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A TPM Reader points

A TPM Reader points out this final line in the Free Press's piece on the president's visit to Michigan: "Detroit Economic Club officials said Monday the traditional question and answer period after the speech has been dropped for Bush's visit."

A TPM reader --

A TPM reader -- SS -- makes a great point. Can we keep this Bamboozlepalooza Tour going?

In Michigan, where the president is today, almost half the Republicans in the congressional delegation are in the Caucus or bucking for entry. Can the president plan a trip to, maybe, Alabama, another hotbed of Caucusism. Or maybe Missouri? Heck, why not Texas? I'd be happy to work up an itinerary.

Late Update: Come to think of it: Ohio.

According to a new

According to a new media advisory "Senators Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Co-Chairs of the Senate Centrist Coalition, will convene a meeting of the coalition" this afternoon on the Hill. They'll get a briefing from "Maya MacGuineas of New America Foundation [a sensible privatization advocate], Peter Orszag of Brookings Institution [a sensible Social Security advocate] and David John of the Heritage Foundation [an insensible privatization advocate]... on fiscal matters, including budget deficits and Social Security."

Just in case anyone's wondering, reinstatement in the Faction can happen in the flash of an eye.

Someday itll probably be

Someday it'll probably be like the AMEX commercial: Conscience Caucus member since January '05.

In any case, before we get to that point, some of the early-adopters are certainly trying to make clear that they've been in the Caucus longer than all these Johnny-Come-Latelies. Today, in The Day of New London, Connecticut, early Caucus member Rep. Rob Simmons (R) reaffirms his Caucus membership and Loud and Proud status.

Rob Simmons, in the Caucus before it was cool.

And right as Rob Simmons is digging in his heels and making sure everyone knows he was a Caucus man from way back, there's Sen. Arlen Specter, first member of the senate Caucus, goin' all wobbly.

Here's Specter from an interview published today by the Washington Times ...

Q. Do you agree with the president's plan for changing Social Security?

A. I'm waiting for a specifiation and the details. I have an open mind on it. I'm not going to give the president a blank check, nor am I going to line up with the people who say they're unalterably opposed. I'm against cutting Social Security benefits. I'm against borrowing extensively. But I want to see what the presient has in mind.

Q. Do you support private accounts?

A. I'm prepared to listen.

Q. You sound skeptical.

A. Well, I'm prepared to listen to see how they would be done. How will they be financed? How much money will it take out of the system? We pretty much a pay-as-you-go program, paying out as the contributions are made. How will it work? People are talking about gigantic borrowing. I'm not for that.

Prepared to listen? That chairmanship must be feelin' pretty good, I guess. Or is it Pat Toomey clawing back from the political netherworld?

Because that's sure not what Arlen told his constituents just four weeks ago.

As we reported on January 6th of this year, in his constituent mail sent out on the Social Security issue, Specter told Pennsylvanians ...

On the issue of privatization, I had some time ago considered an idea to place a relatively small portion of benefits in an investment account, providing that the “security” aspect of Social Security was retained and the investment was under professional management. However, with the severe fluctuations of the stock market, I have since rejected that idea.

Considered, rejected, prepared to listen. I just can't keep up.

Back in the day

Back in the day (you remember the day, right?) every time a president came forward with a budget, reporters would pore over the thing. And any line item or provision or assumption that wasn't based on the most rock-solid accounting or didn't take into account the most pessimistic prognosication was instantly given that most infamous of DC budgeting sobriquets: the dreaded "smoke and mirrors."

Nowadays I guess you could say things have changed. How else can it be when an OMB Director can simply state that borrowing a trillion dollars doesn't count as new debt?

"Transition financing does not represent new debt," OMB chief Josh Bolten said yesterday.

And while we're at it, it would be stingy not to recognize that the White House has now given new meaning to phrase 'unified budgeting'. In the Bush White House lexicon that would refer to a budget that included not only the president's 'budget' but also his major new spending proposals.