The left is furious that Barack Obama had a kind word for Ronald Reagan. John Edwards fell over himself to point out that Reagan is not a role model. (His role models are William Shatner and Sam Malone.)
But prominent lefty Matt Stoller is just sad:
It is extremely disturbing to hear, not that Obama admires Reagan, but why he does so. Reagan was not a sunny optimist pushing dynamic entrepreneurship, but a savvy politician using a civil rights backlash to catapult conservatives to power. Lots of people don't agree with this, of course, since it doesn't fit a coherent narrative of GOP ascendancy. Masking Reagan's true political underpinning principles is a central goal of the conservative movement, with someone as powerful as Grover Norquist seeking to put Reagan's name on as many monuments as possible and the Republican candidates themselves using Reagan's name instead of George Bush's in GOP debates as a mark of greatness. Why would the conservative movement create such idolatry around Reagan? Is is because they just want to honor a great man? Perhaps that is some of it. Or are they trying to escape the legacy of the conservative movement so that it can be rebuilt in a few years, as they did after Nixon, Reagan, and Bush I?
I don't know. But if you think, as Obama does, that Reagan's rise to power was premised on a sunny optimism in contrast to an out of control government and a society rife with liberal excess, then you don't understand the conservative movement. Reagan tapped into greed and fear and tribalism, and those are powerful forces. Ignoring that isn't going to make them go away.
In other words, Barack Obama, while he's surely a noble savage, suffers from false consciousness. It's a shame he's fallen for Grover Norquist's propaganda, ignoring the greed and fear and tribalism that we had before the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1994, make that 64, whatever… Thank goodness Matt Stoller is here to correct him.
Does it occur to Stoller that, love him or hate him or indifferent toward him, Reagan assuredly transformed American politics, and if one believes that he had some role in hastening the demise of the Soviet Union, the world? It seems to me that Obama's intellectually honest enough to admit that, whatever he thinks of the Reagan years as a whole, and that he's bold enough to compare the transformation he intends to work to that of Reagan, and Kennedy though Stoller neglects that part of Obama's address.
Instead of a critique on the level of Obama's address, we get REAGAN = TEH BAD! Obama probably doesn't realize that because he was too busy picking cotton or studying political science at Columbia, or whatever he was doing in the 1980s when he should have been studying history.