Who among us does not love Ronald Reagan?

Clinton, Obama fight over who said what about the 40th president.


Tim Grieve
January 22, 2008 7:45PM (UTC)

At the Republican presidential debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C., earlier this month, each of the candidates seemed determined to out-Reagan the other. John McCain said he was proud to have been a "foot soldier" in the "Reagan revolution." Rudy Giuliani said he "worked for Ronald Reagan." Mike Huckabee said he's faithful to the things that Ronald Reagan stayed faithful to." And Mitt Romney said he could appeal to "the coalition that brought together the great strength that Ronald Reagan brought to America."

At the Democratic presidential debate in Myrtle Beach Monday night, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama took the opposite approach, each accusing the other of loving Ronald Reagan too much.

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Here's what they said, and here's the truth of the matter:

What Clinton said that Obama said: "You talked about admiring Ronald Reagan ... You talked about Ronald Reagan being a transformative political leader."

What Obama actually said: "I don't want to present myself as some sort of singular figure. I think part of what's different are the times. I do think that, for example, the 1980 election was different. I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that, you know, 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, you know, with all the excesses of the '60s and the '70s 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 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. All right? I think Kennedy, 20 years earlier, moved the country in a fundamentally different direction. So I think a lot of it just has to do with the times. I think we're in one of those times right now."

What Obama said that Clinton said: "The irony of this is that you provided much more fulsome praise of Ronald Reagan in a book by Tom Brokaw that's being published right now."

What Clinton actually said: "When [Reagan] had those big tax cuts and they went too far, he oversaw the largest tax increase. He could call the Soviet Union the Evil Empire and then negotiate arms-control agreements. He played the balance and the music beautifully."


Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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2008 Elections Barack Obama Hillary Rodham Clinton War Room

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