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

Obama criticized for Reagan reference

ALT TEXT
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. E. Elliott, Orlando, FL

    Reagan took the greatest economy in the world and crushed it into the largest debtor in the world. That made him the worst President in history, until now. Reagan started unconstitutional mini-wars in the Granada and Panama invasions. That paved the way for the current Bush war of aggression in Iraq. Reagan was asleep at the switch for 8 years and many of the cronies that run George Bush ran his administration as well. One difference is that Reagan dishonered his oath of office by failure to enforce laws he disagreed with, while Bush dishonered his by actively violating the law. While he spent the country bankrupt, Reagan did a professional bait and switch with a big lie. He claimed the end of the Soviet emipe was in reaction to his arms race. There was a touch of truth in that to hide behind, but in fact the communist system is unworkable except through terror and doomed to fail under it's own dead weight.

    When you hear another more current burnt out old man preaching a big military build up and no taxes to pay for it, will you be fooled again? Thompson is betting on it. Reagan started with a surplus. The next President will have a 7 trillion $ debt to work against.

    I honestly do not think Obama is uneducated enough to believe any of these ideas are commendable, but regreatably many repugs still do.

    January 19, 2008 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  2. Anonymous

    QUICK QUESTION ABOUT HILLARY. SHE ALWAYS TALKS ABOUT PRESIDENTAL EXPERIENCE. JUST HOW MUCH EXPERIENCE DOES SHE HAVE BEING PRESIDENT OF AMERICA?????????????????

    January 19, 2008 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  3. Larry Buchas, New Britain, CT

    To all you Obama bashers out there:

    Obviously, you didn't listen or read the quote. What part of English don't you understand? Edwards makes a desperate plea taking words out of context.

    Read the quote:

    "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.

    The country is indeed ready again for a drastic change from "do nothing" politics.

    January 19, 2008 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  4. old wizened voter

    Fortunately, I can remember when political candidates could offer opinions, say controversial things about their opponents, speak to crowds with words more than just pap, and not be picked apart by the media. The media is a HUGELY negative influence on young voters. Don't have to think for themselves, just watch and read................

    January 19, 2008 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  5. DR

    John Edwards isn't worthy enough to carry Ronald Reagan's boots! He should keep his mouth shut and move back to his 20,000-square foot house!

    Reagan was one of the greatest presidents we have ever had!

    January 19, 2008 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  6. share

    OBAMA OPTIMISM WOULD RUN OUT OF STEAM STARTING TODAY. WAKE UP AMERICA THIS HOLLOW DRUM WITH NO SUBSTANCE IS WHO YOU WANT TO BE PRESIDENT. NO ORGANIZATIONAL SKILLS, FAKE LAUGH, FRAUD TO THE DEMOCRATS, AND SAYS WHAT YOU WANT TO HEAR IN A JOKE LIKE OUR PRESIDENT TO BE LIKEABLE.

    January 19, 2008 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  7. tomw

    most of u need to listen closely to what obama said he didnt say anything glowing about reagan he just said he changed the direction of this nation and i hated reagan but reagan did change the way this nation was going some good some bad but he did change this nation thats all obama said

    January 19, 2008 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  8. Danny

    LETS LOOK BACK A FEW YEARS AT OUR PRESEDENTS 8 YEARS OF BUSH 8 YEARS OF CLINTON 8 YEARS OF BUSH AND NOW A CHANCE OF 8 YEARS OF CLINTON ACTUALLY 2 CLINTONS SOMETIMES I GET CONFUSED ABOUT WHO IS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT BILL OR HILLARY. I PERSONALLY HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF BILL CLINTON AND ALL HIS LIES AND CHEATING. DO WE REALLY WANT HIM BACK IN THE WHITE HOUSE I THINK NOT. IF WE VOTE HILLARY INTO OFFICE WERE IS THE CHANGE WE ALL WANT? SHE IS ANOTHER CLINTON I AM SURE BILL IS GOING TO BE LOOKING OVER EVERYTHING SHE DOES. THIS IS NOT CHANGE ITS THE SAME OLD SAME OLD AGAIN.I ALSO WANT CHANGE CLINTON IS NOT THE ANSWER IF SHE CRIES DURING AND INTERVIEW WHAT IS SHE GOING TO DO WHEN THINGS GET TOUGH IN THE WHITE HOUSE

    January 19, 2008 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  9. Fed Up

    I actually think it’s a bit funny with these Obama voters who are yelling: we want change" like Obama just invented a new word or something.
    What would be even better if these Obama-voters actually had a clue as to what his plans are LMFAO lol

    January 19, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  10. Sam

    Nobody should think that Hillary Clinton or John Edwards would govern this country in a bi-partisan manner. If elected, they would bring more of the same Democrat vs. Republican stalled government that we have now.

