This Friday morning on MSNBC's Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough and regular Mark Halperin decided to go after President Obama for what he said on a campaign stop in Florida this week, where he talked to voters about Mitt Romney's plans to turn Medicare into a voucher system and balance the budget off of the backs of seniors rather than asking the rich to pay more in taxes.
They both tried to paint the President as unfairly attacking Romney and for not differentiating between those who are on the program today and those who would be affected by the changes. Then Halperin admits that Paul Ryan's plan, which Romney has endorsed, is indeed radical and that there very well could be changes to current seniors' benefits. Halperin also thinks Republicans deserve some credit for "at least trying more new ideas" and that Democrats had better get on board to "save" these programs. Sorry Mark, but eliminating and privatizing them is not "saving" any of our social safety nets, it's gutting and getting rid of them. And it's not "new" since Republicans have been trying to get rid of the New Deal programs since the day any of them were enacted.
It is enough to make someone's head spin watching these two attempt to play the false equivalency game here and pretend "both sides" are equally at fault on the here and that anything the President said is unfounded. As Halperin admits, Republicans do want to fundamentally change Medicare and I don't think any current seniors want to see those benefits cut for their children. And I don't believe President Obama is out there misrepresenting what the Republicans would like to do. He told voters Romney and the Republicans would like to turn Medicare into a voucher program and they don't want to raise taxes on millionaires. Those things are true. Republicans have already talked continually about how it would not affect current seniors when Paul Ryan first proposed his budget, and it didn't make their ideas any less popular.
Rough transcript below the fold.
SCARBOROUGH: This line of attack is straight out of Bill Clinton's '95 and '96 Medi-scare attacks, saying that Republicans want to cut Medicare to pay for tax cuts for the rich and he's using it in Florida. Will it work?
HALPERIN: Let me be clear, my own position is I'm against waste and fraud, but I don't mind abuse. Look, this is stunning to me that we have two of the most serious people I've ever covered as general election presidential candidates and both of them are engaging in this stuff on a range of issues. No one wants to change the program for current retirees. The President's not really making that clear to Florida seniors right now.
And the Republicans are right that the President and his party need a plan to save these programs. Republicans are at least trying more new ideas to save the programs for future generations, but there is also some truth to what the President said. Which is Republicans, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, do fundamentally want to change the plan.
But there's no doubt going forward in advertising and the President's own rhetoric, the President is going to be engaged in the kind of tactics Democrats have used before quite effectively and blurring the issues, suggesting current seniors, who benefit from Medicare will have the program fundamentally changed for them. There may well be some changes for current retirees, but what the President's conflating is the plan to change it down the road vs. what people who are currently beneficiaries get.
I think it's worked in the past. I think there's a good chance to work again because the Ryan plan is pretty radical in its change, meaning there's fundamental changes associated with it. I think Gov. Romney is going to have to join this debate. He can't sit back as a matter of policy and he's going to have to have the courage of his convictions. If he's for the Ryan plan, he needs to start educating the public about what the changes would mean.
SCARBOROUGH: This stuff always works. I mean, it always works.
And as is standard fare for these shows, more dire warnings about the fiscal cliff and how the working class had better get prepared for more austerity and pain ensued, because we all know, tough medicine on how to balance our budget must always be taken by the working class and the poor.