May 5, 2005


Social Security (The Note, 5/05/05, ABC News)

On Saturday morning, "Good Morning America" weekend presents an interview with former President Bill Clinton on a vast and sundry array of topics. Mr. Clinton sat down with ABC News' Kate Snow this week to talk mainly about his initiative to reduce obesity in children, and they went from there.

Here's an excerpt from their conversation . Contrary to the strategy pursued by his wife's party in Congress, Clinton suggests that Democrats put forth a plan to enhance the solvency of the program. Still, since President Bush only very recently endorsed a specific approach to restraining benefits, Clinton says Democrats should not be blamed for not having a plan until now.

Snow: When you were President you talked about Social Security. In fact, you had a Social Security drive at one point to try to reform it. The President now is laying out some new ideas about how to keep it solvent and the Democrats have mostly been saying no, no, no. Do the Democrats need to move, do they need to compromise and negotiate with this president on Social Security?

Clinton: Well, I think they need to come up with a plan of their own. But I don't think it's fair to criticize them for not having done it now. I mean, when I was President it was my job to come up with plans, and if you are in the congressional majority it's your job. We are in the minority in both houses and we needed to wait until they made their proposal and come back. We didn't have a proposal until a couple days ago.

Snow: But they shouldn't just let it lie.

Clinton: No I think we shouldn't let it lie . . . I think the Democrats should say what they are for on Social Security in the next couple weeks; they got time to put together a program. I think it should include an opportunity for people to participate in savings and ownership uh, they don't have to do private accounts because they can't figure out how to borrow the money. . . . but I think that the Democrats should have a plan and they should talk to the President and the congressional Republicans about it.

Senate pages will be scraping up bits of Harry Reid's skull for hours--his head just exploded.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 5, 2005 1:29 PM

Poor Josh Marshall of Tqlking Points Memo, the main blogosphere trumpeter of the "Just Say No" wing of the Democrat party. This will ruin his honeymoon.

Posted by: Dan at May 5, 2005 1:46 PM

Like OJ says, it's pretty obvious the Dems would be excitedly promoting this reform package if Clinton had proposed it. The "I'll slit my wrists before I allow one penny of SS money go into private accounts" stance is making them look very foolish.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at May 5, 2005 1:51 PM

What? Dems have been announcing their plan for months now. It's "NO". And if that doesn't work, "THREATEN AND OBSTRUCT."

Posted by: John Resnick at May 5, 2005 2:04 PM

John Resnick:

Actually, their response on this and other issues has been "No...and we'll [metaphorically] blow up the Senate if you try to do anything about it." Keep in mind that the anti-filibuster proposal is called the "nuclear option" because Democrats have threatened to "go nuclear" and shut down legislative action if it passes.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at May 5, 2005 2:11 PM

You'll note that of all the senators manning the rhetorical barricades to block Social Security reform without offering up an alternative, Hillary is virtually nowhere to be seen. She's also not saying anything as practical as Bill did to ABC, but by playing Switzerland in this intra-party dispute, she avoids the collateral damage that will come when the plan and Harry Reed's head blow up, while not incurring the wrath of the true believers for sabotaging their obstructionism.

Posted by: John at May 5, 2005 2:25 PM

Exactly. See "Threaten and Obstruct" above. They misunderstimate the vast majority of the American public who'd be delighted to see the Senate shut down.

I heard a figure the other day which I haven't independently verified but it would be amazing if true: there are some 100,000,000 gov't or former gov't employees with money currently invested through the TSP platform. Whatever the number is, this should be the cornerstone of any GOP podium pounding.

Posted by: John Resnick at May 5, 2005 2:28 PM

The question for Hillary is, does she really have the Dem nomination sewn up?

If she does, she can afford to swoop in from nowhere with a compromise plan and take credit with Bush for reforming Social Security, something that wouls make beating her in 2008 much more difficult.

But if she does that, she has the potential to lose just enough "betrayed" lefties already upset over her war votes.

If she does it, it will be an admirable show of guts, but I have a feeling it might backfire on her--it will be interesting to see if she chances it.

Posted by: Timothy at May 5, 2005 3:14 PM

Sen. Kerry declared during his campaign for president that he had a plan to save Social Security. Why hasn't he released it yet?

Posted by: GER at May 5, 2005 3:18 PM


He has so much to do first, such as releasing his military records (and he is about 100 days into his promise to Tim Russert to do it).

Posted by: jim hamlen at May 5, 2005 3:41 PM

GER and Jim

James Taranto over at BOTW keeps a running tab on how long it's been since he promised to release the records. I believe the count started from a post-election statement since it's only 95 days.

Posted by: Chris B at May 5, 2005 4:56 PM

The blog PoliPundit is where it started.

Interesting that Bill Clinton is cutting Harry Reid off at the knees, especially since Bush can point to Clinton as first raising the issue back in 1998.

It would be an astute move for HRC to team up (in some fashion) with Bush on this issue. The MSM would laud her for healing the divide. And I suspect she will be cracking the whip at the hard left more and more. She cannot afford to be identified with the MoveOn persona. Plus, by making the tough decisions, she keeps Howard Dean shuttered up in the attic where he can't hurt her (by extension).

Of course, it is also possible that there will be full-fledged warfare within the Democratic party over SS reform by July. Who will win?

Posted by: jim hamlen at May 5, 2005 5:04 PM

Krugman promised a program in the NYT in January. He must still be working on it.It' going to be a blog Sunday when it's released. I can't wait.

Posted by: Genecis at May 5, 2005 6:38 PM