    January 19, 2008 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  11. Chris, Orlando FL

    eat it obama... you're gonna lose in nevada. the people see through your thinly veiled "change" moniker. you're a phony with a good speech writer.

    cnn... i would appreciate you posting this, as the last 1/2 dozen of my comments have not appeared on the ticker. yes, they're blatantly pro-hillary, but there's nothing obscene about them... please adhere to fair posting practices.

    January 19, 2008 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  12. v.cifaldi&paul

    DID BARRY OBAMA FORGET THAT THE MIDDLE CLASS BEGAN ITS DECLINE UNDER REAGAN? DID HE FORGET THAT HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF MENTALLY ILL PEOPLE WERE FORCED TO LEAVE STATE INSTITUTIONS WHO WERE TAKING CARE OF THEM AND SUBSEQUENTLY RAISED THE HOMELESS POPULATION BY THE TENS OF THOUSANDS? DID HE FORGET IRAN-CONTRA? DID HE FORGET THE WHITE COLLAR SCAMS WHERE PEOPLE LOST MILLIONS? DID HE FORGET THAT HE IS SUPPOSED TO BE A DEMOCRAT?! I DON'T THINK SO. I THINK HE IS A CONSERVATIVE AT HEART WHO WILL CONTINUE TO DIMINISH THE MIDDLE CLASS. GO HILLARY!

    January 19, 2008 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  13. Gil - California

    Reporting due to non moderation-

    Edwards is a fool to mock Reagan. I voted for Reagan back when I was a Republican and am still proud of that vote. The fact that I've migrated to the Democrat party in the mean time does not lesson the respect I have for Reagan, flaws and all. Voting for Reagan was the last time I felt good voting for someone instead of voting against someone…..until now. Now I'm proudly voting for Obama and pray I'm not forced into voting against someone in the General election.

    As for Hillary…..sorry old gal, it bed time for Bonzo.

    January 19, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  14. Renee

    All Together now , All Together Obama

    January 19, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  15. Christian, Tampa FL

    Oh for Pete's sake! First of all, Reagan is fairly non-controversial among NORMAL Americans, and Obama didn't say a word of praise for his policies. If you read his book, you'd see that Obama is definitely not Reagan's biggest fan. But he is right that Reagan DID change the course of the country and gave us our current political era, for better or worse.

    January 19, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  16. EE

    Hello guys.Hillary is a calculated politician. She condemns Obama and here is what she says on her website about Reagan:

    "But no president can do it alone. She must break recent tradition, cast cronyism aside and fill her cabinet with the best people, not only the best Democrats, but the best Republicans as well.. We’re confident she will do that. Her list of favorite presidents – Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Lincoln, both Roosevelts, Truman, George H.W. Bush and Reagan – demonstrates how she thinks. As expected, Bill Clinton was also included on the aforementioned list."

    Obama is honest and sincere and I see this an an honest view of Reagan.Hillary does it and takes on Barack. Obama is class and honest guys

    January 19, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  17. Robb, New York

    Everybody needs to calm the hell down. It's amazing how bent out of shape they became for Obama, a Democrat, going out of his way to praise Republicans. Let's be clear– Obama didn't say that he endorsed the entire Republican agenda, nor did he endorse the privatization of Social Security or the disbanding of unions. Obama praised Reagan for using optimism to turn the nation around, and the Republicans for thinking outside of the box and carrying the mantle as a party of ideas (even though they've been wrong much of the time).

    What is it about Washington, D.C. that turns adults into whining little babies? What's next for these politicians– Republicans have cooties? Are we above praising anyone who has an R next to their name and title for anything? Grow up, Hillary and John. You and I both know that Barack didn't openly praise and embrace the Republican agenda. If anything, what he said was a plus because it shows his maturity and his willing not necessarily to chastise the Republican Party, but to work with them. More than we can say for you two, who from your bombastic rhetoric would doom your prospects of working with Republicans upon taking the oath.

    I don't know about supporters of Hillary and Edwards, but I believe that the majority of us Americans want our government to work for us again, and are absolutely sick and tired of Democrats and Republicans having their little tinkle contests in the sandbox that is Washington, D.C. America needs an adult in the White House, not these Baby Boomers that have driven this nation right into the toilet over the last 16 years with their lying, their deception and their derision of progress and compromise.

    We need an adult, and I don't care if their black or white, male or female, what faith they believe in, or how messy their desk is. I don't care– I want an adult in the White House come January 20, 2009.

