January 18th, 2008
04:01 PM ET
15 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. Thomas - Reno, NV

    Lisa from New York... I'm happy to see that you are posting the lies that HRC blasts out to her underlings. You should really do some more research before you post this information, since all of it has been proved false by factcheck.org.

    It's nice to see that American people are voting, but I would like to see more free thinkers, and less of the idiots who consistently run this negative BS that just isn't true.

    by the way... your HRC faithfuls consistently broke the rules in Nevada caucuses statewide, but we still prevailed. Almost every precinct in a predominantly republican Northern Nevada voted in Obama's favor because they are sick of your lies and your attacks.

    Grow a brain and think for yourself.

    January 20, 2008 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  2. Pat

    Obama and his voodoo campaign is much like the voodoo economics of the past.

    It's silly for him to attempt to channel the figures of JFK, MLK, and Reagan as an attempt to establish himself as a valid and legitimate candidate, playing upon the nostalgia of the past. Who's he kidding?

    It's looking more like a fairy tale everyday – this campaign.

    Not very bright for a guy who is claimed to be smart enough to be President of Harvard's Law Review.

    It's turning out to be more of an historic ghostbuster tour than an election by his incessant search for a dead ally that he can use to validate the identity he doesn't have. If that isn't a voodoo campaign, what is?

    January 21, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  3. Davidc

    Abama is a divider rather than an uniter!!

    January 21, 2008 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  4. Annabelle

    First off – Let me say that I was not a Reagan supporter or admirer. I almost starved to death while he was president! Nor am I an Obama supporter yet. However I must say that I watched the tape of his comment and Obama was merely pointing out what I have already read many times before – a view held by many political pundits, and legitimate journalists, that Ronald Reagan did change the landscape of America (and not necessarily for the better) as so many people at that time were fed up with our direction – because of the 60's and it's permissiveness, etc. Many credit Reagan with the beginning of the ultra far-right conservatism – which is not a good thing – but it was what happened – just as many credit JFK with the youthful, progressive movement. Reagan brought about this change as many in the country were looking for that – and so you have the results of him in the far right wing to this day. Obama was merely pointing that out – that Reagan brought change – and apparently he is hoping to bring about a different kind of change – and do the same – change the "landscape of America" by being the first black president, etc. He did not say that the Reagan change was good – or that he even admired Reagan. Good grief – lets be fair here – can we not even make an observation without being torn apart for it. As I said I do not support Obama – yet – but right is right! Give me a break!

    January 22, 2008 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27