Understatement of the Week: John Rother

By ANTHONY HALL, United Press International
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With 37 million members, AARP can make a deafening roar in the nation's capital when it wants to.

For one, the elderly are a stubborn bunch. They are, oh, so slow changing their vote on an issue, once they sink their teeth into it. Like a pit bull grabbing onto a leg, you want to make sure you can get out of the way before the AARP bares its teeth. Suffice it to say, AARP only sounds like a yawn. In the beltway of the nation's capital, politicians fear the name.


And then, what's this we hear? AARP said this week it was ready to concede some cuts in Social Security benefits might be acceptable. They were getting ready, in fact, to launch a nationwide campaign to convince their flock that they -- specifically a few board members and policy director John Rother -- had seen the light on Social Security. The mother of all untouchable sacred causes up for grabs -- with a few contingencies, of course.

It was like telling 37 million people to give up golf.

The understatements, of course, came in like a flash flood. With 84 percent of seniors opposed to anything that threatens Social Security, "They are completely at odds with their membership," said Nancy Altman, who is a co-chair of the coalition of 300 unions that are standing united in opposition to cuts in the program -- and who fully expected the AARP to join their cause.


Here's another understatement in its prime: "If they come around and say they're ready to do something, it will be like the arctic icecap cracking," The Wall Street Journal quoted former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., as saying.

Simpson is co-chairman of a White House commission on the national deficit.

To be fair, Rother said he had done the math and the proposal that came closest to closing the projected financial gap in Social Security only covered half the gap.

So, the AARP board when out on a limb, a little bit.

Rother … wait for it … summed it up.

"Some of our members will no doubt be upset by any such effort," he said.

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