A few days ago I mentioned that an Associated Press story reported that Rep. Heather Wilson (R) of New Mexico opposed President Bush's Social Security privatization plan.
This story, which ran in her district on the 7th simply says: "GOP Rep. Heather Wilson says she's opposed to Bush's plan because she's against investing Social Security taxes in the stock market."
Yet looking at the specific wording of the story and earlier iterations of the same report, I came to the conclusion that Wilson may have bamboozled the reporter in question in an effort to mislead her constituents.
For instance, a more complete version of the AP report, which ran on Sunday, February 6th, reads like this ...
Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., echoed Democrats' opposition to Bush's plan, saying she opposes efforts to invest even a portion of Social Security revenues in private accounts.
"I don't believe the government should invest Social Security taxes in the stock market," said Wilson, who represents New Mexico's Albuquerque-based 1st Congressional District.
The problem is that this 'government shouldn't invest in the stock market' line is right out of the GOP privatization flimflam playbook. It sounds like opposition to private accounts; but it's not. Privatization supporters don't believe the government
should invest in the stock market. They want individuals
to do so in their private accounts.
So Wilson, it seemed, was using fingers-crossed, fudging language to bamboozle not only the reporter but her constituents too. And my suspicion in this regard was heightened by the fact that Rep. Wilson's constituent mail on Social Security is filled with the same rhetorical razzmatazz.
The key graf from her constituent mail reads (emphasis added
I have remained firm on my core beliefs about Social Security. There must be no changes in benefits for retirees or near-retirees. That wouldn't be fair to people who need to know that their check will arrive on time and in full. The government should not invest Social Security funds in the stock market. I oppose privatization of our safety net. Payroll taxes should not increase, and we must preserve Social Security disability and survivor's benefits.
Wilson clearly had the playbook open when she (i.e., a staff aide) wrote this email, since to anyone who isn't as obsessed with the Social Security debate as TPM, it sounds like Wilson opposes
privatization. And yet, <$NoAd$> given what we've told you recently about the rhetorical gymnastics on this issue, she can say those words and mean she supports carving private investment accounts out of Social Security, i.e., the Bush plan.
In any case, this is where we left things in our last post
back on the 6th. So the only thing to do was to call up Wilson's office and find out whether she really was opposing the president's plan or not.
Only that proved a difficult proposition. This week I placed repeated calls to Rep. Wilson's offices in Washington and
New Mexico and left voice mails, in Washington and Albuquerque, explaining that I had some follow-up questions about the AP
story that placed Wilson in opposition to the president's plan. And yet my calls were never returned. I kept trying. But no luck. Along the way I also placed repeated calls to her Washington spokesman's cell phone. But no luck there either.
I tried the DC office and the cell phone again today with no more success. And then late this afternoon it occurred to me that the problem might be unique to my phone. So I picked up my new New York cell phone and tried one more time.
I finally got Rep. Wilson's spokesman, Joel Hannahs, on the line.
I read Hannahs the following line from this AP story
: "GOP Rep. Heather Wilson says she's opposed to Bush's plan because she's against investing Social Security taxes in the stock market." And I asked what it was about the president's plan she opposed.
Hannahs replied that he would "let her words speak for themselves."
I then pointed out that they weren't her words. This was the AP describing
her stance. And I was trying to find out whether it was an accurate description.
Does she oppose the president's plan?
Hannahs then told me: "I don't have any comment."
As you might imagine, from that point, the call came to a rather rapid conclusion.
Now, given Hannahs' reticence about disclosing Rep. Wilson's position on this issue, it's still hard for me to say definitively that she's bamboozling her constituents about her position, since her position seems to be a secret. But now I'm awfully suspicious. (Consider that Wilson's office has apparently made no effort to correct the AP
story if it is in error.) And my phone exchange with Hannahs makes me think my suspicions are very well founded.