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Tilting at Windmills

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August 24, 2010

HALPERIN BLASTS OBAMA FOR TELLING THE TRUTH, CRITICIZING GOP.... In his latest Time column, Mark Halperin expresses his deep disappointment in President Obama and Democrats for criticizing Republicans over Social Security. It seems much of the GOP has plans to undermine, if not completely privatize, the program, and leading Dems -- get this -- hope to tell voters about it.

In a move as predictable as Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown, Democrats are using Social Security scare tactics to gain ground before the November election. President Barack Obama is not only tolerating this classic old politics maneuver by his party -- he is leading the charge.

Amid a flurry of Democratic Party news releases and press conferences warning voters that Republicans are targeting Social Security for destruction, the President devoted his radio and Internet address last week to commemorating the 75th anniversary of the signing of the law that created the program. He cautioned that "some Republican leaders in Congress don't seem to have learned any lessons" from the past and are "pushing to make privatizing Social Security a key part of their legislative agenda if they win a majority in Congress." This familiar refrain might indeed help the Democrats limit their midterm losses, but Obama's involvement shows that on this issue he is putting party before bipartisanship....

There's a key detail that Halperin largely overlooks: everything Obama said was true. Every word. The leading GOP lawmaker on the House Budget Committee wants to privatize Social Security, and his idea has been endorsed by a wide variety of Republican officials and candidates. In Nevada, Sharron Angle has called for eliminating Social Security altogether, and her position has not be denounced by party leaders.

One high-profile House Republican recently called for the government to "wean everybody" off Social Security. A day later, another House Republican endorsed Social Security privatization. Two days later, yet another House Republican endorsed Social Security privatization. All of this happened just this year.

So, with an election coming up, leading Democrats believe voters should be aware of GOP priorities. Halperin believes that's wrong -- Dems in general and the president in specific shouldn't talk about a campaign issue on which Republicans are vulnerable, because it might make them less likely to compromise on the issue later.

In other words, even in a competitive election season, after Dems identify their rival's key vulnerability, they shouldn't say anything, even if it's true. Instead, as Halperin sees it, Democrats should be making an effort to be nicer to the party that's trying to destroy them, in the hopes that a GOP that's shown no interest in compromise might suddenly become more amenable to a "bipartisan partnership."

I don't understand it, either.

Steve Benen 9:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (20)

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Never let truth get in the way of a good story.

Nice Rovian touch, btw, using the Lucy and the football analogy. The GOP have spent two years pulling the football away, but it is "predictable" that the Dems would do it.

Posted by: martin on August 24, 2010 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

I'm reminded of my favorite scene from the movie "L.A. Story" when Steve Martin's wife tells him she's leaving him for another man. He replies with an astonished, "THIS is how I find out? You TELL me?"

Meanwhile, this is just another example of the fact that the GOP can't handle the truth. They don't know how to speak it. And they don't know how to hear it.

Tell me, why are they expected to make great gains this election?

Posted by: chrenson on August 24, 2010 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

Glenn Greenwald has covered this issue accurately.

Steve, shame on you for trying to blame Republicans while ignoring what Obama's Cat Food Commission is up to.

Posted by: argo0 on August 24, 2010 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

Inquiring patriots ask: Who owns Time?

Hell, who FOUNDED time?

I know that one! It was that left wing radical rascal Henry Luce (Yale, Skull and Bones). . .

Posted by: Day on August 24, 2010 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately, there was no comment section at the Time magazine link to express my disgust of Halperin's pathetic whining. Liberal Media, my ass.

Posted by: Patrick Star on August 24, 2010 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

Your liberal media!

Posted by: R on August 24, 2010 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, baby...anybody who believes that "truth" is something Halperin is in anyway familar with hasn't read his "stuff" regularly...and WHY, please tell me, does anyone give a rat's ass what this pompous insider thinks?

Posted by: Dancer on August 24, 2010 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

In reference to the Glenn Greenwald piece and its alleged "accuracy", that article relies on such authoritative information as Paul Krugman's statement that Obama's Deficit Commission "may call for deep benefit cuts". Yes, they may do that, and they may not. Even if they do, their recommendation won't be law. Also, what counts as a "deep" cut is a matter of opinion.

Get this straight: If you believe in keeping Social Security in anything like its current form and you have a serious grasp of the financial issues, then you should be open to the idea of some benefit cuts in some form, but almost certainly not cuts in the sense that Joe Retiree is ever going to get a smaller check than he got the month before. Rather, the "cut" will be an increase in the retirement age, or some reduction in the rate of growth of monthly payments.

Now, you won't hear that kind of discussion from any Republican official. The ones that talk about Social Security want to abolish it as a federal entitlement program. That they have little chance of enacting this radical change is no reason to let them off the hook for advocating it.

Posted by: Whick on August 24, 2010 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

Halperin also wants the embattled Islamic cultural and prayer center moved to a spot more distant from "911 ground zero." This in a gracious bow to sensitivities.

That's nice. Bipartisan, too.

What's up? Well, octogenarian David Broder won't be around forever. So perhaps Halperin, 45, hopes to inherit Broder's mantle as "dean of the Washington press corps." In which case, what strategy more shrewd than (as Steve puts it) urging Dems to be nicer to the party that's trying to destroy them?

Posted by: Jerry Elsea on August 24, 2010 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

Can we please have a moratorium on "Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown"?

