Jewish World Review May 27, 2011 23 Iyar, 5771
Hug morphs into death grip
By Roger Simon
If you who said it was the Spanish philosopher George Santayana writing in 1905, you are wrong.
It is actually the motto of the Republican Party in 2011.
It was a blazingly hot day in West Palm Beach, Fla., six weeks before the presidential election of 1996, and Bob Dole was boiling mad. Florida had gone Republican in presidential elections for 20 years, 40 percent of the vote was controlled by seniors, and Bob Dole was definitely a Republican senior. But the polls showed him losing the state to Bill Clinton.
Why? Medicare. The Democrats had spent $4 million in ads telling people that Bob Dole would end Medicare as they knew it. Dole had gone to an elderly center, and after his talk, a lady in a wheelchair had asked him, "Why are you cutting my Medicare?"
The lady pushing the wheelchair said, "That's all she hears all day long, the Clinton ads, that you're going to cut Medicare, cut Medicare, cut Medicare."
Under his deep tan (there is something about Republican leaders and deep tans), Dole grew bright red.
"Listen," Dole said. "I helped rescue Social Security. All my mother had was Social Security income and Medicare. I know how important it is to seniors, older women. So let's set the record straight."
At his next rally, Dole said of the Democratic ads: "We call it Medicscare! Mediscare! Mediscare! All the ads you see in Florida, all the ads you see in Florida, are negative Mediscare ads!'"
Dole lost Florida by 6 percentage points and America by 8.5.
Today, the Republicans have a bright, new rebuttal to Democratic attempts to portray their party as wanting "to end Medicare was we know it."
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speaking on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Wednesday, said his party had just lost a special House election in New York because Democrats had run a "Mediscare" campaign against them.
I don't know if Ryan is going to pay Bob Dole royalties, but he should.
Ryan seemingly has just awakened to the fact that when virtually every Republican member of the House voted in April for his plan to replace Medicare with vouchers, they hung an anchor around their necks.
Democrats are now piling anvils, barbells and the kitchen sink on top of that anchor to pull the Republicans down in the next election. And Ryan is shocked — shocked! — that it seems to be working. The Democratic victor in the New York special election on Tuesday ran ad after ad against her Republican opponent bashing her for endorsing the Ryan plan.
"It can be a powerful political weapon," Ryan said, as if he had just learned the Democrats had invented fire. "People in the Republican Party are nervous because of these kinds of ads."
But this is not the way Ryan spoke after that fateful vote in the House a little over a month ago. "This is our defining moment!" Ryan crowed.
And, unfortunately for the Republicans, he might be right. Medicare, Medicaid and what the Republicans want to do with those programs might indeed define the Republican Party in 2012 if the Democrats have their way. President Obama has already said flatly the Republican plan "would end Medicare as we know it."
Why is that so bad, considering Medicare expenses are threatening to break the U.S. budget?
It turns out Americans don't want cuts in Medicare. In a Washington Post-ABC poll last month, a staggering 78 percent of Americans opposed any cuts to Medicare and 69 percent opposed any cuts to Medicaid. Gallup found that even among Republicans, only 14 percent favored an overhaul of Medicare.
A New York Times-CBS poll showed "61 percent of Americans think Medicare is currently worth the costs. As many as 78 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of independents say it is worth it, but just 45 percent of Republicans agree. Among tea party supporters, 41 percent say the cost is worth it, while 46 percent say it's not."
Kaiser Public Opinion found "seniors prefer to keep the current Medicare system by a two-to-one margin."
And all this is before the Democrats have even begun their heavy ad campaigns around the country. Take the 33 Grannies. Have you heard of the 33 Grannies? You will.
Democrats estimate that each Medicare enrollee would have to pay an additional $6,400 in out-of-pocket expenses under the Ryan plan, and "33 grannies" is the number of Medicare recipients whose premiums would have to be raised to pay for tax cuts for a single wealthy taxpayer.
President Obama, on the other hand, claims his health care plan, which is currently the law of the land, has grown the economy, added jobs and protected seniors.
"I can report that granny is safe," Obama said.
Leaders in the Republican Party have long seen the inherent risks in Paul Ryan's plan.
House Speaker John Boehner said after the plan passed: "It's Paul's idea. Other people have other ideas. I'm not wedded to one single idea."
But judging by how Newt Gingrich was savaged by Republican pooh-bahs when he opposed the Ryan plan — and how quickly Gingrich was forced to grovel and apologize — no opposition to the Ryan plan is going to be allowed.
The Republicans have wrapped their arms around the Ryan plan, and public opinion be damned, they are hugging it.
The Democrats are delighted. They are planning to turn that hug into a death grip.
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© 2009, Creators Syndicate