Forget the eight Republicans who actually took part in the debate at the Reagan Library, the winners were former Bush administration stalwarts Karl Rove and Dick Cheney.
It was the former top advisor and vice president who set the agenda with their comments on Social Security, The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin wrote in her blog Right Turn.
Before the debate Rove called Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s language on Social Security “toxic” and Cheney disputed Perry’s claim that Social Security is a “Ponzi scheme.”
“It certainly came up in the debate. Perry, remarkably, didn’t have a pithy answer and refused to disclaim the remarks in his controversial book,” she wrote. “And he didn’t offer a tangible plan that would demonstrate his desire to repair and preserve Social Security.
“Mitt Romney jumped all over the issue. His campaign sent out an e-mail titled, ‘Perry does not believe Social Security should exist.’ Included were a list of Perry’s statements declaring Social Security a ‘failure’ and suggesting that the federal government had overstepped its bounds by setting up a national retirement benefits system.”
Rubin writes that Perry has “used incendiary rhetoric about a critical topic” and “doesn’t have a clear response in the debate.” She said this may be the result of “insufficient prep time or overwhelmed homestate staffers.”
“But Perry can’t afford to offer half-baked ideas and allow his past, troublesome statements to float around,” Rubin concludes. “He’d be wise to promptly disclaim his comments as intending merely to start a debate and then roll out a smart, forwarding-looking reform plan that will preserve Social Security. If he doesn’t, he places his nomination at risk.”
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