AP reported Rove attack on Democrats over Social Security, immigration without challenge

››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

An Associated Press article reported that Karl Rove, during an appearance on Fox News Sunday, "[b]lamed congressional Democrats for standing in the way of changing Social Security and immigration law." But the AP did not note -- as Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace did during his interview with Rove -- that "there was tremendous opposition from your own party on immigration reform and, frankly, not much support on Social Security reform."

An August 19 Associated Press article reported that deputy White House chief of staff Karl Rove, during an August 19 appearance on Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday,"[b]lamed congressional Democrats for standing in the way of changing Social Security and immigration law, two important pieces of Bush's second-term domestic policy that fizzled. Democratic leaders didn't want to give Bush a 'political victory,' Rove said." But the AP did not note -- as Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace did during his interview with Rove -- that, in Wallace's words, "there was tremendous opposition from your own party on immigration reform and, frankly, not much support on Social Security reform." Indeed, most congressional Democrats supported the immigration bill backed by the White House, while Senate Republicans played the dominant role in killing the bill. Further, Democrats were not alone in opposing the Bush administration's efforts to privatize Social Security; contrary to Rove's accusation that they opposed Bush's plan for political reasons, opponents of the plan in Congress and elsewhere noted that the proposed partial privatization of Social Security would exacerbate the system's financial problems in the short term and, as the Bush administration has acknowledged, would do nothing by itself to address them in the longer term.

The August 19 AP article reported that Rove "blamed congressional Democrats for standing in the way of changing ... immigration law." But the AP report did not note that a majority of Senate Democrats on June 28 voted for cloture (33-14) on the Bush-backed comprehensive immigration reform bill -- which would have ended debate and permitted a vote on the bill itself -- while a majority of Republicans voted against (12-37), thereby blocking the bill. In a June 29 article, Washington Post staff writer Jonathan Weisman described the failed cloture vote as "a major blow to Bush, dealt largely by members of his own party."

As Wallace noted, the administration had "not much [Republican] support on Social Security reform." For instance, a January 11, 2005, Post article reported that "[m]any Republicans are expressing reservations about the political wisdom of President Bush's vision for restructuring Social Security" and that "some congressional Republicans are panning the president's plan -- even before it is unveiled." The article went on to report that then-Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT) "said there is no way he will support Bush's idea of allowing younger Americans to divert some of their payroll taxes into private accounts" and added that "Rep. Jack Kingston (Ga.), a member of the GOP leadership, said 15 to 20 House Republicans agree with Simmons, although others say the number is closer to 40." Similarly, an April 27, 2005, New York Times article reported that, during the Senate Finance Committee's first hearing on Social Security reform, "one Republican, Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, said she did not want to tamper with 'the foundation for our seniors,' and another, Senator Craig Thomas of Wyoming, expressed concern over the amount of borrowing that proposals like the president's would require." Further, as Media Matters for America noted, results from an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, conducted May 12-16, 2005, indicated that even though most Americans believed Social Security faced difficulties, the public did not support Bush's proposal to privatize the program.

From the August 19 AP article:

He [Rove] appeared on three Sunday talk shows after announcing last week he was leaving the White House at the end of the month to spend more time with his family.

[...]

On other issues, Rove:

--Blamed congressional Democrats for standing in the way of changing Social Security and immigration law, two important pieces of Bush's second-term domestic policy that fizzled. Democratic leaders didn't want to give Bush a ''political victory,'' Rove said.

From the August 19 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:

WALLACE: The other complaint about you -- and actually, even some Republicans have been saying that this week -- is that the very things that made you so successful as a campaign strategist -- the polarizing strategy -- hurt you in trying to help govern and that, in fact, that you alienated Democrats and even -- I'm not telling anything you haven't heard this week -- ran roughshod over congressional Republicans.

ROVE: Yeah.

WALLACE: Briefly, and not getting into the details of each, how do you explain the failure to build coalitions in the second term on Social Security reform, immigration reform, tax reform?

ROVE: Yeah. First of all, I don't accept that we didn't build coalitions. We built a coalition to pass an energy bill. We built a bipartisan coalition to pass a tax cut. We built -- three tax cuts.

We built a bipartisan coalition to pass education reform, bipartisanship to pass the Patriot Act, bipartisanship for the war resolution -- bipartisanship, incidentally, on Social Security. The chairman of the president's Social Security Reform Commission was respected Democrat Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York. On immigration, we worked closely with Democrats in the house and the Senate. In fact, it was a Democrat who --

WALLACE: But why didn't you get any of them through in the Senate?

ROVE: Well, because at the end of the day, Senator Harry Reid, for reasons that are completely inexplicable -- we were this close to getting that bill through. There were a whole series of amendments lined up by proponents and opponents. Everybody would have had a chance to be part of the process.

And on a Friday night, for reasons that I, to this moment, do not understand and cannot explain to you, Senator Reid precipitously pulled down that bill, claiming that he was tired of it, didn't think that there was going to be enough time the next week. We were within a couple of days. Members of the Senate who said, "Look, I've got a shot to get my amendment. If I get my amendment passed, I'll be for the bill. If I don't get my amendment passed, I will at least have had a shot to try to improve the bill and I could probably be for it" --

WALLACE: But, Mr. Rove, there was tremendous opposition from your own party on immigration reform and, frankly, not much support on Social Security reform.

ROVE: Well, look. On Social Security it's a tough issue. This president campaigned, talked about it in 2000, talked about it in 2004. But it's a difficult issue. I understand that.

But again, inexplicable opposition from Democrats -- Senator Moynihan, for example, came up with a wonderful idea, called, after the author of it, the Posen plan, which basically said we're going to have a progressive benefit and we're going to take the promise that Social Security has made that it can't fulfill, but we'll keep it to the bottom third by giving them the full benefit.

We'll have a scaled-up benefit so that everybody gets a check as big as the check that they're supposed to get today and that the government can -- that we've got the tax money to pay for. This was a great idea, and Democrats opposed it. And why? Because they didn't want to give this president a victory.

I had Democrats tell me, face to face, "We'd love to work with you on Social Security, but our leadership won't let me," or, "I'd love to work with you on Social Security, but my leaders are afraid of giving the president a political victory." That's bad for America.

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