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Sabrina  Eaton
By Sabrina Eaton October 4, 2010

Bob Gibbs' Social Security position somersaults from website to public statements to campaign lines

On his campaign website, GOP Congressional candidate Bob Gibbs says he’s committed to retaining Social Security benefits for seniors and future retirees.

"We need to ensure that benefits are protected and that taxes and the retirement age are not increased," the website says. "We have a responsibility and a commitment to seniors to fund our obligation to them and not place the system in jeopardy by moving away from the current program to privatization of the system."

But Gibbs expressed a different view on the Social Security retirement age at a July 12 forum for congressional candidates sponsored by the Eastern Ohio Development Alliance that was videotaped by backers of the congressman he wants to replace, Dover Democrat Zack Space.

An audience member asked whether Gibbs agreed with House GOP Leader John Boehner’s stance that the Social Security retirement age should be raised to 70. Instead of citing his website’s position, Gibbs applauded Boehner’s leadership and said the nation needs to seriously discuss how to make entitlement programs actuarially sound.

"Our younger folks in their 20s and 30s, they think their retirement age is going to move up, I think they expect that," said Gibbs. "We’re living longer, our life expectancies are going up, and you just can’t have an actuarially sound system if you don’t make these changes or you’re not going to have a system at all."

That struck us as a complete reversal of his previous position --  a Full Flop.

Then at a Sept. 18 debate in Mount Vernon between Gibbs and Constitution Party candidate Lindsay Sutton, Gibbs suggested forming a bipartisan task force to ensure Social Security’s viability, and went on to say: "I doubt I would have supported it back in the 1930’s when they did it, but we have it now and we’ve got to fulfill our obligations."

The remark that he might have opposed creation of Social Security prompted the Space campaign to denounce Gibbs. "Bob Gibbs’ complete hostility toward this crucial program is just plain shameless," Space spokesman Andrew Ricci said in a news release.

We asked for Gibbs’ true stance on Social Security in light of his public comments. His spokeswoman, Emily Pettigrew, replied with this email:

"You can pull a clip here and a clip there and make it sound like anything, the fact is that Bob Gibbs stands firm that we should not raise the retirement age, we should not cut benefits, and we should not privatize Social Security."

Pettigrew said efforts to highlight Gibbs’ remarks were just a "distraction tactic" "straight from Nancy Pelosi’s playbook of desperation." She accused Space of "trying to take the focus off of the double-digit unemployment in the district" under his watch.

But Gibbs’ own words provide ample fodder for distraction.

  • His remarks to the Eastern Ohio Developement Alliance clearly contradict his official campaign position that the Social Security retirement age should not be raised.

  • His statement in the Mount Vernon debate suggests he would have opposed creation of Social Security in the first place.

  • Then there’s the statement from his campaign to clarify his position, which clearly contradicts his remarks to the Eastern Ohio Development Alliance. That statement represents a Full Flop on the Full Flop.

Ultimately, we end up back where we started. But given the gyrations taken with Gibbs’ public statements on Social Security, followed up by his campaign comment, he has earned high marks as a Flip-O-Meter gymnast. We award him a Full Flop.

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Bob Gibbs' Social Security position somersaults from website to public statements to campaign lines

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