pointing out that Reagan was a union president and pro-union. My first post at around 3PM was never posted. I just reread the article, and the last sentence now mentions Reagan's union ties, and the date stamp on the article is after my original post. CNN is staffed by lazy reporters who get their facts from posters. I never knew!

    January 18, 2008 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  3. Tom, Boston MA

    shane of down under writes:

    "I do have some questions about Obama is he going to end this kiss ass thing you guys do with the saudi's, Isreal and the like ? Is he going to end this support of nation like Pakastain ? Will he take America back to suporting real Democratic nations ? Will he end the death penalty which Australia NZ and all of the EU find absoultey deplorable ? I want to know if he think a President ever the right to lie to the American people ?"

    good questions. we've been asking same and other questions all along. you know what? we are as clueless as you are when it comes to what Obama's answers are to important questions. but he's charming, for sure.

    January 19, 2008 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  4. Ann

    Obama is a team player, others say they are bipartisan, but Obama is bipartisan.

    January 19, 2008 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  5. ees

    Mr. Obama is now praising President Reagan. Slick...slick...slick. Looks like this is another one of his tactic to garner the support and votes of those Republicans who are undecided about their candidates and Mr. Obama can then say that he can bring people together! I agree with whoever said that Obama is like a chameleon. That he wears the mask of another person inorder to define himself. So it seems hard to figure out who is he really? Is he being honest about himself to the voters? Many still question his faith before he said he became a christian 15 years ago. What was he before then? Somehow he evades this question when asked. Can we really trust him? It's Hillary for '08....all the way.

    January 19, 2008 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  6. Azar

    Obama simply stated what has been recorded in our history.

    I was never a Ronald Reagan fan and nor did I support his policies, but he drastically changed the direction of America and was instrumental in the downfall of the Soviet Union. In fact, I was a strong supporter of Bill Clinton and voted for him twice.

    Now, if one really looks at Bill Clinton's record, one will notice that it was during his administration, that the Democratic Party lost the majority in the Senate and the Congress. Further, Clinton encouraged outsourcing of American jobs overseas, globalization policy, and Nafta. Also, the division between Clinton administration and the Republicans grew wider.

    Finally, Bill Clinton unlike Ronald Reagan, dishonored the office of the Presidency of the United States. These are the facts and one cannot erase them from the pages of our history.

    By the way, many of my Democratic friends and business associates voted for Ronald Reagan twice. They still have high opinion of him.

    January 19, 2008 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  7. montez

    Yes if Obama wants to be like Regan I feel sorry for our vetrans because Regan voted and pass bill that stopped a veterans wife from drawing a check unless it was service connected. My day was a vet. and drawing a check when he passed away. When I took my mother to VA in Mphs.TN to have it changed over to her she was told she couldn't draw the check and to thank Regan for that. Way to go Obama . and we really need a muslim to run this country one that wouldn't put his hand over his heart they said he only done it on time well one time is all it takes.Only in America can we have a X drug dealer ( Bush) and now we have a muslim running for prez.

    January 19, 2008 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  8. Kathleen McCook

    Grover Norquist would be proud of Senator Obama, but no good union member could stand Reagan. Obama needs a history lesson.. Getting on the Reagan bandwagon shows Obama's disregard for working people.

    January 19, 2008 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  9. Jen Cedar Falls, IA

    I agree with Obama, a good man:

    Just look at how exciting it is for us to see Obama being so successful against the machine of Hillary and Bill Clinton!

    I am Republican, too. I'm amazed at this man Obama and how he stands strong, convicting, firm, unapologetic and undaunted by the ever powerful and now angry finger-pointing Clintons.

    All I can say is WOW! That takes character, Integrity and passion for his mission to unite this country. That, my friends is a leader who can unite!

    Romney/Obama'08 for the USA!

    January 19, 2008 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  10. Just me

    I have been reading blog posts since the Iowa caucuses and I must say, I am continually amazed by the ignorance of the American people. They hear one word, or read one word – stop – and post their message. They don't think, the don't process – they just post.

    For a brief moment after 9/11 America was united. Did you feel it then? We would have done anything for our country that had been attacked and wounded. Bush had the most golden opportunity laid out at his feet and what did he do? He told us to go to the mall.

    When the 2008 campaigns began, I was excited to have such a strong field of Democrats from which to choose. I watched, I listened, I read. I went to events to hear the candidates speak. At that point I could have chosen among the three who are now the top contenders. And then a funny thing happened. Mr. Barack Obama struck a chord with me, a chord that was familiar, a chord from that moment just after 9/11.

    I believe this country wants and needs to be united once more. We've been divided for far too long and look where it's gotten us.

    Stop the hateful comments and promote the candidate of your choice because you believe they can bring back our standing in the world and our pride in our country.

