Rep. Thaddeus McCotter strode outside the Capitol today to introduce his first well-timed policy proposal of the 2012 campaign -- a Social Security reform plan built along the lines of the old Ryan-Sununu plan, one that would limit the obligations of the program by creating private accounts for people under 50 to go alongside some smaller guaranteed benefits. It was endorsed on the scene by Grover Norquist, who'd backed Ryan-Sununu, too. Naturally, most of the questions were some variation on "But what do you think of Rick Perry calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme?"
"To me, the question is not what you term a system that is unsustainable," said McCotter. "The question is what you do to fix a system that is unsustainable. I would hope that, if anything else, this sparks debate among Republicans and Democrats. If you don't like this either, at least come forward with a proposal that you'd use as a basis."
I asked McCotter if he disagreed with Perry's central critique: That Social Security was unconstitutional and bad for America's will.
"If I agreed with that," he said. "I wouldn't be introducting a bill to save it, would I?"
McCotter, who won't be onstage in Tampa -- he will watch the debate from his office, he said -- got to the two problems dogging Perry. One: He has criticized Social Security without proposing his own, attackable plan to replace it. Two: He's criticized the program's very existence, while other Republicans have limited their critiques to "how can we save it?"
What did it mean that other candidates -- Romney, maybe Bachmann -- were attacking Perry for talking in such terms about Social Security?
"What they're saying," analyzed Grover Norquist, "is that their campaigns are not going as well as they'd like."