David Brooks: The Lesson For Republicans On Destroying Medicare Is They Need To Do Something 'More Crafty'

David Brooks apparently thinks that the way for the Republicans to fix their messaging on them wanting to destroy Medicare as we know and turn it into a voucher system isn't so much a problem with what they want to do, but with how the voters
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David Brooks apparently thinks that the way for the Republicans to fix their messaging on them wanting to destroy Medicare as we know and turn it into a voucher system isn't so much a problem with what they want to do, but with how the voters perceive what they want to do with it. Here was his advice for Republicans during the PBS Newshour.

DAVID BROOKS: I do think that is the lesson. The Republicans are telling themselves, this year, it's different. This year the people are so disgusted by the debt they want us to be serious.

And so what they effectively did was, they saw a line of battlements and a field of 400 yards with no cover, and they ran straight at it. And they get mowed down. And so I think a lesson for the Republicans has to be, do something more crafty. Don't just run straight at it.

"Do something more crafty", yeah, that's the ticket. So in other words, don't let the voters know what you really want to do to Medicare, and be more sly about it. Jesus, what a hack. And as I've said before, any time you hear one of these pundits using the word "serious" on the air, that's code for sticking it to the working class. Brooks apparently also thinks if the Republicans just get their messaging right, voters won't realize they're sticking it to seniors or future seniors with their budget plans which destroy our social safety nets.

Transcript via PBS below the fold.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, let's bring it home and talk about politics in this country. There was a congressional -- a special election in a congressional district, New York State's 26th District, where we saw the Democrat win, in part, David, by going after the Republican for embracing the Paul Ryan Medicare proposal.

What -- are there lessons from this? Is it a one-time deal or what?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. I don't think it's a one-time deal. If you ask Americans, do you think Medicare should be cut to help trim the deficit or trim the debt, 78 percent say, no, don't touch Medicare. So, Medicare is pretty popular.

When Barack Obama cut it by $400 billion or $500 billion as part of health care, Democrats -- Republicans went after him for death panels and all the rest. Paul Ryan and the Republicans went after it. And the Democrats have gone after them for ending Medicare. Both those charges are more or less untrue.

Nonetheless, they struck a chord because people want to keep their Medicare. And so, to me, the depressing thing is not a partisan thing, is just the lesson for both parties is never touch Medicare, never touch Social Security, don't touch it.

And that would be fine if we could afford it. The problem is we can't afford that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And we heard -- in fact, Bill Clinton, former President Clinton, told Gwen Ifill this week in an interview that the Democrats have to be careful about assuming from the results of this election that they can get away with doing nothing about Medicare.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes. No, the president did say that. And, in fact, he said something similar to Paul Ryan in a -- sort of a off-the -- off-the-microphone comment as well.

Judy, the reality is, any time there's a special election, and seats turn from one party to the other, especially where it's a seat that has been long held by one party, as is the case in the 26th District of New York -- for over 40 years, a Republican -- the winning -- the losing side always says, it was local factors, unique local factors that caused the defeat. And then they usually confide that our candidate wasn't that good.

That was the case in Massachusetts, you will recall, last year when Scott Brown beat Martha Coakley. The winning side, by contrast, said, no, this is part of a national tide. It's a national movement. It's that Kathy Hochul was a far better candidate, the Democrat, than Jane Corwin. Make no mistake about that. She was a superior candidate.

But this was a Republican district. And Medicare was defining. The problem for the Republicans is this. They never ran on Medicare last fall. They ran on cutting the size, scope, and spending of the federal government, that government had gotten too big, that the economy was in terrible shape. They never mentioned Medicare, other than, as David pointed out, we're going to stop Barack Obama from cutting $500 billion, and we're going to defend the 65-year-olds and all the rest of it.

The problem for the Republicans is they're now on the defensive. They rushed to vote on this, this Ryan plan, and they're all on the record. And that -- now the Democrats are emboldened. They're on the offensive. They have been playing defense now for two years. And Republicans who gloated over the fact that the Democrats were supporting health care when the polls were against them -- David just cited a poll. The Republicans are in that position on Medicare right now.

So, the total role reversal of the two parties politically is really a change-change.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see it?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I mean, in both cases, the parties were trying to do the right thing.

We can talk about this or that aspect of the Ryan plan, but it was an attempt to try to deal with a national problem, which is the debt problem. There is a significant chance that, over the debt ceiling fight, there will be a big national catastrophe if we don't reach an agreement on that.

There's also a very significant chance, over the next four years or five years, there will be a serious problem because of the debt and the credit rating of the country. And so, we do have to do something. This result, which I think accurately reflects public opinion, says, do nothing.

And what the Democrats did this week in Congress, there were four budgets put up for vote in the Senate. Every single Democrat voted against every single one of them. So, Barack Obama's budget got zero votes. And so, it's fine and it's politically smart to lay back and play possum and say, "Hey, I'm not for anything, nothing unpopular here." But, eventually, somebody is going to have to find a way to reach some sort of bipartisan deal on this.

MARK SHIELDS: I'm not saying there won't be a bipartisan deal and shouldn't be a bipartisan deal.

I just think the Republicans ran through several stop signs and red lights to do this. I mean, we talked...

JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean voting for the Ryan plan.

MARK SHIELDS: Voting for it.

There was -- health care -- Obama ran on health care in 2008. And then the Democrats took the next 19 months of -- of trench warfare, of making the case, of compromising. This was introduced and voted on in two weeks, and with absolutely no preparation, no public persuasion.

It was an act of incredible political arrogance and hubris on the part of the Republicans, and they're going to pay for it, and they are paying for it.

DAVID BROOKS: I do think that is the lesson. The Republicans are telling themselves, this year, it's different. This year the people are so disgusted by the debt they want us to be serious.

And so what they effectively did was, they saw a line of battlements and a field of 400 yards with no cover, and they ran straight at it. And they get mowed down. And so I think a lesson for the Republicans has to be, do something more crafty. Don't just run straight at it.

And of course the very "serious" people out there will never talk about raising taxes on the rich to take care of our budget problems.

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