    January 19, 2008 12:57 am at 12:57 am |
  11. Greg OH


    That doesn't post all of mine either and I am for Obama. It is not biased against Clinton

    January 19, 2008 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
  12. Marj,Paso Robles, Cal

    Edwards, criticizing President Reagan? Who is john edwards? This ambulance chaser is the biggest loser since carter. Edwards is such an IDIOT! Please, CNN-never use 'President Reagan' and johnny edwards in the same article-edwards is a total ZERO.

    Thank You,

    January 19, 2008 01:26 am at 1:26 am |
  13. K, Florida

    WOW! Invoke the name of Reagan and ALL the Republican's come out to play!!! Unfortunately, in your zeal for defending the man, you forgot to change some of your aliases. Pushing for folks to vote for Obama so that you can shred him in the general election smells to high heaven. Hillary or John scare you, don't they? Get the rookie nominated and we'll show our real prowess!!! You see, by my thinking, gridlock will not be a problem because even as I type this, the republican party is losing ground state by state. They will be voted out of office and there will be a much bigger majority for the democrats. House cleaning is in order. Obama may win but how much he can accomplish remains to be seen. Can we really afford to go with the unknown right now? Honestly, are we better off now than we were, say, 10 years ago? Do we really want to elect our president as if we were electing the next American Idol? Do we really want to listen to the media to make decisions for us? Or most of the Republicans on this comment section? Something to think about.

    January 19, 2008 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  14. Jess

    I honestly cannot see what is so hard to understand about his comment. If you do not think that Reagan changed politics in American, a sea change moment, then you really need to re-learn history. Sorry to be so blunt, but it is true. I don't agree with most of what Reagan did. Either does Obama. He was just saying that there is a movement that has the same potential to make a sea change in this country. Why are the Clinton loyalists so afraid of that? Why do they want another family regime like the Bush's? I bet most of them complained about that when Bush was elected. It really, really boggles my mind.

    January 19, 2008 01:52 am at 1:52 am |
  15. victor

    this just gos to show you how narrow minded some people are.... you cant even admire someones good quality... who cares.... dem.. rep...i like some democrats and i like some republicans. cant sen. obama like whomever he wants? reagan did some good things and some bad things right? like it or not history has already judged former president reagan and has been very favorable to him. dont we want a president who can see that it doesnt matter what party you belong to, as long as your the best at what you do then you should be on the "team"
    im sooo sick of the last 8 years of fighting with people.."your a liberal..your a conservative.. now you have to hate each other" WHO CARES!!!
    we all share the same plot of land..lets put our heads together and get stuff done for a change that would benefit all of us.

    im only 21 and a world history and political science major in school and i for one can not wait till this current generation is long gone from office.

    January 19, 2008 02:24 am at 2:24 am |
  16. melissa

    Obama comes across as a nice guy who can give a good speech but not as the type of leader who can do the nuts and bolts of the job! In the debates he admitted he was disorganized and bad with paperwork, give me a break!


    January 19, 2008 03:00 am at 3:00 am |
  17. DJ

    With less than 10 hours to go before the Nevada caucus. I have this great vision. I might be wrong but I see this happening. Obama is going to win Nevada, it’s not going to be because of the powerful union, although that will help. It’s going to be a win because Independents and republicans’ are going to cross party lines which will tilt this in Osama’s favor. It is same day registration and too many people dislike here than like her. I know Hilary might be winning among old school democrats, but the independent factor and the republications might give Obama the edge he needs. I feel this is my heart. I might be wrong but I give it a 99.9% chance. I being study politics here lately and I think I might got this one right. Let's hope and pray I'm Right.

    This message is being posted at 3.11 am Est. Jan 19,2008

    Also Note, most polls only focus likely democrat votes, not the other parties.

    January 19, 2008 03:21 am at 3:21 am |
  18. Will

    Two things I love:

    First is the ongoing insistence by people pushing an agenda and people who don't know any better that Ronald Reagan single-handedly caused the fall of the Soviet Union. Anybody who has studied Soviet history for more than half an hour can tell you that the Soviet system was rotting from the inside long before Reagan took office. Its collapse was inevitable. And for those who say "but it happened on St. Ronnie's watch!" well, hate to tell you, but technically it happened on Papa Bush's watch. Why doesn't he ever get any credit from you folks.

    Second is the cry from Republican voters for progressives/Democratic voters to show tolerance and stop being so gosh darn partisan about everything. My answer to that is simple: you first. You and yours got the ball rolling when you decided it was fair game to accuse liberals of treason on a routine basis. When you roll all that back, then we can talk about playing nice together.

    January 19, 2008 03:22 am at 3:22 am |
  19. Karla

    Why people admire Ronald Reagan? Can you say Jimmy Carter???? Remember him, I do...thank God for Ronald Reagan in 1980 and thank God Obama has the good sense to recognize how the man changed the path Carter was leading this nation down. Democrats say George W. Bush is the worst president EVER, we Republicans who were adults in the late 70s and remember this country under Carter's so-called leadership tend to think he deserves that moniker. Don't see Obama touting Carter or Clinton's change do you?