Posted by: t case on August 24, 2010 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

I don't understand it, either.

Interesting. My understanding is that outlets like Time and indeed the vast majority of establishment media are owned by interests who want to gut SS, and therefore they control messaging on that issue. And other issues of import to them. It's really not that hard to connect the dots here, especially with the overwhelming evidence to support this contention.

Posted by: terraformer on August 24, 2010 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

You expect anything more from Halperin? Really?

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on August 24, 2010 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

we need better pundits.

Posted by: Jamie on August 24, 2010 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

Bipartisanship! HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa! Seriously? Who even uses that word anymore? Very interesting that is never a criticism of the GOP Daddies, that they're not being bi. So transparent.

Posted by: ManOutOfTime on August 24, 2010 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

Halperin has had to learn the hard way . As a lad growing up he had the distinct disadvantage of being both , not blind , and not deaf . These handicaps led him into the deep , deep waters where one dutifully genuflects to the angry gods . In one instance Halperin was terribly unfortunate to have made the dead obvious observation -
... to ABC News staff about coverage of the U.S. presidential election directing them not to "reflexively and artificially hold both sides 'equally' accountable" and that both John Kerry and George W. Bush used "distortion" in their campaign, but that Kerry's distortions were not "central to his efforts to win." ...
- This folderol of course aside from being personally humiliating made the correct impression on our bright middle aged lad . In a liberating exercise from decency and honesty the interview with champion dissembler and gravitas dreamer Hugh Hewitt stands as the clearest recipe for undiluted groveling in this era . After refusing to to "discuss any of his political views" he vituperated directly about his being insulted by the characterisation of himself , Halperin , being very liberal . Halperin uneasy about his being misunderstood and unable to kiss the ring or cuffs of Hewitt's person had the presence of mind to state that he , Halperin , agreed with the godlike Hewitt on every single topic they discussed .
Aside from being not blind , and not deaf , Haperin has had a remarkably easy time none the less in completing the image of himself , Mark Halperin , as a complete package of an Arse . This was cemented quite nicely after his benevolence dictated that after McCains heady comments about some such nonsense including rah rah America's great economic strength and security , the week before our present second great republican engineered depression took control of the declining middle classes hopes and dreams , and not in a very nice way .

Good luck Mark Halperin , you sniveling , pusillanimous , piece of work . Kiss kiss ...

Posted by: FRP on August 24, 2010 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

Halperin's mistaken understanding of "bipartisanship" assumes there is something to negotiate regarding Social Security with the Republicans.

There is nothing to negotiate.

Posted by: TCinLA on August 24, 2010 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

Whick, I have a pretty good grasp of the financial issues, and the fact is that Social Security is in fairly good health, and doesn't need to have the retirement age raised to 70 -- you seem to be acknowledging the same thing Krugman is (even as you criticize him), except you don't seem to recognize that raising the retirement age to that level is in fact a 20% cut in benefits. There is no need for any cuts, particularly if the cap is lifted for income that has to be paid in. But the Catfood Commission will almost certainly propose one, and Obama contributed significantly to the makeup of the Commission, appointing people who are almost uniformly on record as favoring benefit cuts. It seems like the only hope of there not being a benefit cut is if the Commission fails to garner enough votes on whether to recommend increased FICA taxes (either by raising the 7.65% or raising the cap on contributions) in addition to cuts.

And unless you think the Dems are going to lose so many seats as to allow Obama's veto to be overridden, it doesn't matter what a few Republicans say about privatizing Social Security. You're basically allowing yourself to be afraid of the bogeyman that can't happen in order to accept the immediate threat without complaint.

Posted by: argo0 on August 24, 2010 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

"Get this straight: If you believe in keeping Social Security in anything like its current form and you have a serious grasp of the financial issues, then you should be open to the idea of some benefit cuts in some form,"

Well I like to think I have a serious grasp of the financial issues surrounding Social Security, which is maybe why a pretty top end econoblog (Angry Bear) invited me to be their Social Security blogger in 2008 (my own SS blog having started in Nov 2004 when Bush put this first and foremost on the policy agenda).

We can install a 25 year fix to Social Security with no changes in retirement age or benefit formulas with a tax increase of less than a dollar per week for the average worker. Sound crazy? That is because most of the people asking us to "Get this straight" have never actually examined the numbers and converted them to dollars per worker per year or week. They are all veddy, veddy serious people who assume that the "fact" peddlers they draw upon actually did their homework for them and so they are qualified to lecture us on the basis of what they "know" about Social Security.

Until or unless those people are willing to express "crisis' in real dollar terms, and not God help us the common numbers floating around that put this in "unfunded liability over the Infinite Future" (no shit), but real numbers over time periods that actually make sense to the current worker/future retiree you should ignore them just like we should have ignored the similarly serious people who insisted we invade Iraq on the basis of what everyone "knew".

Posted by: Bruce Webb on August 24, 2010 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

I like the analogy and I agree with using real numbers rather than broad speculative scare facts , including the infinite future silliness . All in all I wish more folks thought about S S like Bruce Webb talks about it .

Posted by: FRP on August 24, 2010 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

Not content with destroying the private retirement savings of millions with their "free market" investment schemes our home grown monarchists want to now loot Social Security. What's scary is the number nearly insolvent"Palinistas" who want to help 'em.

Posted by: -syzygy- on August 24, 2010 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK



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