"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. 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"That's the quote that has them all howling. Barack is "betraying the progressive cause" for having said this. "This is an offense to Democrats everywhere!" Predictably the rival campaigns have been all over this one like a bad smell. Here's a quote from the same interview moments later.
"I think Kennedy, 20 years earlier, moved the country in a fundamentally different direction. So I think a lot of it has to do with the times. I think we are in one of those fundamentally different times right now were people think that things, the way they are going, just aren't working."It's amazing what a little editing can do. A candidate can be discussing how a political campaign can come to be representative of ideas and ideals and offer a profound shift, different candidates ...different ideals. He can be discussing how the political culture and climate is calling for a certain kind of response -and the next minute, with a little prudent editing ...POOF: "So Obama is a closet Reaganite! Gee whiz! Isn't that a bad thing to say in the middle of the Democratic primary season?" This is what they call D-I-S-T-O-R-T-I-O-N Though I'm not an insider with the campaign, I will tell you what I THINK Obama was trying to get across. The country is at a place of crucial decision right now. We are at the exhausted end of an era (hopefully) and where we go next is a central question. The two examples he gave, and equated, might be something of a clue. Kennedy came along after eight years of Ike and Nixon and Cold War anxiety. Obviously there was more of that anxiety to come, but Kennedy reinvigorated the nation with a sense of purpose and mission. Reagan came along and found the nation in a similarly exhausted and anxious place. If you'll recall the incumbent president described our condition as a "malaise". Like his methods or not (and I most certainly don't) Reagan sold the country on a renewed sense of itself as "freedom's great shining light on a hill" or some other such rhetoric. That was the mirror, what happened in the smoke is another story. The country did undergo a profound change, not necessarily for the better on many counts, but it changed. I think the common theme Obama was trying to describe was that when the country hits these points of exhausted anxiety and "malaise," we like to harken back to core ideals and reach for larger paradigmatic change. Ronald Reagan sold a bit more than he delivered in my estimation. There was promise Kennedy never got to deliver. With Obama, just maybe there's hope. Here's a link to the whole interview. Judge for yourself.