John McCain tried to deny past comments on Social Security reform yesterday, a move which has exposed him to criticism from his rival as well as obscuring the record on what entitlement changes McCain would seek to correct.
During last night's pre-screened town hall, John McCain took a hard line against George Bush's plan to privatize social security saying, "But I'm not for quote privatizing Social Security, I never have been, I never will be."
But that doesn't quite fit with past comments made by McCain on social security. In fact, he was a big supporter of privatizing social security in 2004:
"Without privatization, I don't see how you can possibly, over time, make sure that young Americans are able to receive Social Security benefits."
He also told the Wall Street Journal this March that "as part of Social Security reform, I believe that private savings accounts are a part of it - along the lines of what President Bush proposed."
Sen. Obama has already responded, sensing a potential soft spot of support among McCain followers on an issue that he has previously injected into the election cycle. From his prepared remarks:
Now, John McCain's ideas on Social Security amount to four more years of what was attempted and failed under George Bush. He said he supports private accounts for Social Security - in his words, "along the lines that President Bush proposed." Yesterday he tried to deny that he ever took that position, leaving us wondering if he had a change of heart or a change of politics.
Well let me be clear: privatizing Social Security was a bad idea when George W. Bush proposed it. It's a bad idea today. It would eventually cut guaranteed benefits by up to 50%. It would cost a trillion dollars that we don't have to implement on the front end, permanently elevating our debt. And most of all, it would gamble the retirement plans of millions of Americans on the stock market. That's why I stood up against this plan in the Senate, and that's why I won't stand for it as President.
Howard Dean has also released a statement:
"John McCain should realize that the American people know a bad idea when they see one. Despite the rhetoric, the facts don't lie. Senator McCain not only supports privatizing Social Security, he was part of the Bush propaganda machine that tried to sell it to the American people. The American people cannot afford another Republican president who will put the retirement security of millions of hard working families at risk. Telling the voters he opposes privatizing Social Security when he clearly supports it is not the 'straight talk' Senator McCain promised the American people. Senator McCain is ill-suited to be President if he thinks the American people won't notice when he says something in 2008 that is the exact opposite of what he said in 2004 and 2005."