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Daily Howler: Wherever they went to find Jim Lehrer, they must have found Schieffer there too
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WHERE DID THEY GO TO FIND LEHRER? Wherever they went to find Jim Lehrer, they must have found Schieffer there too: // link // print // previous // next //

A WEEK’S DELAY: We’ll delay for a week our four-part spectacular on liberal response to the Rathergate matter. We’ll offer the report next week, as Rather’s reigns draws to its end.

WHERE DID THEY GO TO FIND LEHRER: Where did they go to find a man as clueless as the NewsHour’s Jim Lehrer? Last year, when Lehrer played some Hardball, we learned about his “brilliant life style,” the life style that takes him to so many parties. And we learned about the time he spends writing his endless novels (link below). But where else can you find a man who knows so little about his day job? Last night, the brilliant novelist interviewed Bill Frist about the perils of Social Security. Where do you go to find a man so clueless that he’ll even say this?

LEHRER (3/1/05): What do you make of the recent talk just in the last day or two about the Moynihan Plan, it was called—named after the late Sen. Pat Moynihan—which is called Social Security Plus? You leave the Social Security program pretty much the way it is and you add then personal savings in addition to that. Are you—does that sound good to you?
Good God! Saint Moynihan proposed “leaving the Social Security program pretty much the way it is,” Lehrer said. And there’s a name for what Moynihan proposed—Social Security Plus. Good Lord! There was only one problem with Lehrer’s statement; both things he said were grossly wrong. On the other hand, his groaning misstatements did fit in with current DC party chatter. So the brilliant novelist/party-goer was doing what Washington pundits do best. He was reciting the Established High Cant of his class, even though the High Cant is just bogus.

First, did Moynihan propose “leaving the Social Security program pretty much the way it is and then adding personal savings in addition to that?” We’re sorry, but no—he did not (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/1/05). In fact, Moynihan proposed something quite different; he proposed steep reductions in future benefits, so steep that the you could reduce the current payroll tax and still keep the program fully solvent. And with the money he’d cut from the payroll tax, he would establish private—sorry, “personal”—savings accounts. Proposing this didn’t make Saint Pat evil; it just meant that he was pretty much proposing the same darn thing that Bush has proposed. The big difference? Bush now seems to lean toward redirecting four points of the pay roll tax. Moynihan only said, “Let’s cut two.”

So no; it’s false to claim that Moynihan proposed leaving SS alone and establishing savings account in addition to that. In fact, Moynihan proposed substantial cuts in SS benefits; those personal accounts would have been replacement for the lost benefits, not add-ons, as Lehrer claimed. But for the past two month, All Good Democrats have ranged far and wide pretending that Sainted Pat did propose add-ons. Lehrer has heard it at swish soirees. Last night, he blabbed it out on the air.

But you really saw how your “press corps” works when Lehrer tossed in that added point—when he referred to “Social Security Plus.” It’s true, of course—back in 1999 and 2000, when Moynihan was proposing those steep SS cuts, there actually was a major Dem who proposed the plan that Lehrer described—and he even called his plan “SS Plus.” But the Dem who did this was Candidate Gore, not the sainted Pat Moynihan. In fact, here he was, on stage in Boston, debating SS with Candidate Bush, then the Texas governor:

GORE (10/3/00): Here's the difference: I give a new incentive for younger workers to save their own money and invest their own money, but not at the expense of Social Security—on top of Social Security. My plan is Social Security Plus. The governor's plan is Social Security minus. Your future benefits would be cut by the amount that's diverted into the stock market, and if you make bad investments, that's too bad.
By the way—to whom did Gore address these remarks? Of course! To the moderator of the debate—a man whose name is Jim Lehrer! But that was then and this is now. Now, Inside Washington is rewriting history, pretending that Up is Down and War is Peace. And pretending that Dear Saint Patrick Moynihan proposed a plan he actually opposed. And pretending, as always, that Vile Hated Gore never drew breath on the planet.

Speaking of planets, to which one must a press corps go to find a man as clueless as Lehrer? Oh yeah! The corps must to the feeding line at a sweet Inside DC Soiree! There they will find a great modern novelist, exercising his brilliant life-style—munching down tons of free food and hearing pleasing but bogus “facts,” facts he’ll repeat to his audience.

Let’s summarize: It was Gore who proposed savings accounts in addition to Social Security; and it was Gore whose saving plan was called Social Security Plus. Moynihan dumbly grumbled, complained and criticized. How dare Vile Gore say “privatization?” the sainted press icon even said.

