Ramesh Ponnuru is upset that The American Prospect jumped to the conclusion that he was lying when he claimed that Walter Mondale was "a major advocate of President Bush's position on Social Security . . . He's in favor of private accounts for Social Security and raising the retirement age":
The Corner: October 27, 2002 - November 02, 2002 Archives: ...Both on CNN yesterday and on NRO today, I wrote that Walter Mondale had supported private accounts for Social Security and an increase in the retirement age. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Mondale served on a commission that supported both policies, but he himself signed a vigorous dissent from the report, which you can read at the bottom of this link. I was working off a misleading AP story (as cited in my NRO article) and a too-cursory glance at the commission's report (using a link that neither mentioned nor included the dissent).... I learned about my mistake by reading the American Prospect's weblog. I thank TAP for the correction, although not for the accusation that I have "lied, pure and simple." TAP, in fact, knows that I was not lying in the sense of intentionally spreading a falsehood, since in the very next sentence it suggests that I should have done more research instead of "reading the RNC talking points." Which means that their characteristically overheated rhetoric is more dishonest than anything I wrote.
As Ponnuru knows well, you have to sign on to more than partial privatization and raising the retirement age in order to support "President Bush's position on Social Security." You have to sign on to a major funding gap that ends up reducing baby-boomer benefits as well. Ponnuru's failure to do his homework can explain his belief that Mondale had endorsed the CSIS majority report, and its call for partial privatization. It can't justify his claim that Mondale was a supporter of the Bush plan, let alone "a major supporter."
Moreover--and here's the part I really don't understand--the homework is so easy to do. Ponnuru has every incentive not to burn his credibility--it is, after all, the only thing he has to sell. It would have been child's play for Ponnuru to check up. The "I feel lucky" button on a simple Google search for "Mondale Social Security Privatization" takes you to:
http://www.workdayminnesota.org/permanent/site_archives/2001/aug2001/0820mondale.htm: Mondale condemns Social Security privatization | By Michael Kuchta
ST. PAUL If Americans begin doubting the solvency of Social Security, they are falling into the trap of those who want to privatize the best program the government ever created, former Vice President Walter Mondale told the Minnesota AFL-CIO State Retirees Council Monday.
Social Security is solvent as long as the government lives up to its financial and moral promise to finance the Treasury bonds that make up the bulk of the Social Security trust fund, Mondale said. U.S. Treasury Bonds are the most trustworthy investment in the world, he said.
The way to defeat Social Security is to is to the American people that there is nothing there. That it's a worthless, corrupt promise. But the bonds have value. They are IOUs, but they are not worthless. Private investment funds would carve money out of the trust fund and destroy Social Security.
Mondale's presentation to the union retirees preceded the start of the Minnesota AFL-CIO's annual convention in St. Paul.
Sound like a strong supporter of President Bush on Social Security to you? I didn't think so.
For some reason, The American Prospect is forgiving toward Ponnuru ("happens to the best of us. Such is the curse of Lexis-Nexis," they say). But it doesn't happen to the best of us--for the best of us use Google, the best distributed anthology-intelligence database yet devised.
So I urge the Prospect to stick to its guns: Surely Ponnuru had no clue whether his claim that Mondale was a "major supporter" of Bush's Social Security plan or not. Surely Ponnuru had not undertaken the trivial--thirty second--check to see whether his claim was accurate. Surely this counts as "malice" and "reckless disregard" for the truth.
I look forward to a world in which people as clueless as Ponnuru in how to use the internet are mocked without mercy. I look forward to a world in which no self-appointed (or other-appointed) pundit dares open his mouth without first consulting Google.
Eschaton draws a useful distinction: "The most generous interpretation is that Ponnuru made a very strong claim that he had no justification in making. I suppose this makes him not a liar per se, but simply someone who 'makes shit up.' I know this doesn't disqualify you from your key to the pundit green room, but it shouldn't stop others from pointing it out either."Posted by DeLong at October 28, 2002 02:52 PM | Trackback