Friday, October 22, 2010

EDITORIAL >>Crawford vs. Causey

Rick Crawford greatly simplified the race for United States representative in the First District. He made it about truthfulness, but it was not to his advantage.

Crawford, a radio announcer and former rodeo clown with a golden voice, picked the perfect time to run for Congress. Even in Democratic east Arkansas people are mad, and right now they hold Democrats responsible because they happen to be in charge. Rep. Marion Berry, in poor health and tired, did not run again and his young administrative assistant, Chad Causey, had to fight his way through a bitter primary to get the nomination.

A newspaper turned up an embarrassing saga in Crawford’s life. He once filed for bankruptcy and the government relieved him of his debts. It was nothing to be ashamed of, but it made him sound hypocritical because he had been denouncing the government’s help for freeloaders. But Crawford went too far. He proclaimed that he had repaid all the debts after all.

It wasn’t true. When a newspaper reporter began inquiring this summer with Crawford’s creditors, he did finally pay up. He would not give a hospital in Missouri a release to say whether he had just paid the debt. A hospital spokesman said all that she was allowed to say was that it was now paid. Crawford said he would not answer any more questions about the bankruptcy.

The fudging did not end. Earlier this month, after a Causey television commercial accused him of favoring the diversion of Social Security taxes into private investment, Crawford said he had not favored private accounts.

“No, never,” he declared.

But he had. Crawford had signed a pledge for conservative radio host Laura Ingraham to vote to allow younger workers to opt out of Social Security if he is elected to Congress.

An Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter also found a video on You Tube in which Crawford told Republicans in Lonoke County in March that he favored letting people his age (44) and younger stop paying Social Security taxes and instead invest the money in stocks and bonds, a plan favored by the investment-banking industry.

Crawford said oddly that it would protect Social Security benefits. The loss of Social Security taxes would mean the government would have to reduce pensions. Shutting down the revenue stream destroys any insurance system.

When the Democrat-Gazette confronted Crawford with his conflicting statements, he refused to say where he stood on the partial privatization of Social Security. The paper said Crawford ducked the question four times, finally answering with a terse “No” when he was asked whether he wanted to disclose where he stood on the issue.

A campaign spokesman later sent an email saying what Crawford refused to say himself: He favors giving people the option of setting up private investment accounts instead of paying Social Security taxes.

The opt-out plan would wreck Social Security, or at least force a reduction in the pensions of current Social Security participants, but it is a legitimate philosophical position, one advocated by some conservative think tanks and lobbies. 

No voter should expect a congressional candidate to take his or her side on every issue, even one so vital as Social Security, and he may make allowance for a politician to make a mistake or change his mind, even during the course of one campaign.

But there should be no tolerance for shading the truth. Even in politics, lying ought to be a deal breaker.

We recommend voting for Chad Causey.