THEY MUST HAVE FOUND SCHIEFFER THERE TOO: Readers, wherever they went to find Jim Lehrer, they must have found Bob Schieffer there too. As Media Matters noted in an earlier post, the CBS know-nothing made this laughable statement on this Sunday’s Face the Nation:

SCHIEFFER (2/27/05): Senator Sununu, you have said the structural weakness of the president's Social Security plan is the greatest long-term threat to the federal budget. Yet critics say that the plan to create these personal savings accounts will cost $1 trillion to $2 trillion down the line and does nothing to resolve the problem of solvency with the system. How do you react to that?
Good boy! As Media Matters noted, Schieffer vastly understated the transition costs of those private accounts. But Media Matters failed to note the full absurdity of Schieffer’s statement. How absurd was Schieffer’s remark? Just seconds before his groaning misstatement, Senator Jon Corzine (D-NJ) had made the following remark. He had made the remark to Bob Schieffer:
CORZINE: You know, there are a number of initiatives [that could improve Social Security]...But I don't think we need to take away guaranteed benefits. We shouldn't be adding on to the national debt at the incredible rates of $2 trillion over a decade and five over 30 years. It's just—that's a hard road to follow.
Corzine, an actual critic, had just finished telling Schieffer that the transition costs would be five trillion dollars! But so what? Schieffer knew he should be a good boy. Just like that, in the blink of an eye, he scaled it way back, to one trillion!

How inane—how store-bought—was Schieffer’s remark? In fact, Schieffer was vastly understating what the Bush Admin itself has said about those transition costs! Here’s what Dick Cheney told Chris Wallace when they discussed the subject on a much-publicized Fox News Sunday:

WALLACE (2/2/05):But you don't think borrowing trillions of dollars more—you talk about the economy—increasing an already huge deficit, you don't think that's bad for the economy?

CHENEY: Well, but, again, remember how much we're going to borrow. We're going to borrow $758 million [sic] over the next 10 years to set up the personal retirement accounts. We think that's a manageable amount.

WALLACE: But trillions more after.

CHENEY: That's right. Trillions more after that.

In short, Cheney agreed that the transition costs would be at least $2.8 trillion. But good boy! Schieffer knew he mustn’t say that. So he scaled the troubling number way back down. He even undersold Darling Cheney.

By the way, the New York Times finally did that front-page profile that we’ve been seeking since at least last fall. On February 18, the paper reported that Schieffer is a long-time personal friend of Bush (Schieffer’s brother is Bush’s long-time business partner). We don’t know if that explains the gentleman’s ludicrous outing this day. But after watching Scheiffer’s clowning, we will offer this assessment—wherever they went ot find Jim Lehrer, they must have found Schieffer there too.

WILLING TO LET PEOPLE DO AND SAY ANYTHING: How bad was Lehrer’s performance last night? Over and over, Frist recited a well-scripted point—the hopeless Democrats insist that there is “no problem” with Social Security. Here was its first iteration, offered as he spoke about recent town hall meetings:

FRIST: The opposition—this sort of “Say no, there is no problem” opposition—is very, very organized all across the country. [And] what we learned is that the Democrats, or the other side of the aisle, the Democrats here in the United States Senate deny there's a problem; they said there is no problem, period. The American people are telling us something differently, and when we engage them, they're saying that there is a problem.
Frist’s remarks were highly inspiring. But wait a minute—has any Senate Dem ever said that there is “no problem” with Social Security? We would love to see the quote. But you won’t get the quote with Lehrer in charge, because Lehrer, snoozing soundly last night, was willing to let Frist do and say anything. And when Frist saw that his host was asleep, he decided to take advantage:
FRIST: We've got to get the politicians to wake up in America. Right now, when I've got the other side of the aisle saying there's no problem—first of all you have to make the diagnosis before you come in and decide what operation you're going to do. It's as simple as that to me. It's no more complicated.
There! Just like that, Frist said it again. Indeed, when Lehrer asked his Up-Is-Down question about Saint Moynihan’s sainted plan, Frist snuck his point in one more time. “You know, I would look at it, Jim,” he magnanimously said. “What I've dealt with all day today is a lack of a complete appreciation of how challenging, how big this problem is.”

As always, Frist was playing the martyr—and, as usual, Lehrer was asleep. Has any Dem ever said that there’s “no problem” with Social Security? We would love to see the quote. As usual, Jim Lehrer didn’t ask.

(For the record, depending on future economic growth, there may not be a funding shortfall. One of the three projections by the SS trustees says—what else?—“No problem.”)

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: To see Lehrer explain his cluelessness RE Iraq—and to learn more about his “brilliant life style”—see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/17/04.