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 10-15 years in the sense that they were challenging conventional wisdom.Sigh.
Kos, via eriposte, is quick to point out that Obama's comment, which is the now-being-spotlighted back-end of his Reagan statement, is "not controversial" because "the GOP was the party of ideas. They were crappy ideas. But they were 'ideas'." In other words, as before, Obama is just saying, "I don't like anything they did, but I like the way they did it." And once again, I wonder if praising the GOP for being a party of ideas in spite of the content and consequences of those ideas (and at the expense of his own party), is really particularly wise, irrespective of its debatable veracity.
Quite frankly, the most consternating thing about this statement, as with the Reagan bit, is that it suggests both a dreadful tone-deafness and a worrying failure to understand exactly the extent of the soundbite culture in which we're living and upon which he's dependent to convey his priniples, policies, and ideas. These are decidedly not qualities I want in the Democratic candidate in the general election.
Admiration for Reagan's political acumen and the GOP's strategy are just plainly not the kind of quotes you want to hand to the GOP right before the general. Republican operatives must be positively slavering at the thought of his getting the nomination; a juicy little ad featuring the possible Democratic nominee asserting that "the Republicans were the party of ideas for a pretty long chunk of time there over the last 10-15 years" has already been made, I can assure you. That is media mismanagement of Shrumtastic proportions.
Let me be perfectly clear: I do not believe that Obama admires Reagan's policies. I do not believe Obama thinks the GOP had good ideas. And I also believe that it should have been totally evident to both the candidate and/or his campaign staff (though I don't believe they were scripted) that these statements would be wildly misunderstood, evoke overwhelming negative reaction, and stood to be used against him by both his primary opponents and his potential opponent in the general election.
Honestly, is there anyone reading this blog who would have read the above-blockquoted statement and, given the opportunity, advised Obama to make it?
I don't get it.
On the night of the New Hampshire primary, or perhaps the day after, I remember some babblehead or other noting that Obama was the only candidate, of all the Dems and Republicans, who used a teleprompter for his acceptance/concession speeches. At the time, I thought: "So what?" Now I wonder if it's another sign he's just not ready for prime-time yet.
UPDATE: Greg Sargent has a few posts on this subject at TPM. Here, while being very fair about the nature of Obama's comments, he concludes: "it seems clear that at the very least there were some poor choices of words by Obama here." And here, after another fair assessment, he concludes: "It's probably worth pointing out that Obama's quote is saying that the GOP 'challenged conventional wisdom' and suggests by default that the Dems didn't have any ideas. At the very least this is a poor choice of words on Obama's part." Poor choice of words...poor choice of words.... I can't help but cringe. I wish I had some sense that the Obama campaign actually considers this whole thing a gaffe, that they realize adjustments need to be made, but that does not seem to be the case.
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I'm not sure, as an aside, that it is fair to say the Republicans were the party of ideas and challenging conventional wisdom (unless by "challenging conventional wisdom" he means "flagrantly disregarding the will of the American people on every issue from Social Security reform to Terri Schiavo"). But, considering that the Dems haven't exactly been a font of inspiration, I'm not going to spend much time defending them against being given short shrift in the Party of Ideas department. (That said, they—and Hillary in particular—were way out in front on healthcare.)