The Democrats Spar Over Reagan's Legacy

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Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have spent a few days sparring over over Ronald Reagan and the conservative movement.

Obama has said this before, in different words: Here's the original remark, from a meeting editorialists in Reno:

“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.”

To which John Edwards responded: "I would never use Ronald Reagan as an example of change," and Hillary Clinton said today:

"I have to say, you know, my leading opponent the other day said that he thought the Republicans had better ideas than Democrats the last ten to fifteen years. That's not the way I remember the last ten to fifteen years."

The campaigns upped the ante with dueling surrogate calls, and Bill Burton, Obama's silver-tongued spokesman, told reporters:


"“It’s hard to take Hillary Clinton’s latest attack seriously when she’s the one who supported George Bush’s war in Iraq, the most damaging Republican idea of our generation. While others were triangulating and poll-testing their positions, Senator Obama has been fighting for progressive ideals for over two decades,”

I’m reminded of a conversation I had with Obama’s best friend, Marty Nesbitt, last summer.

Nesbitt told me about a bull session a few years back where Obama told him that among the political figures he admitted was Ronald Reagan.

“When he told me that about Ronald Reagan, I said , what?” Nesbitt told me. “I was like every other Democrat. But Barack told me, no, he really had something that inspired the company and brought it together. I may disagree with him on policy, but he was what American needed at that moment in history. “

Nesbitt was using the point to illustrate why Obama decided to run so early in his political
career. Like Reagan, for Obama, “personal traits intersected with the historical moment.”

BTW: turns out that HRC thinks Reagan was a great president too.

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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