P8kice8zq6szrqrmqxag

Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

At the Reichert townhall meeting in Bellevue last night, I'm told that one of the biggest laugh lines (at least in the crowd's opinion) came when Treasury spokesman Rob Nichols insisted that there would be no transition costs under President Bush's phase-out plan.

TPM Reader MN reported in that ...

While things settled down for most of the hour and half after the initial flurry, what got the crowd aroused again was Rob Nichols statement that there would be "no transition cost" to implementing the Bush "architecture" for Social Security. When Nichols said the 10-year projection of $750 billion was not new costs, but simply like prepaying a mortgage, an audience member asked loudly what about after that, but Nichols said they hadn't projected beyond that. A large segment of the audience did not seem to believe that and Nichols later backpedaled somewhat by saying that the "financing" issue was separate from the "cost" issue. Ah, semantics, the last refuge of scoundrels!


We heard pretty much the same from TPM Reader MB ...

The Treasury Department representative, Rob Nichols, claimed that there would be no transition costs involved in creating "personal accounts". When the crowd reacted loudly, he repeated the claim, saying "this is precisely factual, [no transition costs]." That just provoked laughter.


TPM Reader JM could barely believe what he was hearing ...

It was a bit shocking to hear Rob Nichols, assistant secretary for public affairs at the Treasury Department, actually say out loud that U.S. government bonds in the trust fund are just worthless IOUs, causing an uproar from the audience. (This guy works for the Treasury Department!?) He also was emphatic that there would be exactly zero transition costs for establishing private accounts. "After all, it is simply like pre-paying your mortgage." He said this prepayment would require only $700 billion for the first 10 years, and to shouts of what about the second 10 years, claimed that they hadn't run the numbers. The audience wasn't buying it judging from the catcalls. Finally, Sally Canfield, assistant to Denny Hastert, tried to throw out the line about how each year we delay costs another $690 billion, until brought to a screeching halt by a cry of "Liar" from someone in the crowd.


But this isn't just the Rob Nichols' line.

According to Reuters, at the Bamboozlepalooza event today in Bozeman, Secretary Snow said the same thing ...

U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow said on Wednesday he was confused by resistance to the Bush administration's plans to overhaul the Social Security system, while protesters blasted the proposed private retirement accounts during his stop in Montana.

Snow, in remarks to the Chamber of Commerce in Bozeman, said he believed personal accounts for young workers would be cost-free for the existing Social Security system and would not affect benefits to retirees or near-retirees.


Do they have any actual journalists out there following Snow to ask him the what the hell he's talking about<$NoAd$>?

Late Update: Some more details on Snow's job here.

Hmmm (take 2) ...

The article about the Denver Three in the Rocky Mountain News <$NoAd$> says ...

Weise, an attorney, said she and her companions are members of a political group called the Denver Progressives. She said they never intended to be disruptive, get thrown out or arrested.

"I have never seen a president in person," Weise said. "For me, it was kind of exciting to be involved in a historic, presidential event. I did want to hear what the president has to say about Social Security."

The three obtained tickets to the president's speech from Congressman Bob Beauprez's office. They were dressed in business or other normal attire, though each also wore a T-shirt underneath with the slogan "Stop the Lies." They discussed showing off the slogan but decided against it.

Shortly after they found seats, they were hustled out by a man who had been identified to them as Secret Service.


On the other hand in the gaggle discussion this morning about the Colorado incident, Scott McClellan said: "I don't know the full circumstances of it. There are different sides to the story, I recognize that. But those individuals, themselves, said that their intent of coming to the event originally was to disrupt it (italics added)."

Hmmm ... a bit more on the Bamboozlepalooza event where the three non-Bush-loyalists were tossed by a guy <$Ad$>who appeared to be a Secret Service agent.

According to this article in the Rocky Mountain News, the three in question were specifically told by event officials that they were being held until Secret Service agents came to escort them out of the building.

So it seems it wasn't just a case of these guys seeing a guy in a black suit and an earpiece and figuring he was Secret Service.

The three also claim that the real Secret Service agent who later investigated the incident told them that there have been repeated incidents of Republican operative posing as Secret Service agents to toss folks who aren't Bush-True out of taxpayer-funded Bamboozlepalooza events.

We can also add this to the mix.

A reader from the White House press corps tells us ...

Yes, well, I've never seen "rent-a-cops" at presidential events. Local cops, yes. State cops, yes. Military folks, yes. Uniformed Secret Service, yes. But mall security guard types? Nyet, comrade.

My guess, since I was not at the event, is that a local volunteer affiliated with the White House, or a travelling advance person (a junior aide in charge of the logistics of presidential and press travel), ushered them out.

