Games People Play

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Games People Play

Senators Chuck Grassley and Max Baucus were on "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" the other day discussing Social Security.

But this post really has nothing to do with that topic itself. Instead, I am using it as an opportunity to highlight one of the ridiculous games played by politicians and the media in DC.

Take a look at this exchange between Margaret Warner, the anchor, and Sen. Grassley
MARGARET WARNER: Sen. Grassley, even if, let's say just for the purpose of argument, that private accounts were set aside somehow, for the long-term solvency, you all face some painful choices. You've heard some of them today. I mean, it's raising taxes; it's cutting or adjusting benefits.

Do you sense in the Senate, or even in your committee, a real appetite for tackling that now?

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY: You know, none of the 535 members of Congress, including all 100 senators really want to deal with Social Security. We have an opportunity to deal with it. We should deal with it. We all know we need to deal with it.

We know -- all understand what the problem is, and that's a mathematical definition of the problem, and there's a mathematical solution to the problem, and I just think even though we don't want to deal with it, we ought to accept this opportunity. And I want to reach that point where we do deal with it, and that's my job.

MARGARET WARNER: But Sen. Baucus, I'll ask you the same question. I guess what I should have said more clearly was, it seems to me there are a lot of Republicans who just won't talk about tax increases, and there are a lot of Democrats who just won't talk about benefit cuts or adjustments.
Actually Margaret, your initial question was perfectly clear - Sen. Grassley just decided not to answer it. You asked Grassley if Republicans were willing to deal with the fact that reforming Social Security might require tax increases or benefit cuts and Grassley responded by completely ignoring your question.

Politicians have mastered the art of merely filling time whenever they appear on television. They are perfectly aware that TV segments have strict time limits and that the best way to deal with a difficult question is just to speak vaguely about the issue long enough to eat up the time allotted for that question.

It is part of the game and everybody knows it - even Margaret Warner, which is why she pretended that the fault was hers for not asking a specific enough question rather than openly challenging Grassley after he blew her question off.

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