In this article on Rep. Chris Chocola's Social Security meetings in his district this week, the author says Chocola (R) of Indiana starts by telling constituents he is there "to ask for ideas from his constituency about how to fix the Social Security situation." But as the article goes on to show, he then stands before the audience and shoots down everything his constituents suggest beside private accounts.
In this article from the South Bend Tribune, Chocola claims he has never been an advocate of privatization -- despite the fact that he is on record supporting privatization.
Actually, this one is really a doozy since the paper says that Democrats have "targeted Chocola, criticizing him for allegedly stating in the past that he would like to see the entire Social Security system privatized." Just why the 'allegedly' is in there is a bit hard to figure since the same paper on November 1st, 2000 quoted Chocola saying: "Bush's plan of individual investment of 2 percent of the money is a start. Eventually, I'd like to see the entire system privatized."
A July 25th 2002 article in the Tribune explains that Chocola has since tried to dismiss the quote by arguing that "he was 'conceptualizing' during the discussion with the Truth editorial board and did not then or ever call for privatizing the entire Social Security system." Here Chocola seems to have been trying to devise his own Social Security speech code in which saying "I'd like to see the entire system privatized" does not count as "call[ing] for" or "endorsing" complete privatization.
In any case, as you can see, Chocola is quite a piece o' work. And today he claims to have staked out the rather less controversial position of being an "an advocate for addressing the issue, getting all possible solutions on the table and getting beyond politics."
From what we can tell from recent reports from the district and from Chocola's tough stand as a proponent of "addressing the issue" his efforts to sell his constituents on phase-out isn't going that well. And we would be remiss if we didn't mention that the Chocola has never quite been a rock star at the polls. In 2002, he got in with a clean 50% of the vote (a Libertarian candidate pulled 4%). In 2004, he expanded his margin to a 54%. Not the end of the world but certainly not out of the woods either. For all of these reasons we were surprised and delighted to hear that President Bush has decided to come to town next Friday and give a speech on the glories of phase-out at Notre Dame, which is in Chocola's district.
So two points to watch over the next week. Will Chocola admit that he said "he would like to see the entire Social Security system privatized" and that he, presumably, wasn't in a trance when he said it? And will President Bush's trip get Chocola to come up with some clearer position than his current one of "addressing the issue, getting all possible solutions on the table and getting beyond politics."
(ed.note: One more thing. Chocola's original comment about wanting "to see the entire Social Security system privatized" came in a visit with the editors of the Elkhart Truth, a local paper. Yet the Truth isn't in Nexis (yeah, I'm chuckled too). Now, I assume someone from around there can get hold of a copy of the original paper version of the article or a copy of it on microfilm. What I'd like to get is a scanned copy of the original article, preferably a relatively clean one so the text is easily legible. A 'Privatize This' T-Shirt for the first TPM Reader who can get it scanned and send it on in to TPM world headquarters.)