The last two months have been rough for Barack Obama. He’s been left-baited, race-baited, red-baited and tarred as an "elitist." Perhaps that’s why he finally consented, after 772 days of holding out, to be interviewed by Chris Wallace on Fox News. It was a strong move from a defensive position, and Obama gave an agile performance on the whole, deftly parrying Wallace’s efforts to nail him on Rev. Wright, Bill Ayers and the infamous oft-missing American flag pin. But what’s up with Obama’s shout-out to Republican ideas?
Pressing Obama on his credentials as a "uniter" and measuring his record against the alleged bi-partisanship of John McCain, Wallace asked: "As a president, can you name a hot button issue where you would be willing to cross Democratic party line[s] and say you know what, Republicans have a better idea here?"
Obama’s response: "Well, I think there are a whole host of areas where Republicans in some cases may have a better idea…on issues of regulation, I think that back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, a lot of the way we regulated industry was top down command and control. We’re going to tell businesses exactly how to do things. And I think that the Republican party…came with the notion that you know what, if you simply set some guidelines, some rules and incentives for businesses, let them figure out how they’re going to for example reduce pollution."
Obama’s comments echo remarks he made back in January to the Reno Gazette-Journal when he said that he thought Ronald Reagan "changed the trajectory of America" in a way that Bill Clinton had not. In that interview, Obama said that Republicans have been "the party of ideas for a pretty long chunk of time" and that Reagan "put us on a fundamentally different path because the country…felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown but there wasn’t much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating."
John Edwards and Hillary Clinton jumped all over him for that one, and Obama’s supporters leapt to his defense, claiming that "Obama didn’t really say that Republicans had better ideas than Dems," and that he was being merely descriptive about recent political history.