At the Democratic Convention, Bill Clinton Wades Into the Fray Over the $716 Billion in Medicare ‘Cuts’

Former President Bill Clinton always reveled in his position as explainer-in-chief, and he reprised the role at the Democratic National Convention last night with a plain-spoken account of the running battle over $716 billion of “cuts” to Medicare.

In speeches at the GOP convention in Tampa last week, the top of the party’s ticket repeated claims that Democrats raided the Medicare program to fund President Obama’s health care law. At the podium in Charlotte, Clinton alternated between comedian and schoolteacher as he insisted that that assertion just isn’t true.

“Look, here’s what really happened,” Clinton said. “You be the judge …

“There were no cuts to benefits at all, none. And instead of raiding Medicare, he used the savings to close the doughnut hole in the Medicare drug program” and extend Medicare’s solvency by eight years, Clinton said. “So President Obama and the Democrats didn’t weaken Medicare. They strengthened Medicare.”

Then, feigning bafflement, Clinton set his sights on Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan and the federal budget he introduced as chairman of the House Budget Committee.

“Now, when Congressman Ryan looked into that TV camera and attacked President Obama’s Medicare savings as, quote, ‘the biggest, coldest power play,’ I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry,” the former president said, drawing huge laughs from the convention hall. “Because that $716 billion is exactly to the dollar the same amount of Medicare savings that he has in his own budget!”

When the crowd stopped applauding, Clinton delivered one of his most memorable lines of the night: “You got to give one thing: It takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did.”

For Medicare, the Democrats and Republicans have two very different narratives. Many elections this fall could hinge on which one resonates most with voters. - Susan Milligan

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