Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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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.

The Count may not want to suck your blood. But it sounds like he does want to know your party ID before he lets you in to the Bamboozlepalooza event in South Bend ...

This from the AP...

Tickets to President Bush's trip on Friday to the University of Notre Dame are not being made available to the general public.

Tickets for the president's stop to promote his Social Security reform proposal are being distributed to local groups on a nonpartisan basis through the office of Rep. Chris Chocola, a White House spokesman said.

Chocola spokesman Brooks Kochvar said that the tickets were being distributed through business and student groups and community organizations throughout the Republican congressman's northern Indiana district.

Kochvar said tickets would not be made available directly through Chocola's district office and that groups receiving the tickets would be able to give them to whomever they want.

When asked whether there is any way for the general public to obtain tickets to see the president, Kochvar said, "Not right now."

Sounds like Rep. Mike <$NoAd$> Ferguson (R) has a similar arrangement in NJ. But we're still checking on that.


Just out from CQToday ...

Treasury Secretary John W. Snow indicated Wednesday that the White House would accept a Social Security overhaul that does not divert the program’s payroll taxes into personal retirement accounts, a major shift in the administration’s position.

More soon ...

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Lieberman not a Faction man after all?

See today's update in the New Haven Register (registration required).

I'll be busy with some non-TPM responsibilities for the next couple hours. But more on the new article then.

New Bamboozlepalooza appearances <$NoAd$> are slated for Alabama, Louisiana and New Jersey.

On that score, we were interested to see that the Montgomery Advertiser puts Sen. Shelby (R) down as a member of the Conscience Caucus. Specifically, they call him one of the state's two Republican "holdouts" on the Bush Social Security plan.

In Westfield, New Jersey, the president's host, Rep. Mike Ferguson (R), says the president "wants to speak to, listen to and talk to residents from around the state."

But the town's lone Democratic town councilman notes that...

If the event is being billed as a town hall meeting for the purpose of eliciting views on one of his policy initiatives, there would be an expectation that people having differing views may be in attendance.

This of course is a reference to the apparent decision to restrict the townhall meeting to avowed supporters of the president.

On the other hand, Rep. Ferguson doesn't think there's a problem...

My sense is the people who would be most interested in being in an event with the president will be ones who are supporters... And I think it's important to hear constructive criticism ... that doesn't include disruptive behavior or obnoxiousness.

Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R) of Florida is to appear tomorrow on C-SPAN's Washington Journal where she presumably will not be able to have all questions screened in advance.

And we will, of course, have more coming on the Count.