    January 19, 2008 03:56 am at 3:56 am |
  20. Citizen

    I don't know which America OBAMA (O...MAMA) was in for last 30 years. Reagan and first Bush left us in a mess...then came a democrate who bailed us out and we all enjoyed the turn-around...enjoyed prosperity...enjoyed surplus etc and then came the charmer republican (Bush W) to Oval office to mess it up... largest debt, loss of international reputation, mortgage crisis, loss of jobs, lies, etc.

    And now this idiot O...Mama who tells us republicans had great ideas in last 15 years...he must still be on drugs to come to this conclusion.

    I was really excited about the "second charmer" Obama until New Hampshire primary result when I saw him in his true colors. I will vote for the ugliest donkey but not Obama.

    January 19, 2008 05:27 am at 5:27 am |
  21. pete

    you know, obam really shows how he IS TRULY A UNITER!!

    he can give credit where credit is due, even if the person is a fomous republican!!

    that is an example of the NO BLUE OR RED STATES BUT THE UNITED STATES!!!

    would it be wrong for a repbulican to say something positive about kennedy if it was true in their opinion?

    obama practices what he preaches, good ideas can come form the other side and that KIND OF ATTITUDE IS WHAT IS GOING TO UNITE AMERICA AND PULL PEOPLE TOGETHER FROM ALL PARTIES TO SOLVE AMERICAS PROBLEMS.

    dont be so petty to think if you make a good point of a republican your not a democratic, that is THE ATTITUDE OF DEVISIVNESS OBAMA IS TRYING TO FIX.

    January 19, 2008 05:50 am at 5:50 am |
  22. mark wilkes barre pa

    Anonymous,,,,,,,,,,, I was wondering why your first comment was shorter than uaual,, then you posted your second comment and I realized why,,,,,,,,Your college posting points had not been e-mailed to you on time right ? If A person with hopes of running for president one day wanted to learn from the positive points of great leaders of the past and use there recorded legacy as a tool to measure there own progress or help keep them on tract as they go foward in there own political career, I find " that" a positive . I can imagine its very easy for a politician to get caught up in moments of power greed and money while learning who THEY are in politics. keeping the positive points or message of great leaders close in your thoughts as you deal with some of the worst politics have to offer may be helpful. with the exception of chaves and how clintons days ended and how he is acting now at election time,,, emulating MLK Jr, Kennedy, Lincoln and now Reagan sounds pretty well rounded for a young politician. I really dont think Obama will have a chance once we get through the primaries in this election , but if he is for real and keeps on tract to his own message and his own ideas , He will be president some day,, and after all the negative things your saying about him now,, you will adore him then won't you anonymous, mike from birmingham , graduate student , or what ever allias you post mass comments under as to "emulate " a political Ideal ,,, HOW SAD FOR YOU

    January 19, 2008 05:56 am at 5:56 am |
  23. pete

    obama is not saying he agrees with reagans or the republican ideas or plans for running the country, he is merely pointing out the issue of ideas and change that is important to make progress in this country.

    think about it. if you really want to unite america and get republican on your side to solve problems together, you must at least acknowledge their good points!!! what is wrong with saying some good points about your opponent. that does not mean, hilary clinton, that obama agrees with every policy issue of the reagons or republicans. desperate hilary will jump on ANY thing she can to make obama look bad.

    she is the one with the devisive attitude that WONT GET REPUBLICAN SUPPORT TO SOLVE THE ISSUES FACING AMERICA!!!


    the reason america keeps getting leaders like bush is because we keep getting fooled by politicians like hilary clinton who is one of the most crafty POLITICIANS to come to washinton in a long time.

    January 19, 2008 06:05 am at 6:05 am |
  24. Shane Australia

    this statement from both Clintons on Reagan's death:

    Hillary and I will always remember President Ronald Reagan for the way he personified the indomitable optimism of the American people, and for keeping America at the forefront of the fight for freedom for people everywhere. It is fitting that a piece of the Berlin Wall adorns the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington.

    President Reagan demonstrated his strength and resolve after leaving office when he shared his struggle with Alzheimer’s Disease with the world. We will always remember his tremendous capacity to inspire and comfort us in times of tragedy, as he did after the loss of the space shuttle Challenger. Now he, too, has “slipped the surly bonds of Earth to touch the face of God,” and we can rest assured that, as joyous a place as Heaven is, his wit and sunny disposition are making it an even brighter place to be.

    January 19, 2008 06:33 am at 6:33 am |
  25. charlotte

    I was wrong on the number of hits this would get...Seems Race and Sex are the most heated. Hucks gay stance is taking some heat. May be why Bills' no-no are constantly being brought up. We are into juicy topics..

    January 19, 2008 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
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