    I don't want another dummy with his finger on the button.
    I don't want a philanderer who can't keep it in his pants.
    I don't want a condescending elitist who'll force her agenda on everyone.
    I don't want a flip-flopper who can't decide between being liberal or conservative.
    I don't want a former trial lawyer who talks about ending poverty one minute while getting a $400 haircut the next.
    I don't want an ogre whose politicizes 9/11 and tries to scare people to vote for him.

    I want an adult for President– a rational, thinking, intelligent human being with a determination for bringing people together to get things done and make this world a better place not only for us who are here but for those who have yet to come here.

    I want an adult for President– someone who is cognizant of the fact that they have a job to do because the people put them there and will waste no time in doing it.

    I want an adult for President– someone who we can all respect, at the very least, if we disagree with them philosophically and politically.

    I want an adult for President– someone who can speak to us honestly without talking down to us as idiots.

    I want an adult for President– someone who won't place undue burdens on my children and my children's children for the sake of a better life today.

    I want an adult for President– someone who won't belittle the opposition or force things upon them if they don't agree.

    I want an adult for President– someone who will take responsibility for what they do and will reinforce the credo that the buck stops with them.

    I want an adult for President– someone who wants to do the job for America, not someone who wants to do the job for the history books.

    I want an adult for President– someone who will take this country forward, not backward; someone who will wax poetic about the future, not wax poetic about the past.

    I want an adult for President– someone not named Hillary Clinton or John Edwards, Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney, George W. Bush or Bill Clinton.

    I want an adult for President– Barack Obama, Mike Huckabee and John McCain are three names that come to mind. Each one has strengths, each one has flaws. But they all have something in common– they want to work with the opposition to fix this country, and they are open to compromise.

    I want an adult for President– is that too much to ask?

    January 19, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  18. Prosperous in 80's

    We were lower middle class in the 80's – Reagan politics allowed my Dad to make money in the stock market and that helped me pay for college – I praise Reagan! and I praise Obama for saying Republican's had good ideas – THere is no need to throw dirt – His job is to emphasize that his ideas are better... His point is that the Dems had few good ideas then... Shall we remind everyone that it was Clinton economics that caused the Tech collapse.

    January 19, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  19. keep the peace

    Google for Government: Americans have the right to know how their tax dollars are spent, but that information has been hidden from public view for too long. That's why Barack Obama and Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) passed a law to create a Google-like search engine to allow regular people to approximately track federal grants, contracts, earmarks, and loans online. The Chicago Sun-Times wrote, "It would enable the public to see where federal money goes and how it is spent. It's a brilliant idea."

    Things that matter to us!

    January 19, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  20. Joe

    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 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  21. W.A. Davis

    Exactly right, "keep the peace"! I think there are definitely some ignorant people posting here that need to do their homework - Obama has definite ideas and has laid them out - please educate yourselves on EVERY Candidates' stands on the issues and their proposed ideas on how they intend to follow up on these ideas.

    January 19, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  22. Dave

    The media and much of the Country are so numb to the Clinton's continual lying that they don't even pay attention any more.

    January 19, 2008 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  23. Joe

    The Salmon Press endorsement editorial follows:

    Sen. Hillary Clinton

    Those that don’t think experience counts in politics haven’t been listening to Sen. Hillary Clinton. The combination of her proven track record and positive vision for America make her our choice in the Democratic primary.

    Sen. Clinton earned our admiration as the First Lady and respect as a U.S. senator from New York. Today she’s an engaging personality able to unite people behind a common cause regardless of their political affiliations. She hit the Senate floor on the run and she can do the same thing in the White House.

    She is sincere and passionate about restoring fiscal responsibility, providing health care to all Americans, protecting the environment, keeping the tax burden off the middle class and earning the faith and trust of the American people.

    But no president can do it alone. She must break recent tradition, cast cronyism aside and fill her cabinet with the best people, not only the best Democrats, but the best Republicans as well.. We’re confident she will do that. Her list of favorite presidents – Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Lincoln, both Roosevelts, Truman, George H.W. Bush and Reagan – demonstrates how she thinks. As expected, Bill Clinton was also included on the aforementioned list.

    January 19, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  24. Rexus

    Barack Obama is a brilliant statesman! He will be the next president. Obama's strength is that he is a uniter not a divider. The only other candidate about whom that could be said is Ron Paul, who unfortunately is not a likely nominee, though he may end up in second or third place in Nevada!

    Hillary is a polarizing divisive figure. Obama is a clever statesman who appeals to both sides of the aisle, here by praising Ronald Reagan.

    Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich are excellent candidates in my opinion, and they appear to be genuinely nice individuals, but they are a little too far to the left, not to mention have neither the funds nor the exposure to secure the nomination. The American population is too reactionary for a Kucinich-Gravel ticket. Either one would probably fare better in Canada or Europe as of now.

