Huffpost Politics
Jason Linkins Headshot

Clinton's 'Reagan' Critique: A Cast Stone, But Hardly Sin-Free

Posted: Updated:

Remember back in December, when "political sources opposed to [Barack] Obama's presidential campaign" leaked an old questionaire to The Politico, in order to raise "questions of whether Obama can be painted as too liberal?" From what camp did these sources come from? Well, we sort of don't really know! Surely they didn't come from the Clinton campaign, though! They're the ones who are trying to raise questions of whether Obama can be painted as too conservative, because, as they would tell you, Obama totally loves Ronald Reagan and wants to have all his cryogenically preserved babies and what not. Although, if it were true that these two disparate lines of attack did come from the same camp, that would be pretty hilarious!

That would, indeed, be the only hilarious thing to come of this whole "who loved Reagan more" debate, which is threatening to displace the "gender-card" and the "evil community organizing that we cannot talk about on Black Entertainment Television" as the dumbest derailment of political discourse this campaign season. Reagan did have a "transformative" effect on the electorate. "Reagan Democrats," people. They exist, and whoever wins the Democratic nomination will be pursuing their votes and serving up microtargeted appeals to them.

Still, the Clinton camp takes umbrage at Obama's intimation that the Republicans, under Reagan, were the "party of ideas." In her new radio spot (which her campaign pulled from the airwaves today after heavy criticism), the voiceover insists: "Hillary Clinton thinks this election is about replacing disastrous Republican ideas with new ones."

And this would be all well and good if it weren't for the fact that she's got a serious yen for embracing some disastrous Republican ideas, herself. Along with Obama, she supported Condoleeza Rice's ascension at the State Department. There's her totally out-to-lunch decision to join with Joe Lieberman in a hollow, prudish assault on video-games just when the Iraq Study Group was releasing its findings. In 2005, she co-sponsored one of those perennial patriotic pander-fest initiatives - a constitutional ban on flag burning - along with Utah Republican Bob Bennett. That same year she shafted abortion rights activists by "offering warm words to opponents of abortion."

Along the way, she's also stood by without comment as her husband (and campaign surrogate) Bill Clinton vied for the affections of the Bush family. The most egregious example of which being his foolish efforts in providing political cover for the Bush administration's failings after Hurricane Katrina: "You and I are not in a position to make any judgment because we weren't there," he said, adding, "I'm telling you, nobody thought this was going to happen like this...they had problems they never could have foreseen." As we found out later, plenty of people had forseen those problems.

President Clinton also offered his support to Senator Joe Lieberman when the Connecticut Senator found himself in a tough re-election battle. At the time, the Huffington Post's namesake offered readers a mock-soundbyte in advance of his appearance: "Joe Lieberman was wrong on the bankruptcy bill, wrong on not filibustering Alito, and wrong on Terri Schiavo. But his position on the war is pretty similar to Hillary's and that's good enough for me." Naturally, Clinton did not indulge us with a word-for-word recitation, but the salient point is that in offering support to Lieberman, Clinton threw a whole lot of progressive policy positions under the bus to support a man whose stance on the war was a neo-conservative, kiss-of-Bush endorsed, DISASTROUS position.

Of course, Lieberman went on to endorse John McCain for president. No one could have anticipated this!

As Obama continues to make an attempt at some sort of unifying campaign that will bring together partisans of all stripes behind his candidacy, he'll continue to get it from all sides - some saying he's too liberal, some insisting he's too conservative. And it will remain fair to question whether catering to conservative voters will require him to embrace the bad ideas of the Reagan years. Yet if Clinton insists that this election "is about replacing disastrous Republican ideas with new ones," it is also fair to ask why she didn't seem to feel this way the last time she stood for election, or the last time her husband stumped for someone else's.


This post originally contained this sentence: "The facts are these: Hillary Clinton lists Reagan as one of her "favorite presidents." It's right there on her website"

However, in a separate release on her website, the campaign rightly notes that David Cutler, the co-owner of the newpaper which originally noted Clinton's list of presidents in an editorial, contends that Clinton was merely praising Reagan's "communication skills" (which they contend is "an attribute of his that has been widely praised by Americans of all ideological stripes") and adds, "She did not say Reagan was her favorite President. She didn't say anything close to that." We apologize for mischaracterizing her stance on this one point.