Apparently they have. As former AARP CEO Bill Novelli told The Fiscal Times, “AARP always tried to take a rational approach. They believe you have to work both sides of the equation. Everything has to be on the table.”

Given that Simpson and others threatened AARP’s very existence so directly, it’s hardly surprising the group did not call for his resignation a few weeks ago. Perhaps they’re afraid that if they play hardball with Simpson, Simpson and others will play hardball with them. Nor is it surprising that Novelli, in his new role as a Georgetown University professor, has joined the Concord Coalition’s Bixby, Peterson Foundation CEO David Walker, and others on a road show this fall billed as a “Fiscal Solutions Tour.”

Nor is it curious that Rother just a few weeks ago told Laura Meckler of The Wall Street Journal that acting sooner allows for changes to be made gradually, and will reassure younger workers that the program will be there for them. Meckler reported that Rother dismissed those who said they can never support benefit cuts. Shortly after the Journal story appeared, AARP sent out a backpedaling statement from Rother with a headline “AARP Reaffirms Strong Opposition to Cutting Social Security Benefits to Reduce a Deficit It Did Not Cause.” No one has really said it did. Now how’s that for fence-sitting?

In reporting this story, context means everything, as every journalist should know.

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Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR’s healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.