So it seems the president's New Hampshire Bamboozlepalooza stop didn't pan out so well.
A piece in Tuesday's Union Leader announced that there were still plenty of tickets available for the president's event. In the event, however, only about half of the 2,000 free tickets got snatched up. Before the president hit the stage, White House aides had to scurry around collecting empty seats to avoid images of the president speaking to a half-empty room. With such low demand they may even have considered letting in folks who wouldn't sign a loyalty oath or didn't have relatives employed at Cato. But the reports provide no details on that count.
As the rather-less-than-liberal Boston Herald headlined it: "Bush strikes out in N.H. on Social Security."
Also a bit of a bummer is that Rep. Jeb Bradley (R) chose yesterday to restate his apparent opposition to Bush's phase out plan.
Bradley has been bouncing around the edges of the Conscience Caucus for some time. And, as we alluded to yesterday, we almost had to come up with an entirely new category for him after the president himself appeared to put Bradley in the Caucus by something like an impromptu executive order.
The president's visit was to Bradley's district and as an AP story from yesterday had it ...
Though Bush heaped praise on scores of local politicians, from the state's two Republican senators on down, he did not mention Bradley.
"You don't have to worry about your senators. They're people who understand we have got to address the problem," he said, conspicuously omitting Bradley.
As this and other passages in the article make clear, the president sure seems to think Bradley's in the Caucus. Indeed, a bunch of New Hampshire political observers seemed to think that was the reason he was there.
We were about ready to put Bradley in the Caucus, just on the president's say-so. Then later in the day he issued a statement saying: "In 2002, I opposed privatization, and I remain opposed to privatization."
Now, as we've noted many times, lots of phase-out supporters say they're opposed to privatization but mean by that they still support private accounts (sort of a big middle finger flipped to the English language.) Yet, all the New Hampshire papers had little doubt that Bradley was opposing the president. Since they headlined the story I think they were probably sure that his statement was what it appeared to be on the surface.
Just to be sure, I put a call in to the congressman's office today. When I asked whether his opposition to 'privatization' meant he was opposed to carved-out private accounts, the staffer I spoke to said she would check and get back to me. I haven't heard back yet. But I didn't get the impression there was any Heather-Wilson-like ducking and weaving going on, just an effort to check with the boss before answering a relatively technical question.
In any case, until we hear otherwise, on the president's say-so and taking his own words at face value, Rep. Jeb Bradley (R) of New Hampshire becomes the 21st member of the House Conscience Caucus. And subject to what we hear back from his office, he may even be Loud and Proud.