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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Oh to have been a fly on the wall. From AP ...

Bush tried to get ministers and other leaders of the black community behind his agenda in an earlier private meeting that lasted more than an hour. Attendees said Bush told them his plan to add private accounts to Social Security would benefit blacks since they tend to die younger than whites and end up paying in more than they take out. Private accounts would be owned by workers and could be inherited by loved ones after death.


GWB: With you guys dying so young, how can you not support me?

The Times and NBC may have adopted "personal accounts" over "private accounts" at the bidding of the Republican National Committee. But the AP's Nedra Pickler is standing firm with "private accounts."

Reuters, meanwhile, tries to be half-pregnant with "personal stock and bond accounts", while Bloomberg ups the ante on the White House with "private stock accounts".

If you're a regular reader of TPM this article from the Post by Mike Allen will probably bring a smile to your face. It reports on a meeting the president held today at the White House with congressional Republicans. The agenda? Trying to stop them from <$NoAd$> bailing out on his Social Security phase-out plan.

The first graf tells the tale: "President Bush pleaded for patience yesterday from Republican lawmakers who will shape Social Security legislation, summoning them to the White House at a time when they are expressing increasing frustration about his handling of his top priority for the year."

This graf, though, may be the most revealing ...

Senators and administration officials said that during the meeting, Bush emphasized the need to act quickly after he presents his proposals, and both sides said most senators agreed that something needs to be done.


So the president has been in no rush to explain what's actually contained in his proposal, even though he announced his intention to submit his own bill within a couple days of his reelection. And yet it's very important that Congress adopt it quickly after he submits it. I guess that says something about how confident he is in selling it to the public.

Consider that whether you call it Private Accounts or Phase-Out or Personal Accounts or Privativation or even Don't Worry/Be Happy Accounts, what the president is proposing would amount to one of the most consequential pieces of legislation to pass in any of our lifetimes, no matter how old you are. And yet the crisis is apparently so pressing that Congress must pass it immediately.

Sen. John Warner (R) of Virginia wasn't convinced. We rejoin Mike's article already in progress ...

Several Republicans expressed skepticism about the White House's hopes for swift passage. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner (R-Va.) said Social Security legislation will take some time, "and it should -- it really should." He said he might ask the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, to prepare "a definitive analysis on the history of the program, the goals of the program."

"We don't have at this point what I call an unbiased, analytical piece that the average Joe can pick up and say 'What is all this that the politicians are arguing about?' " he said.


Imagine Warner's temerity in gumming up the works by asking the GAO to do a study. What does he want to do to the phase-out plan, Daschle it?

(ed.note: The rapid erosion of support for the president's Social Security phase-out plan has forced us to rewrite the by-laws for the GOP Conscience Caucus. We'll be bringing you more on this late breaking development shortly. For now, Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R) of California has been asked to return his Caucus membership card.)

Late Update: Same basic story from the Times: "After a meeting with President Bush on Tuesday, Republican senators said they had cautioned him that the drive to change the Social Security system was faltering because the public was not convinced that a fundamental overhaul was necessary."

Okay, I don't make a habit of suggesting people listen to clips of shows I've been on. But I think this 90 second exchange I had today with Frank Luntz on the Al Franken Show is worth sparing a moment for. As noted earlier, here Luntz explains why reporters who use the term "private accounts" are showing objective evidence of bias against the president even though this was the president's own favored phrase until a few weeks ago.

There's one part that isn't perfectly audible. That's when I for the second time ask how there can be anything wrong with reporters using this phrase when the president himself has repeatedly used it. Luntz responds "used it", placing a hard emphasis on the final "d", thus signifying that the president has stopped using the term and that therefore reporters should too.

Apparently, the New York Times finds this argument compelling. But I have to confess the logic escapes me.

Give it a listen.

You can also find the commentary about it at the Al Franken Show website.

Oh, say it ain't so!

First, the New York Times gives the White House a smart salute and drops "private accounts" in favor of "personal accounts."

Now TPM friend Mark Murray of NBC News is signing on to the White House's new lexical directive and calling them "personal accounts" as well. From what we can tell, Mark and his colleagues at NBC's daily "First Read" were calling them "private accounts" as recently as 9:20 AM this morning.

Mark, please tell us this was a diktat from GE or Jeff Zucker and not something you came up with on your own ...

Why does a seemingly good-natured fellow like National Review editor Rich Lowry want to go about denigrating the president's Social Security plan by using swear words like "private accounts".

And he seems like such a mensch too ...

I was just on Al Franken's show a couple hours ago with Frank Luntz of all people. And in the course of the conversation I got to ask Luntz whether it was fair or appropriate for Democrats and/or journalists to refer to the president's policy as 'privatization' or the private accounts he wants to create as 'private accounts.' (As you the TPM reader know, these were the words that Republicans and other phase-out supporters themselves came up with.)

Luntz said that it is okay for Democrats to use these terms but not the press since that would mean they were taking sides in the debate. When I asked why this was so since these were words the president was using only a few weeks ago, what emerged in the course of the conversation is that it is apparently inappropriate for reporters to use a given term after the date on which the president stops using it.

(A logical corrolary of this reasoning would seem to be that they must use the new term the president designates, though I don't think Luntz said this explicitly.)

So whereas it was okay two months ago for reporters to use the term 'private accounts' they must now refer to them as 'personal accounts' because the president has now decided that that is the proper word.

Hopefully, Air America will post the exchange in question so that you can listen to or read it yourself and not have to rely on my (personal) account of it.

The New York Times seems to understand the new rules of the road. In the piece on the White House's emerging phase-out strategy, Edmund Andrews and Richard Stevenson are careful only to refer to them as "personal accounts."

Bayh votes against Rice? This Bayh for President blog proudly notes Sen. Bayh's vote against Condi Rice to head the shop over at Foggy Bottom and questions whether a senator willing to vote against Condi really deserves a seat of honor in the Fainthearted Faction.

I heartily agree. It's hard to believe that a senator stand-up enough to vote against the serially-incompetent Condi Rice could be so lily-livered on phasing-out Social Security.

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