Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Count Chocola thought his past would never catch up with him.

But he didn't count on TPM Reader BB!

A month ago we put out <$NoAd$> word that there was a bounty of a brand new 'Privatize This' TPM Shirt for that intrepid supporter of Social Security who could find us the original paper copy of the October 8th, 2000 Elkhart Truth in which Rep. Chris Chocola (R) of Indiana not only proclaimed his support for President Bush's privatization plan but insisted that that still wasn't enough to slake his thirst for private accounts.

"Bush's plan of individual investment of 2 percent of the money is a start," crowed the Count. "Eventually, I'd like to see the entire system privatized."

As we've now chronicled in what is likely painful detail, Rep. Chocola has since denied ever supporting any sort of privatization, let alone the total privatization he longed for in 2000. He has even gone so far as to demand that ads which use the quote above be removed from the airwaves.

In any case, like a treasured bootleg of Dylan touring with the Hawks in 1966 or an early blue movie of some rising starlet, everyone knows the goods are out there. And yet actually getting your hands on a copy is no mean proposition. But thanks to BB, we've got a copy of the original, a small portion of which you can see for yourself on the right.

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.

A little while back I mentioned that a few days before I got married I was on a debate panel with Cato's Michael Tanner and Times columnist Paul Krugman debating Social Security privatization. It doesn't include video of the whole debate; but this video on the Democracy Now website has each of our opening statements: Tanner, Krugman, Marshall, in that order.

March 31st is the day. In cities around the country, folks will be protesting Charles Schwab and Wachovia, the two big financial services firms still propping up the White House's pro-phase-out front groups. Click here to find out more.

Ahhh ... A thing of beauty, the first signs of the intra-phase-out-camp free-fire zone.

Club for Growth loads up again and starts firing away at Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina for having the temerity to raise the possibility of raising the payroll tax cap to fund phase-out.

This press release out from Le Club bashes Graham for considering raising taxes rather than being a principled conservative and just borrowing the money.

More information on those folks in Colorado who got booted from a Bamboozlepalooza event because of a bumper sticker on their car. It seems the planners of these taxpayer-funded events hire rent-a-cops, dress them up to look like Secret Service agents and then have them boot people who don't seem Bush-true.

See this post from Kos for more details.

When astroturf bamboozlers don't do their advance work ...

Even temperatures nearing 70 degrees Monday didn't stop more than 80 people from gathering at the Iowa City Public Library to oppose Social Security reform proposals.

Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, hosted a community meeting for about two hours, with discussion primarily focused on fixing Social Security, although there were also questions about the Iraq war and the growing federal deficit.


"There is so little reality about the bill," said Ann Bovbjerg of Iowa City. "The most insulting is saying, 'you'll be OK (seniors), it's the younger generation who won't be.' Who are these younger people? They are your kids and my kids."

No one in attendance voiced support for the proposals that have been introduced by the president.

Note of thanks to <$NoAd$> TPM Reader BG.

When does this become more than a joke?

The U.S. Secret Service on Monday said it was investigating the claims of three people who said they were removed from President Bush's town hall meeting on Social Security last week after being singled out because of a bumper sticker on their car.

The three said they had obtained tickets through the office of Rep. Bob Beauprez, R-Colo., had passed through security and were preparing to take their seats when they were approached by what they thought was a Secret Service agent who asked them to leave.

Reports like this have become commonplace <$NoAd$> on the Bamboozlepalooza Tour. And, remember, despite the obvious political campaign content, this roadshow is paid for entirely with taxpayer dollars. That fact must make these sorts of ideological litmus tests a no-no.

Decisions, decisions ...

Freshman Rep. Dave Reichert (R) of Washington state was either the first or second member of the Conscience Caucus. (That, bear in mind, was when the getting was good. You could get in just for expressing reservations about the president's plan.) And tonight in the district he's holding a townhall meeting on private accounts.

Reichert says he's undecided about the president's plan. But according to a February 9th piece in Roll Call says he "was the only Member in a targeted race to formally support the creation of private accounts."

So it might be interesting to ask the congressman just what it was that made him go all wobbly on privatization.

Private Accounts Probabilism from the White House's Al Hubbard: "The president has made it clear that the personal retirement accounts won't solve the problem -- they are a part of the solution The rest of the solution lies in making other changes."

Interestingly enough, Hubbard's answer was in response to a high school student, eighteen-year-old Karl Kirsch. Hubbard went on to tell Kirsh that the options for the "other changes" include raising the retirement age and switching from wage- to price-indexing, which of course would leave our man Karl with radically reduced benefits fifty or so years from now.

When another questioner asked why AARP is opposing the plan if it's so great for seniors, Hubbard quoted the phony push-poll put together by the White House's pro-phase-out astroturf group, Compass. "We've seen polls that indicate two-thirds of the members in AARP support the president's plan. For whatever reason, they've determined this is a political battle that must be won."

A TPM 'Privatize This!' T-Shirt to the first guy or gal who can get Al Hubbard wired up to a lie detector and ask him whether he thinks 2/3rds of AARP members really support the president's plan.

Forget the T-Shirt, we'll whip up a special 'Privatize This!' tuxedo. With spats ...