I hope Michele Bachmann's people were watching her interview last night with Bill O'Reilly (you can read the whole transcript here) because she did not acquit herself well when it came to his question about raising the age of eligibility for Medicare and Social Security:
O'Reilly: Would you raise the age for Medicare? Would you raise the age for Social Security?
Bachmann: Again, No. 1, everyone has to be crystal clear: No one who is a current recipient of benefits would be impacted.
O'Reilly: No, I know. You've got to grandfather it in. Absolutely.
Bachmann: It would be subsequent people. That has to be crystal clear.
O'Reilly: Let's say under 40, you raise the rate, raise the age to 67, 68, something like that?
Bachmann: I think you have to look at longevities. Clearly I think we need to look at that both on the Social Security side and on the Medicare side and on Medicaid. More important than all of this, Bill, is repealing Obamacare.
O'Reilly: I got that, I got that. But you're dodging the question about raising the age.
Bachmann: No. Hear -- hear me on this. Because of couple of months ago, I was in the White House with President Obama. We asked him three times: "What's your plan to make Medicare solvent?" He mumbled around, didn't give an answer.
O'Reilly: He doesn't have a plan, Congressman (sic).
Bachmann: You know what he finally said? Listen.
O'Reilly: If he had a plan, he would have put it out there.
Bachmann: Let me tell you what the president said. Let me tell you what the president said.
O'Reilly: All right.
Bachmann: He said Obamacare. And so what senior citizens don't realize is that President Obama's plan for Medicare is they will all go into Obamacare. There won't be a Medicare going forward under President Obama.
O'Reilly: There's not going to be Obamacare though. I don't even -- I don't even think this is worth discussing because I think the Supreme Court is going to throw it out. And if it doesn't...
Bachmann: It's the law of the land now, Bill.
O'Reilly: If it -- yes, it's the law of the land...
Bachmann: I hope they do throw it out, but it's...
O'Reilly: doesn't kick in until 2013.
Bachmann: As president of the United States, Bill, I will not rest until we repeal Obamacare.
Well, that's nice. Everyone knows Bachmann would repeal Obamacare if she were elected President. But that doesn't tell me whether a Bachmann Administration would propose raising the age of eligibility for Medicare and Social Security. O'Reilly asked an absolutely legitimate question and she repeatedly dodged it. I think you have to look at longevities? When a candidate answers a question in Washington-speak it tells me that she has been presented with a question that she does not want to answer.
Now I can understand her reluctance to answer the question. Bachmann doesn't want to rule out raising the age for Social Security and Medicare and then two or three years down the road finds herself in a position where she has no choice but to raise the age and then face the political fallout. She doesn't want to have a "read my lips, no new taxes" moment. But that's no excuse for pregnant pauses and using words like "longevities."
So how would I answer the question if I were in her position? I would say something to the effect of, "Bill, raising the age of eligibility on Social Security and Medicare would be something I would prefer not to do. But given our current fiscal climate, it is something I probably could not entirely rule out as President. To do otherwise would be dishonest and a disservice to the American people."
Having said that I want to make clear that I think Michele Bachmann would make a much better President than Barack Obama. But in order for her to become President she needs to be able to answer questions like this in a reasonable way. This is absolutely critical because she will need to answer questions from people far less sympathetic to her than Bill O'Reilly.
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