In an interview on January 14 with the Reno Gazette-Journal, Barack Obama went out of his way to praise Ronald Reagan.
“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,” Obama said. “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, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.”
Just what are those “excesses” of the 1960s and 1970s that he’s alluding to?
The civil rights movement?
The environmental movement?
The women’s liberation movement?
The gay rights movement?
And yes, the government did grow. But we got the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and a host of other federal agencies that protected us from the predations of private corporations.
For Obama to now laud Reagan for restoring “entrepreneurship,” the very buzzword you hear right before the sting of deregulation, is either shockingly naïve or reactionary—or it betrays a willingness of Obama to find common ground in ideological quicksand.
Reagan, like Bush, did everything he could to gut federal agencies, from the Progressive Era to the New Deal through the 1970s, that served as a check on corporate power.
Talk about no “accountability.”
But in his interview, Obama simply regurgitated the rightwing nonsense that Reagan and Bush and the Cato Institute and the American Enterprise Institute have been serving up.
Was Reagan to be lauded for his racist rhetoric about welfare queens?
Was he to be lauded for busting PATCO strike? Did that bring a return to “dynamism and entrepreneurship”?
Damn right, if by that you mean open season on labor unions.
Furthermore, by saluting Reagan, Obama seemed to forget about the tens of thousands of people whose deaths Reagan was responsible for in Central America when he waged war against the Nicaraguan government and when he funneled aid to the death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala.
If by hailing Reagan, Obama wanted to ingratiate himself with Republicans and Independents, that just proves he’s desperate to be all things to all people.
But if he really believes Reagan deserves the praise, then that’s even more troubling.