In all of the blogger hub-bub over Barack Obama's analysis of Ronald Reagan in his Reno-Gazette Journal editorial board interview, I don't believe there has been any recognition of this excerpt from the roundtable, which followed a question about how Obama would handle post-Katrina reconstruction:
...it raises a larger issue, which is that we've had a federal government that I think has gotten worn down and ineffective during the course of the Bush Administration -- partly because philosophically this administration did not necessarily believe in government as an agent of change.
But it precedes the Bush administration.
I think that one of the missions I have as president is to, not create a bigger government, but to restore some luster to the federal government. To recruit the best and the brightest, and to say that service in federal government is something that is critically important to the well-being of the American people, and by the way, to the well-being of the marketplace.
We're now seeing the consequences, on the home foreclosure situation here in Nevada, of a lack of oversight. That's not to excuse the responsibility of speculators or financial markets.
But the fact of the matter is we weren't paying attention at the federal level, the agencies in charge, the Comptroller of the Currency, the Fed, others could have foreseen this happening. There had been warnings about it. But because either of a lack of a capacity, or lack of political will, it didn't happen.
That's something that I want to change. I want to make government cool again.
That's as close as a 2008 presidential candidate has come to taking the advice of my book, "Wait! Don't Move To Canada!" -- reconnecting people to their government, praising effective government as critical to a thriving America, rejecting the GOP frame that debates the size of government, and focusing on the quality of our government.
(All that, despite the fact that I criticized Obama on the first page of the introduction for empty bipartisan rhetoric.)
So it strikes me as way off base to get hung up Obama's dispassionate observation that Presidents Reagan (and Kennedy) were able to move the country in a fundamentally different direction, where Presidents Nixon and Clinton were not.
Watching the whole interview, it is crystal clear that Obama was not embracing Reagan's anti-government ideology or policies, because he spelled out his belief in representative, responsive and responsible government.
My lone complaint: why isn't this powerful message about government more central in his campaign rhetoric?