Democrats Versus Medicare!

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
June 28 2011 10:44 AM

Democrats Versus Medicare!

Greg Sargent catches the NRCC running another one of this cycle's remixed ad cliches -- the bristling attack on a Democrat that warns voters he/she will cut Medicare . This one goes after Rep. Lois Capps over her vote for the Affordable Care Act. Nothing new here since 2010; it's an attempt, as all those NY-26 ads were attempts, to prove that Democrats have the more radical plan.

This isn't a new story, but the amount of bad faith on display in the Medicare debate is breathtaking. And it really is on one side. Democrats attack Republicans over their version of Medicare reform because they want to keep the existing system as a guaranteed entitlement. Republicans attack Democrats over their Medicare reform because it's politically dangerous to be the party that takes away guaranteed Medicare spending. For example, the new ad appears on the NRCC's YouTube channel, and one of the last videos posted there was this one.

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Why is Pelosi saying Medicare is "on the table"? Because Republicans are demanding that entitlement reform, but not taxes, stay on the table in the debt ceiling debate. Thus, interviewers get Democrats on the record willing to play along with Republicans -- and Republicans use this to jujitsu the Medicare attack!

This is of at least limited utility in an election context, but if you're a serious Medicare reformer you have to worry how this sets up a possible negotiation to come. Let's say it's 2013, and President Rick Perry and his Republican Congress are going to tackle Medicare. The voters who supported them have been told, for years, that the only way to save Medicare was to defeat those horrible Democrats. Where's the space for reform?

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.