Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Chafee Watch (Continued)

Chafee on Social Security and whether or not he considers himself a Republican from MTP:

MR. RUSSERT: You're considered independent, undecided. One Republican, one [Sen. Ben Nelson] Democrat.

Senator Chafee, Vice President Cheney said this to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, that "the Bush re- election victory provided a mandate `for the notion of personal retirement accounts,' and that Democrats would pay a political price among younger voters if they blocked them."

Do you believe that the president has a mandate for personal retirement accounts?

SEN. LINCOLN CHAFEE, (R-RI): Well, the president has been on the road for a while now. And coming from a state with high elderly population per capita--Rhode Island now one of the top five in the country, I believe. I'm hearing from my seniors that the sell isn't being made yet on personal accounts. And we all know we have to do something about Social Security. Baby boomers are retiring. But selling these personal accounts, it's a tough sell. I'm hearing it from my elderly constituents and even the younger ones. They have some reservations about the cost up front and also the risk.

MR. RUSSERT: Does the president have a mandate for them because of his re-election?

SEN. CHAFEE: Well, usually when you talk about a mandate, you're talking about an overwhelming win. I don't think by any measurement the 2004 election was an overwhelming win. It was very, very close. It came down to Ohio. So I don't think he can use the word "mandate."


MR. RUSSERT: Senator Chafee, should the president take private, personal accounts off the table and focus on solvency?

SEN. CHAFEE: Well, as a member of the Centrist Coalition which meets every Tuesday to discuss this issue, we took kind of a pledge to have a completely open mind on all issues, but what we're learning in this Centrist Coalition is that there are other ways to address Social Security. As Senator Nelson mentioned, raising the caps. It's presently at $90,000. So if Tiger Woods is making $10 million a year, he's only paying that 12 percent Social Security tax on that first $90,000. That's one way. If you raise it...

MR. RUSSERT: How high should it go?

SEN. CHAFEE: Well, there's one proposal Dianne Feinstein from California is saying $140,000. Senator Graham from South Carolina saying have a doughnut hole, so it doesn't kick in until $200,000. So we can argue about that, or talk about over $90,000, it won't be 12 percent, it'll be 3 percent, 4 percent, some other percentage.


MR. RUSSERT: Senator Chafee, I noted you invoked the name of George McGovern, and I started thinking about an article I read in the Providence Journal how you did not vote for George W. Bush for re-election. You wrote in his father's name. As a protest?

SEN. CHAFEE: Yes. On the issues that I care deeply about--the environment, Roe vs. Wade, the war in Iraq, with no weapons of mass destruction, the tax cuts that are now leading to deficits, I've got some deep issues with the president. But it's nothing personal. And so as a Republican, I support the Republican Party, but I did write in another Republican.

MR. RUSSERT: You were asked at that time might you become a Democrat, and you said, "No, I don't at this time, but I don't rule it out."

SEN. CHAFEE: Well, ... I think we don't want to ever say never.... I'm proud of the Republicans. I'm working hard for my Republican Party in Rhode Island. We've got a good governor, Governor Carcieri, a Republican, Rhode Island, good team. We're trying to get elected there. So my full intention is to stay Republican. I'm proud of the Republicans.

Just a couple of comments on the Senator's sundry remarks: He says the elderly in RI want to maintain Social Security as it is. Well this senescent old geezer is willing to see the system change if not for anything else but for the sake of his own children. And as far as his comments on President Bush lacking a mandate, where has this guy been? This is the first sitting president in quite awhile to see the kind of numbers he received. If it was Reagan, and the numbers were 90-10, Chafee would still be holding everything up. And what does "a kind of a pledge" mean? Is that a pledge that really doesn't count? Is it a half-baked pledge? Is it a non-pledge? And how does one "pledge to be open minded" anyway?

And why remain a Republican? His answer is: we have a good team in RI, and I'm proud to be Republican. But why?

These are just some of the things that bother me about Chafee.

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