It finally happened. We're only a few months away from the 2014 midterms and I thought maybe we'd see a longer roster of infuriatingly misleading campaign ads from Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS outfit. But finally we have our first big winner.
Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) is running for reelection against Republican nominee Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR), a tea party candidate who, by the way, is leading the incumbent by three or more points in every recent poll. It's still close enough, however, to warrant another ludicrous ad buy from Rove. The new anti-Pryor ad is as twisted as we've come to expect from Rove whose prowess at up-is-down-black-is-white politics is virtually unmatched, and this ad is no exception.
First and foremost, it attempts to hit Pryor on his left flank by painting the senator as being an enemy of Social Security and Medicare -- two programs that small-government, anti-redistributionist tea party cranks like Tom Cotton ought to hate. Yet here's this ad in which Pryor is targeted as the mortal enemy of so-called entitlements. While Pryor's record itself isn't spotless, attacking him for his posture on Social Security in support of Cotton is hilarious.
NARRATOR: It's troubling that Senator Mark Pryor said we should overhaul Social Security and Medicare. On Social Security, Pryor suggested raising the retirement age.
No, no he didn't and we'll get to the Pryor quote from the ad in a second, but in fact it's Tom Cotton who supports raising the retirement age. Cotton posted an item on his campaign website in September of 2011 in which he said he "support[s] plans like Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity budget and the Republican Study Committee’s Honest Solutions budget." The latter, the Republican Study Committee's Honest Solutions budget, called for among other things raising the Social Security retirement age. Whaa-whaa.
And now the alleged "retirement age" soundbite used in ad:
PRYOR: ...say that they couldn't get Social Security until they turn 68 or 69.
Right off the bat, the ellipsis should tell us that Rove selectively edited the audio, truncating it to sound hinky. But if we look at the actual quote, Pryor was merely discussing how maybe the retirement age should be raised for his teenage kids half-a-century from now -- not right now, not for current seniors.
“You could pretty easily make Social Security solvent in perpetuity. Probably the biggest change would be, you would take my kids’ generation, teenagers today, and life expectancy is longer, and probably say that they couldn’t get Social Security until they turn 68 or 69.”
Meanwhile, Cotton is on record supporting personal investment accounts for Social Security -- the "privatization" of the program. He also supports Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) optional Medicare "voucher" system, allowing beneficiaries to choose between traditional Medicare or a private plan. Speaking of which...
NARRATOR: And on Medicare, Pryor was the deciding vote for Obamacare, which will cut Medicare Advantage benefits for our seniors.
Um, no. The Affordable Care Act will not cut benefits for seniors. The ad is grotesquely spinning a reduction in bloated payments from the government to private insurers as being somehow a benefit cut for seniors. It's not. But the payment reductions are absolutely necessary and will merely bring government spending on Medicare Advantage in line with traditional Medicare, helping to keep the whole thing solvent. So, really, if you honestly support Medicare, you'd support the payment cut -- which, again, IS NOT a benefit cut to Medicare recipients.
That said, in the face of incoherent pressure from the health insurance lobby and congressional Republicans, the White House canceled the payment cuts due to take place next year. In fact, payments will rise by 0.4 percent in 2015. And despite Advantage payment cuts in previous years following the passage of the ACA, enrollment has increased and premiums only rose by $1.64 per month this year. Hardly the Obamacare disaster that Republicans have been predicting.
NARRATOR: Start protecting Medicare, repeal Obamacare.
Weird. Cotton wants to repeal Obamacare and protect Medicare. Hmm. First of all, the Advantage cuts he opposes would, to repeat, help Medicare's solvency issue while not harming seniors. Secondly, if Congress repeals Obamacare, the provision that closes the Medicare Part-D donut hole would disappear, leaving seniors with massive out-of-pocket expenses for prescription medications, and if they can't afford to cover the cost, they'd have to go without medicine for months at a time. This is what Cotton is essentially proposing, counting on the idea that his voters don't understand how the ACA actually helps seniors... a lot.
That's the ultimate cynicism here: Rove is playing Arkansas voters for the suckers they are. Frankly, too many voters absolutely do not know what the law is all about nor do they understand how it both saves them money and improves the overall system. Why? The administration has done a terrible job at educating the public about the ACA, and the GOP has done a magnificent job at lying to the public about it. The new Rove ad is no exception. But don't hold your breath waiting for the traditional news media to debunk this one.