Obama: Just Like Reagan

I know that headline will sound like blasphemy to some of you. Hear me out. Obama is being criticized by Republicans , Clinton Democrats, and a few pundits as an empty suit - someone who looks great, speaks well, but has no real substance. Some Republicans even argue that Obama will be easier to defeat than Hillary Clinton would be.

Here's the problem: people said the same things about Ronald Reagan in 1980. Today's Wall Street Journal had an editorial that explains.

"More than anything else, I want my candidacy to unify our country, to renew the American spirit and sense of purpose. I want to carry our message to every American, regardless of party affiliation, who is a member of this community of shared values . . . For those who have abandoned hope, we'll restore hope and we'll welcome them into a great national crusade to make America great again!"

So Ronald Reagan proclaimed on July 17, 1980, as he accepted his party's nomination for president at the Republican National Convention in Detroit, Mich.

Earlier that day, the New York Times ran a long profile of Reagan on its front page. The author, Howell Raines, lamented that the news media had been unsuccessful in getting Reagan to speak in anything other than "sweeping generalities about economic and military policy." Mr. Raines further noted: "political critics who characterize him as banal and shallow, a mouther of right-wing platitudes, delight in recalling that he co-starred with a chimpanzee in 'Bedtime for Bonzo.'"

Throughout his campaign, Reagan fought off charges that his candidacy was built more on optimism than policies. The charges came from reporters and opponents. John Anderson, a rival in the Republican primary who ran as an independent in the general election, complained that Reagan offered little more than "old platitudes and old generalities."

Republicans who think Obama will be easy to beat are starting to sound a lot like some Democrats did in 1980. They are wrong. They underestimate how vulnerable the voters are to well-spoken people who tell them things they want to hear. This is why advertising works.

It does not matter that some of Obama's basic values are abhorrent to those who think about it. They won't think about it. Moreover, the fact that the GOP could not nominate a more conservative candidate than McCain is strong evidence that conservative values are not as widespread as they used to be.

In other words, people like what Obama says, and they also like how he says it. This is why he is so dangerous. He sounds so thoughtful and reasonable that he can convince people to adopt his ideas far better than Hillary ever could. Consider this little exchange:

At Cornell College on Dec. 5, for example, a student asked Mr. Obama how his administration would view the Second Amendment. He replied: "There's a Supreme Court case that's going to be decided fairly soon about what the Second Amendment means. I taught Constitutional Law for 10 years, so I've got my opinion. And my opinion is that the Second Amendment is probably -- it is an individual right and not just a right of the militia. That's what I expect the Supreme Court to rule. I think that's a fair reading of the text of the Constitution. And so I respect the right of lawful gun owners to hunt, fish, protect their families."

Then came the pivot:

"Like all rights, though, they are constrained and bound by the needs of the community . . . So when I look at Chicago and 34 Chicago public school students gunned down in a single school year, then I don't think the Second Amendment prohibits us from taking action and making sure that, for example, ATF can share tracing information about illegal handguns that are used on the streets and track them to the gun dealers to find out -- what are you doing?"

In conclusion:

"There is a tradition of gun ownership in this country that can be respected that is not mutually exclusive with making sure that we are shutting down gun traffic that is killing kids on our streets. The argument I have with the NRA is not whether people have the right to bear arms. The problem is they believe any constraint or regulation whatsoever is something that they have to beat back. And I don't think that's how most lawful firearms owners think."

He's smooth, very smooth. When he takes office as president, he's going to do a lot of damage. And you know what else? He'll have a majority of the population behind him. I don't like saying this but it's true. We may not get the president we want - but we'll get the president we deserve.

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