During the vice presidential debate last week, Vice President Joe Biden seemed to significantly overstate his role in the 1983 negotiations over Social Security.
Asked about Medicare reform, the vice president said, “Look, I was there when we did that with Social Security in 1983. I was one of eight people sitting in the room that included Tip O’Neill negotiating with President Reagan. We all got together and everybody said, as long as everybody’s in the deal, everybody’s in the deal, and everybody is making some sacrifice, we can find a way.”
The comment would seem to suggest that Biden was one of the few, key players “in the room” working in a bipartisan way to reform Social Security.
But according to the historical record, Biden was not one of the small group of people in “the room,” or in “the meeting” — nor was he even a key player in reforms.
Those close to the Social Security reform process say that the chief negotiations were made between then-Sens. Bob Dole, R-Kansas, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., through the National Commission on Social Security Reform, which worked throughout 1982 on recommendations to help guarantee the solvency of the program, and conducted final negotiations in January 1983. The commission kept President Ronald Reagan and House Speaker Tip O’Neill, D-Mass., in the loop throughout the process.
President Reagan signed their work into law in April 1983. There were 15 members of the commission, including Dole, Moynihan, and two other senators; Biden was not one of them. Nor was he at the signing ceremony.
The vice president’s office issued a statement suggesting that the vice president at the debate was not saying he was a key player, merely that he played a role and met with O’Neill, and that the bipartisan nature of the negotiations was crucial.
Considering what a heart attack the Obama campaign has had over Paul Ryan’s statements that he ran a marathon faster than he did (Jim Messina last week: “As we’ve already seen in everything from his fact-free convention speech to his exaggerated marathon time, Ryan isn’t afraid to skirt the truth”), I expect they’ll be sure to condemn Biden for his egregious exaggerations during the debate about his role in history.