I say this because it's not uncommon for those low-level folks to wear suits and ties, and because they frequently use what every reader of TPM would recognize as Hollywood's Secret Service communications system, a talk mike clipped inside the sleeve, and an earpiece. And lots of male Bush volunteers and advance people wear their hair almost short enough to be confused for military style, or Secret Service. And they wear little pins in their lapels that look like the kinds of pins that museums give to people who have made a donation. (The Service has more official-looking pins).

I've encountered 22-year-old, suited, earpiece-equipped volunteers who have tried to order me around without either good sense, authority, or instructions from higher-ups. It's easy to handle when you're press ("Interesting request. Um, how can I put this? No.") but I can imagine that it's scary if you don't know that they have very little power. As a rule of thumb, I would ask for credentials (badge, ID card) from anyone not obviously carrying a gun or wearing a uniform. Do it with a smile, though. Maybe "How do I know you're with the White House?"


Late word we hear is that McClellan got asked about this in the gaggle. So we'll try to bring you that shortly.

We can't do it without you!

As we said last night, we're putting together a list of the top ten Social Security Switch-Hitters in Congress. That is to say, the most bamboozling of the Bamboozlers (see last night's post on methodology for more details).

We're looking for the ten members of Congress who've not only managed to get away without telling their constituents where they stand on the most important and contentious issue of the day (Social Security) but have managed to make an art of it in the process.

Rep. Heather Wilson (R) of New Mexico is guaranteed a slot for using crafty bamboozle language to fool local press into thinking she opposed the president's plan when in fact she <$Ad$>hasn't come out against it. We also received a very strong nomination for Rep. Jeb Bradley (R) of New Hampshire who managed a very similar feat.

So remember, mere evasiveness or lack of a definitive position won't be enough to get your representative or senator into the top ten. We need to hear about one position one day and another position the next, reps. retreating to undisclosed locations during congressional recesses, bravura bamboozle language. If your rep. wore a disguise to the local mall that would probably put them into the top three. In other words, it's got to be good.

Send in your nominations today!

Rep. Vito Fossella (R) of Staten Island still refuses to hold a townhall meeting with constituents about phasing out Social Security. So the In This Together campaign is holding one for him.

According to this press release, they're holding a townhall meeting in Fossella's district tonight at 7 PM.

When we stopped by the congressman's website today we noticed he's saved us the effort of coordinating with his constituents and gone ahead and posted his own constituent letter on Social Security.

In the letter, he writes: "Let me be clear: I do not support the privatization of Social Security. I never have and I never will."

He then goes on to lay the groundwork for supporting President Bush's plan to privatize Social Security. So, as you can see, Fossella's got the bamboozling game plan pretty much down.

And as long as we're on the subject, what's the deal with that fundraiser Fossella held with Jack Abramoff and fellow DeLay crony Tony Rudy at Camden Yards back in June of '02?

The empire strikes back. DeLay backers, according to The Hill, are plotting a counterattack.

Needless to say, the defining motif of all conservative politics is victimization. As is the case here. "It was a rallying cry to our conservative community that we are under assault. We need to fight back," says Rep. Cantor (R) of Virginia.

Interesting point. Could the rent-a-cops at the Bamboozlepalooza events who pretend to be Secret Service agents when they boot (non-Bush-True) attendees be breaking the law?

Late Update: Let me clarify this point. Precisely what happened here is unclear. What we know is that the ejectees say they were removed by men whose dress, accoutrement and bearing appeared to them be those of Secret Service agents. The ejectees have further said that Secret Service officials subsequently denied that their agents were involved. However, I do not believe there is any evidence that said rent-a-cops verbally identified themselves as members of the Secret Service.

Fade to red (state)?

Giuliani signs on with Houston law firm which once represented Enron.

Penance for Kerik?

Late Update: As TPM Reader DB suggests, we expect Rudy to be clearing brush in Central Texas any day now.

Trial Balloon?

CNN's Carlos Watson says President Bush may try to phase out Social Security for federal workers by executive order. I guess if the democratic legislation approach doesn't pan out this may be next.

It was a long time coming. <$NoAd$>But Rep. John Tanner (D) of Tennessee is out of the Fainthearted Faction.

TPM Reader Rex Leatherwood attended Tanner's townhall meeting last night and sent in the following ...

I attended a John Tanner Town Hall Meeting tonight at Union University (a Southern Baptist University) in Jackson, Tennessee. Congressman Tanner made it quite clear that he was against the President’s plan. Here are some quotes: “We’re (the Democrats) not going to negotiate with the President until he takes this bad idea off the table” and “We need to fix the floor (Social Security) and then give preferential tax treatment to savings outside Social Security.” When talking about the necessity to borrow over a trillion dollars to finance the President’s plan, he said “I think it’s immoral to leave young people this debt. I believe my generation should pay as it goes.”


Rex's account is confirmed by this article in this morning's Jackson Sun. The Sun quotes Tanner saying this about private accounts: "Don't play the stock market with money you can't afford to lose."

LiveWire