More Chutzpah on “Entitlement Reform”

In yesterday’s Day’s End post I noted this predictable development, as reported by TPM’s Brian Beutler:

Remember those warnings about how instead of welcoming President Obama’s adoption of Chained CPI, Republicans would continue to deny him a budget deal and attack him for proposing to cut Social Security?

Well Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) — who also happens to be chairman of the House GOP’s re-election committee — just showed how it’s done, saying Obama’s budget “lays out a shocking attack on seniors.”

“I’ll tell you when you’re going after seniors the way he’s already done on Obamacare, taken $700 billion out of Medicare to put into Obamacare and now coming back at seniors again, I think you’re crossing that line very quickly here in terms of denying access to seniors for health care in districts like mine certainly and around the country,” he said on CNN Wednesday afternoon.

So after not only begging but demanding that Obama embrace “entitlement reform” generally and curtailment of Social Security benefits in particular, Republicans will now blast Obama for taking them up on it, according to the guy who will be in charge of funding 2014 House campaigns for his party. Note that Walden also reiterated past Republican attacks on Obama for “Medicare cuts.”

So far, the only intra-communal criticism of Walden for this hypocritical demagoguery has come from the Club for Growth’s Chris Chocola, who has demanded the Oregon solon “clarify” his remarks lest someone get the impression Republicans don’t actually favor “entitlement reform” (Joe Scaraborough also took a shot at Walden, but last time I checked he doesn’t sign off on Republican campaign ads).

As Walden’s own reference to Medicare illustrated, he was really just following the precedent set in 2012, when Paul Ryan was literally posing with old folks to demonstrate his brave resistance to Obama’s “cuts” even as he promoted a budget proposal that contained the very same provisions.

Now Republicans may claim that both Ryan and Walden were technically correct in that their own favored “reforms” to both Social Security and Medicare involve benefit cuts for future beneficiaries while “grandfathering” current retirees (this doesn’t absolve Ryan for incorporating Medicare provisions affecting current retirees in his own budget, but does distinguish that particular bit of hypocrisy from his broader Medicare voucher proposal). That has indeed been part and parcel of the intergenerational warfare many GOP pols have conducted, suggesting that virtuous old white conservative “base” voters would suffer so that Obama could reward those people with more of old folks’ money.

The most you can say about this gambit politically is that it once agains shows Republicans are willing to sacrifice any chance at bipartisan budgeting in order to put out some fresh chump bait on the campaign trail. At Daily Kos, Jed Lewison is actually thanking Walden for “saving the Democratic Party from itself” by not only rejecting but attacking Obama’s gesture of willingness to violate Democratic taboos on Social Security. Deficit hawks may tut-tut and ask for the Great Big Adults of the GOP to rebuke Walden. But any Democrat who actually has to run for election or re-election any time in the near future has gotten the message loud and clear.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.