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November 28, 2014

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REALITY CHECK:

Ad rings true of Sharron Angle on Social Security

The primary was just last week, but there are five new ads in Nevada’s U.S. Senate race. One is this attack on Republican Sharron Angle by incumbent Harry Reid, a Democrat.

THE COMMERCIAL

The video shows Reid listening to a senior citizen, with the voice-over: “I am Harry Reid and I approve of this message.”

Next, an elderly couple are sitting down for supper. The text reads: “Social Security: It means independence, a secure income.”

Then, a shot from the Pan Tahoe Daily Tribune newspaper that reads: “(AP) — Sharron Angle wants to wipe out Social Security.”

Followed by this on-screen text: “But shockingly Sharron Angle wants to wipe out Social Security” and a sound bite from Sharron Angle: “We need to phase Medicare and Social Security out.”

The video then shows that the elderly couple have left the dinner table, food still there, with the text: “She cut benefits for everyone coming into the system.”

Angle’s mostly colorless image shows on the screen, with the text: “That’s Sharron Angle.”

With the headline, “Angle Plan, Massage therapy for prisoners,” the video shows excerpts from Sue Lowden’s prison spa ad followed by the text: “First a Scientology plan to give massages to prisoners.”

Next, the text reads: “Angle Plan, End Medicare and Social Security, with the video showing the elderly couple eating dinner but no food on the woman’s plate, followed by: “Now she wants to get rid of Medicare and Social Security.”

The text changes to: “What’s Next?” over an a blurred dinner scene with the elderly couple.)

The tag line: “Approved by Harry Reid and paid for by Friends for Harry Reid.”

THE MESSAGE

“What’s Next?”

This is part of the Reid campaign’s attempt to portray Angle as so kooky that she is not taken seriously by donors or voters. There is fodder here.

In the Associated Press story cited in the ad, Angle says Social Security is “a broken system without much to recommend it.”

Her ideas are vague but appear similar to the private accounts former President George W. Bush proposed and then dropped.

But words matter, and Angle has said the system dear to so many seniors is “hard to justify” and she was even criticized by Lowden’s campaign for her position during the primary.

THE REALITY

That clip from “Face to Face” is from a debate. The ad cuts her off before she finishes her sentence. Here’s the entire exchange:

“We need to phase Social Security and Medicare out in favor of something privatized. We know the government never gives ... Don’t fix it ... It can’t be fixed. It’s broken.”

There’s no doubt that a tried-and-true tactic of Democratic candidates for federal office is to try to scare seniors into believing that Republicans want to take their Social Security. And even though Democrats have done nothing to ensure its long-term solvency, it is likely to have more resonance with Angle because of all her dismissive statements about the program.

Her new handlers obviously recognize the problem. This week on “Fox and Friends,” Angle encountered tough questions, such as the one that prompted this exchange:

Anchor: “Someone said you are out to get rid of Social Security.”

Angle: “Well, that’s nonsense. I have always said we need to make the lockbox a lockbox, put the money in there for our senior citizens. They came here in good faith paying into a system and Harry Reid has put an IOU in for 24 years. He has been raiding Social Security. What we need to do is personalize Social Security so the government can no longer raid it.”

Words do matter. “Personalize” instead of “Privatize.” Kinder and gentler, but doesn’t it mean the same thing?

Angle’s position on Social Security is ever-changing. She has described it in many different ways, all of which indicate she thinks the current system is unsustainable and that government should be taken out of it. That couldn’t be controversial, some analysts agree, but she has often gone beyond that.

Even her website advocates a free-market alternative for current wage earners.

Her website says, “Free market alternatives, which offer retirement choices to employees and employers, must be developed and offered to those still in their wage earning years, as the Social Security system is transitioned out.”

The prisoner messages attack is lifted straight from a Lowden ad and apparently had little effect in the primary. But the same may not be true of independent voters in the general election as they listen to Reid’s campaign to make Angle seem as if she is from a different planet.

The kicker — “What’s next?” — is designed to engender fear among voters that Angle is capable of almost anything. Voters may not like Reid, but his campaign really wants them to be scared of Angle.

It’s hard to find much at fault when it comes to veracity here, maybe some slight exaggeration for effect.

So I give this an A-minus on the truth test.

Watch "Face to Face With Jon Ralston" at 6:30 p.m. Monday-Friday on KVBC Channel 3 and at 4:30 a.m. Monday-Friday on KTUD Channel 14/25.

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