Susan Jones | Senior Editor | Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Last week, Obama told the Reno Gazette-Journal editorial board that former President 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."
Obama added: "I think it's fair to say that the Republicans were the party of ideas for a pretty long chunk of time there over the last 10 to 15 years in the sense that they were challenging conventional wisdom."
Since Obama made those comments, both Bill and Hillary Clinton have accused Obama of praising Republican ideas, something Obama refuted at the Democratic debate Monday night.
"You just said that I complimented the Republican ideas. That is not true," Obama said to Hillary Clinton at Monday's debate.
"What I said, and I will provide you with a quote, what I said was -- is that Ronald Reagan was a transformative political figure because he was able to get Democrats to vote against their economic interests to form a majority to push through their agenda, an agenda that I objected to."
Later in Monday's debate, Hillary told Obama, "But you also talked about the Republicans having ideas over the last 10 to 15 years."
"I didn't say they were good ones," Obama shot back.
"Well, you can read the context of it," Clinton said.
"Well, I didn't say they were good ones," Obama insisted.
The controversy began on the campaign trail in Nevada last Friday, when Bill Clinton referred to Obama's comments about Republicans being the party of i deas."
"[Hillary's] principal opponent said that since 1992, the Republicans have had all the good ideas," Bill Clinton said. (Obama did not say the Republican ideas were good.)
"It goes along with their plan to ask Republicans to become Democrats for a day and caucus with you tomorrow, and then go back and become Republicans so they can participate in the Republican primary. I'm not making this up, folks," Bill Clinton said.
Bill Clinton then asked the crowd what ideas were better "than the new ideas I brought to Washington."
Said Bill, "I can't imagine any Democrat seeking the presidency would say they (Republicans) were the party of new ideas for the last 15 years. But it sounded good in Reno I guess," he said.
"So now it turns out you can choose between somebody who thinks our ideas are better or the Republicans had all the good ideas."
At Monday's debate, Obama accused both Clintons of Obama of ganging up on him. "I can't tell who I'm running against sometimes," Obama said at one point.
(A section on the Obama for President Web site says, "News Sources Agree: Clinton Has Been Misrepresenting Obama's Comments on Republicans." The Web site quotes many of the reporters and pundits who agree that the Clintons are twisting Obama's words.)