President Obama, who has brought up Republican presidents Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt in past speeches in an effort to show a GOP breaking with its roots, today told an Associated Press luncheon in Washington that Ronald Reagan couldn’t make it onto the ticket today.
Obama, who dedicated much of his address to budget issues, was asked by MediaNews CEO Dean Singleton what he would say to Americans who “just want both sides to stop fighting and get some work done on their behalf.”
“These are solvable problems if people of good faith came together and were willing to compromise,” Obama said. “The challenge we have right now is that we have on one side, a party that will brook no compromise.”
He then invoked the 40th president.
“Ronald Reagan, who, as I recall, is not accused of being a tax-and-spend socialist, understood repeatedly that when the deficit started to get out of control, that for him to make a deal he would have to propose both spending cuts and tax increases,” Obama said. “Did it multiple times. He could not get through a Republican primary today.”
He criticized Republicans for aiming to cut discretionary spending and increase defense spending as they “take in no revenue.”
“I think that there is oftentimes the impulse to suggest that if the two parties are disagreeing, then they’re equally at fault and the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and an equivalence is presented — which reinforces I think people’s cynicism about Washington generally. This is not one of those situations where there’s an equivalence,” Obama said.
“I’ve got some of the most liberal Democrats in Congress who were prepared to make significant changes to entitlements that go against their political interests, and who said they were willing to do it. And we couldn’t get a Republican to stand up and say, we’ll raise some revenue, or even to suggest that we won’t give more tax cuts to people who don’t need them.”
The president said his own positions would be considered “squarely centrist” 15 or 20 years ago.
“What’s changed is the center of the Republican Party,” he said.