Michael Scherer debates Michael Scherer, loses

Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

Time's Michael Scherer has been kind enough to respond to my earlier post by ... well, by debunking his original post.

Here's Scherer's initial claim that an Obama ad distorted McCain's position on Social Security: "it is not true that McCain is running for president on a platform of turning Social Security over to Wall Street."

Now here's Scherer's update: "Read what I have written above, and decide if I am trying to hide the fact that McCain wants to pursue a plan to invest Social Security funds in the markets, which is the main allegation by Media Matters. I make this fact very clear."

Ok. Um ... if Scherer acknowledges "McCain wants to pursue a plan to invest Social Security funds in the markets," what exactly is his problem with the statement that "McCain is running for president on a platform of turning Social Security over to Wall Street"?

Scherer explains:

The ad says McCain favors "risking social security on the stock market," which is what I paraphrased as Obama's claim that McCain wants to "turn social security over to Wall Street," which the unbiased folks at Media Matters calls a strawman. I think it's a fair--though not exactly precise--characterization of the Obama claim.

Ok. Let's review:

According to Michael Scherer, "McCain wants to pursue a plan to invest Social Security funds in the markets."

But, according to Micahel Scherer, Obama's ad's statement that "McCain favors 'risking social security on the stock market'" is a distortion of McCain's position.

Huh?

Scherer continues:

The post mentions three ads that all share the same problem, which is clearly identified in the first paragraph. To wit, instead of talking about the opponents' plans, the ads talk about the opponents' past votes. This process obstructs the debate that should be happening about the candidate's plans. The Obama social security ad says McCain wants to do what Bush did. This is not what McCain now says he wants to do. That's the point.

The problem is, that point is wrong. Scherer supports it with nothing more than a vague statement from McCain's web page (a statement that actually undermines Scherer's point, as it endorses "personal accounts") and a slightly less vague statement from Mark Salter. He ignores John McCain's repeated comments this year in support of private accounts -- comments that a simple Google search for "McCain Social Security privatization" will unearth in seconds. Comments that I linked in my earlier post. And Scherer ignores his own statement -- just a few sentances earlier -- that "McCain wants to pursue a plan to invest Social Security funds in the markets."

Scherer says there should be a debate about the candidates' plans. I agree. But his post obscures McCain's plans; it doesn't clarify them. For instance, Scherer keeps suggesting that McCain's current statements contradict (and moot) his previous votes -- but he hasn't explained how they do so.

When he does get around to explaining -- perhaps in his next update? -- maybe Scherer can also explain why he dismisses the votes cited in the ad, one of which occured in 2006, as having taken place "a decade ago."

Posted In
Economy, Social Security, Elections
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