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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

The main battle begins. From Thursday's Post: "President Bush plans to intensify his campaign to win public and congressional support for restructuring Social Security, warning that it would be a bad idea to delay action as the Senate Republican leader has suggested and politically unwise for lawmakers to oppose private accounts, White House officials said yesterday."

Plus, two key grafs <$NoAd$>for the Fainthearted Faction chump-watch ...

The "scope and scale goes way beyond anything we have done," said Treasury Secretary John W. Snow, who heads to Arkansas today. The president is also privately discussing compromises to win Democratic backing and is likely to signal his support for new protections for low-income workers under Social Security, GOP sources said.

Snow told reporters that Bush also has not ruled out embracing a plan backed by many Democrats to create government-subsidized personal savings accounts outside the existing system. White House officials are privately telling Republicans that Bush is opposed to the idea but does not want to say so because it would appear he is not willing to compromise.


The weak point is still the Senate Fainthearted Faction.

Sen. Santorum (R) of Pennsylvania tells the right to give his crew room for maneuver while senate Republicans try to lure across a few members of the Fainthearted Faction.

Says the Santorum Memo: "While we have been very careful not to alienate Democrats from coming forward with ideas, we also need to be frank with conservatives that we are in a negotiating phase. In order to broker a deal with Democrats, we must be willing to keep these ideas on the table that may be unpopular with the base. If we take these ideas off the table before we start negotiating, there will be no negotiations."

We hear the House Fainthearted Faction may soon lose a member.

It's time to put the list together: Who were the Republicans who supported President Bush's plan to raid Social Security to set up private accounts?

A Loud and Proud member of the Conscience Caucus we had somehow missed: Rep. Mike Turner (R) of Ohio.

See this AP article for the citation. Also see the January 21st piece by Martin Gottlieb in the Dayton Daily News.

(ed.note: TPM Readers in Dayton, how could ya leave me hangin' like that?)

Must the Grassley always be greener?

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) of Iowa tells Iowa reporters: "Maybe we ought to focus on solvency, and bring people to the table just over what do you do for solvency for the next 75 years."

Down At Law!

Earlier we brought you word that lawyers for Rep. Jim McCrery had gotten a TV ad pulled from a local cable TV station by threatening a lawsuit over the ad's claim that McCrery supports 'privatization'.

According to Campaign for America's Future (CAF) spokesperson Toby Chaudhuri, though, late this afternoon CAF supplied the station in question with materials substantiating the claims made in the ad and the station has agreed to begin showing the ad again this evening.

We caught up with CAF co-director Roger Hickey, who told us the following ...

Cong. McCrery, who has been beaten up by the White House lately to keep him in line on Social Security privatization, tried to use those same intimidation tactics on TV stations and cable systems in his own district -- to keep our ad off the air. Luckily those Louisiana broadcasters were not as easily intimidated as McCrery. Instead, they chose to honor the First Amendment. And as a result, the people of Shreveport, Louisiana get to participate in a real debate about privatization, benefit cuts, and the Bush-McCrery plan to dismantle Social Security.

Ironically, our media buy would have run out before Treasury Secretary Snow arrived in Louisiana. But this challenge and delay means that our ad will still be running for Snow's visit to shore up the sagging Mr. McCrery.


Not a good day for Shifty <$NoAd$>Jim.

At this point we're wondering if McCrery's lawyers are looking into 'being mean' as a possible cause of action.

Amazing. Rep. Jim McCrery (R) of Louisiana has gotten a local cable TV station to stop running an ad questioning his stance on Social Security by threatening to sue for defamation because the ad claims he wants to "privatize" Social Security.

McCrery, of course, openly supports diverting Social Security payroll taxes to create private accounts, i.e., privatization.

As it happens, Rep. McCrery is something of a past master at the old 'privatization' word game flimflam. Just before the 2002 election, when the National Journal asked him whether Republican pledges to oppose 'privatization' would complicate later efforts to pass the Bush plan, he responded thus ...

In the view of Rep. Jim McCrery, R-La., a key member of the House Ways and Means Committee, Republican candidates aren't boxing themselves in on the issue. "Most Republicans say they oppose Social Security privatization," McCrery said. "That doesn't hurt us. So far, only one or two have said they have a problem with personal retirement accounts."


That's old Shifty Jim.

Lest there be any doubt about the new statement from Secretary Snow reported in CQToday, this is part of a renewed sixty day push for phase-out,as reported in Congress Daily PM. Diverting payroll taxes into private accounts is the most obvious but far from the only way to phase out Social Security. And that is still clearly the goal. Money can be shifted around in creative ways. Private accounts can be created on the outside which intentionally bankrupt the Social Security program, etc.

So for the moment, while recognizing the sign of desperation that this is, it would be foolish to see this as anything but a strategic retreat made in order to keep alive the original objective.

The president has spent three months pushing for phase-out. That's still his goal. It remains to him to put a concrete proposal on the table.

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