Edwards Says Follow a Real Leader: Him
PETERBOROUGH, N.H. -- One day after Hillary Clinton accused her Democratic rivals of playing into Republican hands by offering plans to shore up Social Security, John Edwards fired back by saying that withholding ideas for Social Security reform showed a lack of leadership.
"What people want in a presidential candidate ... is leadership," Edwards told reporters after speaking to several hundred voters in a high school cafeteria here. "Leadership is showing where you believe the country needs to go. We're not running for the Congress. We're running for the presidency. What people expect from us is to lead on these issues...Taking a position and taking a stand is leadership."
Was he suggesting that Clinton was not showing leadership? he was asked. "I'm saying I am," he answered.
Social Security has emerged as a flash point in the Democratic debate. Edwards has proposed raising the cap on income that is taxed for Social Security, which now stands at $97,500, possibly allowing for a "doughnut hole" of income over $97,500 that is not taxed but then taxing income over $200,000. Barack Obama has also said he would favor raising the cap, on some occasions endorsing a doughnut hole approach and on some occasions referring simply to lifting the cap.
Clinton has declined to lay out specific options for shoring up the Social Security system, saying that she would start by restoring fiscal discipline and then convene a bipartisan commission to study a long-term fix. Her rivals have seized on this in recent months as a sign of a lack of candor and forthrightness, but her campaign has fought back by accusing rivals of accepting Republican talking points suggesting that Social Security is in worse shape than it actually is.
On Wednesday, Clinton went further than she had before in defending her approach on Social Security, calling it a "mistake" for her rivals to offer specific reform ideas.
"Most of my opponents are more than happy to throw out all their ideas," she said in Gilford, N.H., according to the Concord Monitor, in response to a question about whether she'd consider more payroll taxes on higher-income earners. "I just know - maybe it's because I'm a student of history and I've been studying this - I know that eventually you've got to have a bipartisan commission. That's the only way we're going to resolve this."
She added, referring to raising the income cap, "I think all these are ideas a bipartisan commission has to look at. But I think it is a mistake for Democrats to be throwing these ideas out when we know we can't do anything unless Democrats and Republicans hold hands and jump together."
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