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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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October 27th, 2014
06:16 PM ET

Why Won't Washington Work: Should political courage be praised, or attacked, or both?

(CNN) – More than $1 million is being spent in North Carolina to run an ad attacking Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan in one of the tightest races in the country. The ad calls her "a big believer in a controversial plan that raises the retirement age."

The attack ad – one of many – is referring to a deficit reduction plan put together by a bipartisan group of politicians, called Simpson-Bowles for its co-chairs: former Republican senator Alan Simpson and Democrat Erskine Bowles.

The commission made many tough recommendations to better balance the budget. There was something in it for everyone to hate. But that was kind of the idea.

"This issue has not gone away, we have not dealt with the underlying problem of the deficits," said CNN political analyst David Gergen. "And people want solutions."

The commission was formed by President Obama, but he did not embrace its 2010 findings. And former Bush White House operative and Fox News contributor Karl Rove called him out on it.

"Could you imagine what we would look like today if, after having appointed the Simpson-Bowles commission, that he had adopted its recommendations in 2010, and spent 2011 and 2012 putting our fiscal house in order? He would have had an easy re-election, and his popularity would be sky-high today," Rove told Fox News last March.

During a Fox News show in December 2012, radio host Laura Ingraham brought up the commission to criticize Obama, saying "the issue like the Simpson- Bowles commission, which the President appointed and then summarily ignored."

Rove agreed with Ingraham, saying "the failure of the president to confront the skyrocketing debt and deficit is a big issue."

So at least Rove thinks the country needs to send folks to Washington who will make the tough choices needed to balance the budget, right?

In actuality, Rove and his group Crossroads GPS are behind the attack ads slamming candidates for supporting the commission's recommendations. The ads are up in North Carolina, Arkansas, California, and other states.

"For years, Republicans have been arguing we need to reform entitlement programs," Gergen said. "And yet here they are attacking Democrats who dared to talk about entitlement reform as 'Oh they're going to take away your goodies.' And that gets, you know, that gets people angry."

Asked about the contradiction, Rove declined comment. But a Crossroads GPS spokesman told CNN in a statement: "It's laughable that Democrats who have demagogued entitlement reform for decades are now taking such great interest when they are held accountable on the issue."

In other words, Rove is going after Democrats for showing courage on balancing the budget, after going after Obama for not showing courage.

"It's going to get better when we get some new, fresh faces in the politics. The younger generation won't put up with this nonsense," said Gergen.

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