RUSH: Now let’s move on to Obama here for just a second. This is in Reno during an interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal editorial board.
OBAMA: 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 sixties and the seventies and, you know, government had grown and grown, but there wasn’t much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating, and I think he tapped into what people were already feeling, which was we want clarity, we want optimism, we want, you know, a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.
RUSH: Holy smokes, now the Democrats are out there using Reagan. This is heresy. Meanwhile, we’ve got our guys trying to relegate the Reagan era as over, and here’s Obama, who’s out there now appropriating certain aspects of Reagan as his own. It’s heresy, but notice he’s getting away with it on the Democrat side. The Democrat side is not going nuts over this. Clinton, Inc., might have something to say later. But he’s not citing Reagan specifics, he’s citing attitudes, he’s citing inspirational aspects of Reagan, entrepreneurship, this sort of thing. The excesses of the sixties and seventies, now that’s purposeful, because whether you know it or not, Obama is running a generational campaign. He’s basically running against himself, the excesses of the Baby Boomers of the sixties and the seventies and the anti-war left and all that. He’s trying to pass himself off as JFK in the sense it’s time to pass the torch to a new generation. But the Democrats are invoking our guy here.
So this has inspired Pete Wehner, who is the editor of the Contentions blog at Commentary magazine, the ethics and public policy crowd. But it’s the Contentions blog, Norman Podhoretz’s shop. He reacts to Obama and Reagan. I just want to read a few excerpts here of what Pete says. ‘Ronald Reagan attempted to limit the size of government — but his greatest legislative success was in cutting tax rates and changing how his party, and much of the country, viewed taxes. Second, Reagan was a sharp critic of Nixon and Kissinger’s détente policy and utterly rejected the Spenglerian pessimism that believed that the key to American statecraft was to manage our decline.’ That’s so brilliantly put, Pete. That’s exactly how you would say the Democrats’ foreign policy is based on the fact we’re declining, that we should decline, that we should no longer be the world’s superpower, and we need competent Democrats and liberals to manage that decline. This is something else that Reagan rejected. This is conservatism, American exceptionalism. He believed in it.
‘Reagan believed the US could go beyond containment and prevail against the Soviet Union — a view that was met with utter condescension within the foreign policy establishment and those in the ‘realist’ camp. In addition, Reagan made morality a centerpiece,’ this is so crucial here, ‘of American foreign policy and used explicitly moral language when talking about it (for example, calling the Soviet Union the ‘evil empire’). He was a relentless advocate for spreading democracy throughout the world. And President Reagan established the GOP as a pro-life party in a way that it never had been before. Those achievements were significant and lasting; Reagan’s influence on the GOP is hard to overstate. He is to Republicans what FDR has been to Democrats.’ You never hear the Democrats say the era of FDR is over.
‘Senator Obama’s words are not only true, they are a reminder of what an intriguing political figure he is. In the midst of an intense Democratic primary battle, he had good words to say about President Reagan, a very popular figure with most Americans, while he succeeded in linking (and properly so) Nixon and Clinton in terms of their impact on our country. But Obama’s words also reflect on him. So far his campaign is largely about capturing a mood rather than about advocating a set of ideas — and, at the end of the day, changing the trajectory of America depends on ideas and policies, not sentiment. Reagan was an optimistic person — but that is not his lasting achievement. And if Reagan’s policies had failed rather than succeeded, his optimism would have looked badly misplaced and would now be used against him. Barack Obama, who so far has shown himself to be an utterly orthodox liberal (as has Hillary Clinton), now has to take the next step and show that he is bold and creative in the realm of ideas and policies, which was a hallmark of Reagan. So far Obama hasn’t — and that has been the glaring weakness in his otherwise impressive campaign.’
That’s such a great way to put it — Obama’s campaign is one of mood. He’s out there praising Reagan, but he’s not adopting any policies or ideas that are similar because he hasn’t gotten to the ideas other than orthodox liberalism on health care, taxes. Not a dime’s worth of difference between the Democrat candidates on any of these things.