Novak falsely claimed that Bush and other Republicans "never said" Social Security should be privatized

Novak falsely claimed that Bush and other Republicans "never said" Social Security should be privatized


On the April 21 edition of CNN's Crossfire, co-host Robert Novak challenged Democratic strategist Steve McMahon to "name me one" Republican who has ever said "let's privatize Social Security." When McMahon responded that President Bush has done so, Novak exclaimed, "That's a lie!" Novak defended his statement by suggesting a distinction between Bush's plan for private Social Security accounts and "privatization."

In fact, Bush, members of his administration, and other Republicans have advocated "privatization" of Social Security on numerous occasions. As ABC's World News Tonight reported on October 30, 2002, while campaigning for the presidency in 2000 Bush equated private accounts with "privatization": "What privatization does, it allows the individual worker his or her choice to set money aside in a managed account." Since then, Bush has repeatedly advocated the creation of private accounts. At a Republican fund-raiser in September 2004, Bush stated that he wanted to offer younger workers "a private account that they can call their own, a private account they can pass on to the next generation, and a private account that government can't take away."

Karl Rove, a senior adviser to Bush, also equated private accounts with privatization in comments prior to the 2000 vice-presidential debate, suggesting that the two terms are essentially interchangeable. From the August 13, 2000, broadcast of CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer:

ROVE: Oh, I think Dick Cheney is going to do great. Because he is going to have a debate not only with Joe Lieberman, but with, for example on Medicare reform, Cheney and Lieberman supported the bipartisan commission on Medicare reform; Al Gore opposed it. On Social Security privatization, encouraging private personal retirement accounts, Cheney was for them.

In addition, two current Republican members of Congress have explicitly supported the privatization of Social Security:

  • Rep. Chris Chocola (R-IN): "Bush's plan of individual investment of two percent of the money is a start. Eventually, I'd like to see the entire system privatized." [South Bend Tribune (Indiana), 11/1/00]
  • Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) debating Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY): "That's one of the ways we can save Social Security. Privatization is one of the ways in which we are going to save it." [CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, 9/26/99]

And Novak himself expressed support for Social Security "privatization" on the September 14, 2002, edition of CNN's Capital Gang, in response to criticism by host Mark Shields of conservative attempts to steer the debate away from that term:

SHIELDS: In an Orwellian abuse of the language, conservatives, including even the respected Cato Institute, insist that they're now for Social Security choice, not for dreaded privatization.

Yes, and war is peace.

Robert D. Novak --

NOVAK: I'm still for privatization.

Novak made the assertion that "No one ever said let's privatize Social Security" on the April 21 edition of CNN's Crossfire:

NOVAK: Steve, there you go again, as Ronald Reagan would say, see, just all you can do is attack. And I want you to tell me, name me one Republican, member of Congress, governor, member of the national committee who said let's privatize Social Security. You said the Republicans say, "Let's privatize Social Security." Name me one who has ever said that.

McMAHON: The president's one.

NOVAK: He's never said that.

McMAHON: He said let's privatize Social Security.


NOVAK That's a lie! I'll tell you what. I'll buy you anything you want if you can tell me --

McMAHON: You've got guys stacked up in Congress wanting to move Social Security money into private accounts.

NOVAK: No one ever said let's privatize Social Security, did they? Never!

Posted In
Economy, Social Security
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