    Most of the other Democrats either quit (Joe Biden, Chris Dodd) or are sticking in with virtually no chance for the nomination, but nevertheless a high probability of being selected VP (Bill Richardson). Personally, I would love to see an Obama-Biden ticket! Joe Biden seems to have the only real long-term plan for Iraq (Partition it!) besides Ron Paul. The neocon candidates are happy to keep Iraq as a client of the great American Empire, most of all McCain. As such, the Democrats ought to select Biden for VP.

    Out of the three top contenders: Clinton, Edwards, and Obama; Obama is the best person for the job.

    None of the Republicans should be taken seriously. Just as Hillary Clinton is a divisive and polarizing figure, so too are Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani. Huckabee seems like a nice guy, but it would be embarassing to elect him president. On the other hand, it would be amusing if he won because that would be the first time in over a century that a Christian socialist ran for president on a major party ticket (since William Jennings Bryan ran for president on the Democratic ticket). The problem is that nobody would vote for Huckabee except for Evangelicals. Other than being extremely socially conservative, there is nothing conservative about him. Rudy Giuliani, on the other hand, would drive away many social conservatives. Then again, a few right-wing reactionaries might vote for Rudy if Hillary is nominated. Giuliani would alienate the "so-cons" and Huckabee would alienate everyone but the "so-cons".

    Mitt Romney stands the best chance of winning the nomination, but he will not be president. Mitt the Mormon has enough problems running on a socially conservative platform trying to secure the Evangelical vote, but all "religious bigotry" aside, Romney's notorious flip-flopping will undermine his support. In a general election, one only need to remind voters of Mitt's record and his constant "changes of heart" to reflect the popular concensus. Including not just his socially moderate governatorial record constrasted with his socially conservative presidential platform, but his flip-flops on the campaign, from being the guy who hired illegal aliens to all of a sudden being the choice for those opposed to illegal immigration. Finally, remember the John Kerry factor. Like Mitt Romney, John Kerry flip-flopped on several issues (most notably the Iraq War), Kerry's flip-flopping was neither as severe nor as compulsive and frequent as Romney's. Like Mitt Romney, John Kerry was a New England billionaire. Likewise, John Kerry won (bought) his party's nomination and Mitt Romney seems to be doing the same. But like Kerry, Romney will lose the election. John Kerry could not win the election as a Democrat in 2004. What makes anyone think he will win as a Mormon Republican in 2008? The only real difference between Mitt Romney and John Kerry is that Kerry was a Catholic running against a somewhat unpopular president. Romney, a member of a non-mainstream religion, will be running in an unpopular party.

    John McCain seems to have the best chance at winning the nomination AND the election, apparently in second place to Romney in terms of chances to get nominated, but he would fair better in a general election. McCain is the only Republican, besides Giuliani or Paul, who can expect to get cross-over votes from liberals and moderates, and could probably get more of the conservative Republican base than either Mayor 9-11 or Tax-Hike Mike, but he is despised by the GOP base. Not to mention that in reality, John McCain is an imperialist loon who would actually lose votes rather than gain them by compromising.

    Fred Thompson is not presidential material. He is so boring it is depressing! Literally! While he seems to be somewhat liked by core conservatives, he has nothing to bring to the table and has no energy. Ron Paul seems to be the best choice, and with his message of freedom, constitutionalism, federalism, diversity, and liberty he should appeal to most of America. Unfortunately, the neoconned GOP base have been conditioned to hate him. Ron Paul is the only Republican who can beat Hillary, and maybe Obama. Unfortunately, Ron Paul has a long road. I think it is safe to say that he is beating Mayor 9-11 and Frankenberry Thompson, but Ron Paul has an uphill battle against McCain and Huckabee, not to mention the Stormin' Mormon.

    As such, the choice for Republicans is to nominate Ron Paul or to face four years of a Democrat in the White House.

    The choice for Democrats is Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama is the only Democrat who can appeal to conservatives. Hillary Clinton might be despised and feared by the Christian Right, neocon mouthpieces (such as National Review, Human Events (whose motto should be "at war with modernity since 1944"), Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, etc.), and much of the socially reactionary base of the GOP, but Hillary Clinton is loved by the LEADERS of the neoconservative cabal. The brains of the neocon movement love Hillary even if the mouths and base do not.

    "Hillary Clinton: the Neocons' Democrat"

    January 19, 2008 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  25. anne

    Barak Obama is as much a politician as anyone running for office. He positions himself as an agent of change, but his campaign is as slickly run as any. He has given no substantive answers on major issues and, frankly, his resume is weak.
    My vote goes to Hillary. We need intelligence and experience in the White House. No doubt that Obama has the brains. But his lack of experience at a time when we need it just doesn't cut it.

    January 19, 2008 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
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