A bit earlier today I mentioned that freshman Rep. Dave Reichert (R) of Washington state was holding a 'forum' on Social Security this evening, moderated by James Vesely, The Seattle Times' editorial page editor.
The participants, reports the paper, were ...
Rob Nichols, assistant secretary for public affairs at the U.S. Treasury Department and previously an aide to former Reichert's predecessor, Republican Jennifer Dunn; Paul Guppy, research director at the Washington Policy Center, a Seattle think tank; and Sally Canfield, assistant to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.
Now, when I first saw this article this afternoon, it wasn't hard to see that this wasn't the most balanced panel, given that it includes one flack for Treasury Secretary Snow and another for Denny Hastert. But I didn't get into it <$Ad$> because I didn't know anything about Paul Guppy and the Washington Policy Center.
It seems, though, the benefit of the doubt I afforded them was entirely undeserved. TPM Reader DF points out that on their website the Washington Policy Center proudly quotes Jack Kemp calling them "the Heritage Foundation of the Northwest." So I think we can say with some confidence that Reichert's panel didn't include the full diversity of views on the future of Social Security.
In any case, this raises what I guess we might (with some puffery) call a methodological question for TPM. Reichert was one of the first members of the Conscience Caucus -- largely because in those early days all it took to get in was to express something short of clear support for the president's plan. And I've been reluctant to revisit earlier admissions on the basis of our evolving standards of conscience.
Clearly, though, Rep. Reichert is a first-class bamboozler because here he is still claiming that he hasn't made a decision on privatization and yet he puts together a panel where the participants range from think-tank supporters of phase-out to paid phase-out-onians from Treasury and the Speaker's office.
It's also true that the Conscience Caucus list doesn't fully capture the direction of the debate right now -- seeing as the great majority of Republican members of Congress express at least some bogus open-mindedness about the president's plan to keep on the right side of their constituents.
The real issue today is that fairly long list of Republican members of Congress who are managing (with their talking points in hand from party central) to dodge taking any position at all on the most important and contentious political question of the day: Social Security and whether or not to phase it out.
If that's not bad enough, you've got a bunch of them -- like Rep. Heather Wilson -- trying to trick their constituents into thinking they're against phase-out when actually they seem to be for it.
So we're going to put together a list of the top ten Social Security switch-hitters in Congress -- the ones who have put in the true bravura performances in their quest to keep their constituents entirely in the dark about where they stand on this issue. And unlike the Caucus and Faction lists, this one will have a limited membership and have members ranked in order of political ambidexterity and policy bi-positionality. Certainly, Rep. Heather Wilson (R) or New Mexico is first on the list. And Reichert is probably on their too.
But who else? We're taking nominations.