Casey touts his in­de­pen­dence but shuns tough is­sues

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Charles Hurt

NEW BER­LIN, Pa. — Penn­syl­va­nia Trea­surer Bob Casey Jr. prides him­self on his in­de­pen­dence from na­tional Democrats on hot­but­ton is­sues such as abor­tion.

“When peo­ple re­view my record and the way I’ve ap­proached is­sues, I’ve been in­de­pen­dent ona lot of things,” he said in a re­cent in­ter­view with The Wash­ing­ton Times.

But his in­de­pen­dence quickly evap­o­rates when it comes to other thorny po­lit­i­cal is­sues such as So­cial Se­cu­rity re­form or whether he would have sup­ported the Iraq war res­o­lu­tion.

Asked whether he fa­vored cut­ting ben­e­fits or rais­ing taxes to save So­cial Se­cu­rity, Mr. Casey re­peat­edly would not give a di­rect an­swer.

“I would do what they did in the 1980s: sit down and have a bi­par­ti­san agree­ment, where both sides sit down and work it out,” he said. “And that could mean a lot of things. You can’t even be­gin to de­scribe what would hap­pen un­til th­ese guys in Wash­ing­ton have some kind of real com­mit­ment to bi­par­ti­san­ship.”

In the end, the chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer of the sixth most pop­u­lous state in the coun­try would not of­fer a sin­gle sug­ges­tion for So­cial Se­cu­rity re­form.

It is an is­sue that his op­po­nent, two-term Sen. Rick San­to­rum, has never shied away from.

Well be­fore Pres­i­dent Bush came to Wash­ing­ton, Mr. San­to­rum pro­posed cre­at­ing private ac­counts with So­cial Se­cu­rity pay­ments as a way to pro­hibit the fed­eral gov­ern­ment from raid­ing peo­ple’s re­tire­ment sav­ings, which is the root cause of the prob­lem.

And al­though Mr. Casey says he wants to find bi­par­ti­san so­lu­tions to So­cial Se­cu­rity prob­lems, he is quick to at­tack the only idea that is be­ing dis­cussed — Mr. Bush’s “scheme to pri­va­tize.”

Mr. Casey said he would dis­cuss Mr. Bush’s pro­posal “if I thought it was a pro­posal that was wor­thy of de­bate — I thought it wasa scheme. There’s an agenda in their party, which is to undo a lot of what the New Deal did. Their idea is that the mar­ket should be con­trol­ling a lot more of what gov­ern­ment is do­ing now.”

Sim­i­larly, Mr. Casey re­fuses to say whether he would have voted for or against the Se­nate res­o­lu­tion to go to war in Iraq.

“If we knew then what we knew now, I don’t think there would have been a res­o­lu­tion,” he said.

Mr. San­to­rum says Mr. Casey steers clear of tough is­sues and runs on the fa­mous name of his beloved fa­ther, who dom­i­nated the Penn­syl­va­nia po­lit­i­cal land­scape for decades, most no­tably as gov­er­nor from 1987 to 1995.

So wary is Mr. Casey that he has avoided any for­mal de­bates with Mr. San­to­rum.

Mr. San­to­rum has made nu­mer­ous re­quests since Novem­ber for up to 10 de­bates, ac­cord­ing to let­ters pro­duced by his cam­paign. One such let­ter, sent by cer­ti­fied mail post­marked July 13 to Mr. Casey’s cam­paign man­ager, was re­turned July 26 with the word “re­fused” writ­ten across it.

Mr. Casey has re­buffed so many of­fers to de­bate that Mr. San­to­rum’s cam­paign has taken to send­ing a man in a duck suit to some Casey events. Mr. Casey’s cam­paign said on Aug. 21 that it is now in talks with Mr. San­to­rum’s cam­paign and sev­eral television sta­tions to sched­ule de­bates.

Penn­syl­va­nia Trea­surer Bob Casey Jr. has avoided de­bat­ing Sen. Rick San­to­rum dur­ing the cam­paign.

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