One of the tactics she discussed was a postponement and redesign of sequestration, a new automatic debt-reduction plan “if Congress does not act in six months.” That plan, she wrote, “could look a lot like the recommendations of Obama’s independent fiscal commission.” That’s the Simpson-Bowles Commission, and the report of its chairmen, Republican Alan Simpson and Democrat Erskine Bowles, called for major changes to Social Security. Reporters, like Halperin, need to ask the president about that next time they get the chance, and keep asking until the get some answers that mean something.

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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.