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Obama as a Reagan-Like Figure

Barack Obama speaks at the University of Nevada. (Bloomberg News).

By Jose Antonio Vargas
If the confused but nevertheless spirited reaction in the blogosphere, left and right, is any indication, Sen. Barack Obama is going to have plenty of explaining to do regarding his comments to the Reno Gazette-Journal editorial board in the days ahead. He told them:

I don't want to present myself as some sort of singular figure. I think part of what's different are the times...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.

The meeting was filmed, and the resulting YouTube video, "Obama prefers Ronald Reagan over Bill Clinton," has been viewed more than 33,000 times since it was uploaded yesterday. Many interpreted it as a direct jab at Clinton. Critics on the left saw it as Obama presenting himself, yet again, as an iconic figure. Erica Jong wrote in the Huffington Post: "So Mr. Obama is not such a new style politician after all. He's just a politician -- invoking Ronnie Reagan as if he were God Almighty, using his name as code as the Repugnicans do, trying to pump himself up as a man of the people by mentioning this total fraud as a hero."

But some conservative commentors found the comment accurate -- and flattering. Pejman Yousefzadeh, blogging on Red State, wrote, "Not a bad statement, but oh, how the Clintons are going to beat you up for this." To which a Red State commentor responded: "I don't think the Clintons really want to get into a substantive debate over this point. Bill Clinton was a disaster for the Democratic Party while Reagan helped the GOP control the White House for 12 years. The Democrats would love to have a Reagan like figure and that sure isn't Hillary."

Many on the liberal blogs deemed Obama's comments nothing short of disastrous and used them as another opportunity to bash a candidate from whom they have become increasingly estranged. Wrote Big Tent Democrat on MyDD: "Obama simply misunderstands how Reagan achieved that transformational change . . . he ran a partisan, ideological divisive campaign that excoriated Democratic values and trumpeted GOP values. He also race baited. Obama is running a post-partisan, nonideological campaign that is bereft of defenses of Democratic values and ideas. He is running an anti-Reagan campaign. His argument is simply ahistorical. . .In short, Obama STILL does not get it."

Will Obama get asked about this during Monday's Democratic debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C.? Stay turned.

By Web Politics Editor  |  January 18, 2008; 3:43 PM ET
Categories:  The Debate Rages On...  
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