Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What's with Bill Clinton?

In the immediate aftermath of the New York 26 congressional election that was won by a Democrat who criticized the Paul Ryan / frepublican Medicare proposal, we get this:
FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: I'm afraid that the Democrats will draw the conclusion that, because Congressman Ryan's proposal, I think, is not the best one, that we shouldn't do anything. And I completely disagree with that. I think there are lots of things you can do to bring down Medicare costs.
Way to go, Bill. You can't let the election result define the Democratic party as a clear defender of Medicare against the Republicans. You have to dilute and fuzz-up the message with wonkishness right away.

There will be plenty of time to get into the details of reining in medical costs and all that, but it's better if it's done from a public perception that Democrats are going to do their best to make Medicare work and be efficient. Bill Clinton should have held off talking about the "lots of things you can do" for some other day.

Also, what's the opposite of "faint praise"? This:
"Congressman Ryan's proposal, I think, is not the best one"
"not the best one". That'll get people worried, won't it?

UPDATE: Dean Baker:
In an article reporting on how the Republicans are backing away from the Ryan plan for privatizing Medicare. the NYT quoted former President Bill Clinton on the need to cut Medicare spending. Mr. Clinton was speaking a daylong conference of the deficit sponsored by Wall Street investment banker Peter Peterson.

It would have been worth reminding readers that Clinton is a big proponent of cuts to Social Security. At the deficit conference that Peterson sponsored last year, Clinton boasted that he had wanted to cut Social Security but congressional leaders from both parties blocked him. The cuts that he wanted would have reduced benefits by approximately 1 percent a year. This means that retirees in their 70s, 80s, or 90s, would be getting almost 15 percent less in Social Security benefits today, if President Clinton had gotten his way.

His desire to cut Social Security puts Clinton far outside the mainstream in the Democratic Party. In fact, it puts him far to the right of the majority of the Republican Party. It would have been appropriate to remind readers of this fact so they could put Mr. Clinton's interest in cutting Medicare in context.


Perhaps Bill Clinton spoke too quickly, but we Democrats need that reminder. After 2010, Republicans thought they had a mandate for even things they did not campaign on and discovered they overreached. Sure, let's pile on Ryan and the Rs, especially with substance. One happy special election victory a year and a half prior to November 2012 is not enough of a coattail. It's time to get to work, taking nothing for granted.

By Blogger Shag from Brookline, at 5/26/2011 2:51 AM  

I used to consider Clinton the best Republican president since Eisenhower, but I don't even think that anymore. Even Ike wouldn't have considered cutting Social Security.

You can take the boy out of the DLC, but you can't take the DLC out of the boy, I guess.

By Anonymous Screamin' Demon, at 5/27/2011 9:45 AM  

Ike didn't cut Social Security, he expanded it.

"Dwight Eisenhower was the principal force behind the greatest single expansion of Social Security beneficiaries in the history of the program. He led the legislative drive to add over ten million Americans to the system."

By Anonymous Screamin' Demon, at 5/27/2011 9:52 AM  

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