Barack Obama gave his two chief Democratic opponents an opening the other day and they are driving a big old Mack truck right through it.
Obama likened the Democrats' opportunity this year to that enjoyed by Ronald Reagan and the GOP in 1980.
Back then there was a tired, old party in charge, with the same old ideas to offer and an unpopular president leading the way.
Sounds a lot like today, except that in 1980 the old, tired party was the Democrats.
That, pretty much, is what Obama meant when he said the following on the campaign trail in Nevada the other day:
"The Republican approach I think has played itself out. I think it's fair to say the Republicans were the party of ideas for a pretty long chunk of time over the last 10 or 15 years, in the sense that they were challenging conventional wisdom. Now, you've heard it all before. You look at the economic policies, when they're being debated among the presidential candidates, it's all tax cuts. Well, we've done that, we've tried it."
Pay special attention to the first sentence, and the last three. Does he seem to you to be saying the Republicans had GOOD ideas? I didn't think so either.
Yet out on the campaign trail today, the Clintons and John Edwards made statements obviously intended to distort what Obama was saying.
"I have to say, you know, my leading opponent the other day said that he thought the Republicans had better ideas than Democrats the last ten to fifteen years. That's not the way I remember the last ten to fifteen years.
"I don't think it's a better idea to privatize Social Security. I don't think it's a better idea to try to eliminate the minimum wage. I don't think it's a better idea to undercut health benefits and to give drug companies the right to make billions of dollars by providing prescription drugs to Medicare recipients. I don't think it's a better idea to shut down the government, to drive us into debt."And then there's Bill:
"I can't imagine any Democrat seeking the presidency would say they were the party of new ideas for the last 15 years. But it sounded good in Reno I guess.So now it turns out you can choose between somebody who thinks our ideas are better or the Republicans had all the good ideas."
Go back and re-read Obama's comment. Does he say anywhere in there that the Republicans ideas were better? Or was he simply saying they were offering a clear change in direction when the electorate was ready for one?
It's no accident that this stink is being brewed in Nevada, a place where union support is key and where Obama has the support of the state's largest union.
Do you think that could be why Edwards made the following statement?
", the man who busted unions, the man who did everything in his power to destroy the organized labor movement, the man who created a tax structure that favored the richest Americans against middle class and working families, ... we know that Ronald Reagan is not an example of change for a presidential candidate running in the Democratic Party,"
And no one - certainly not Barack Obama - said he was.