Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Not your granddaddy's Bamboozlepalooza!!!

Today's Roll Call (sub. req.) has a piece, announcing renewed White House-Congressional coordination pushing phase-out <$NoAd$> and what I guess is some sort of super-duper now-we're-serious Bamboozlepalooza.

“We’re looking at putting all the bells and whistles on the Social Security message train,” said Ron Bonjean, spokesman for Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), who himself appeared to be off message last week when he said a Social Security overhaul, including private accounts, may not be possible until next spring.

Indeed, getting nervous Republican Members to publicly support the White House’s proposal is a key goal of the campaign, which begins this week with high-profile House and Senate press conferences and a staged Senate floor debate between Republicans and Democrats.

“It’s important that Republican leaders on the Hill and in the White House show Members that they’re very serious when it comes to communicating the message on Social Security,” said Bonjean. “It shows the seriousness that our leaders have toward reforming Social Security by pounding home our message on a weekly basis.”

Republican spindoctors in Congress hope that all the planned events over the next month will complement the president’s own 60-day speaking tour. Bush reached his 30-day midpoint on Friday.

It's worth noting that most of the big quotes come from Hastert's guy Ron Bonjean. And this whole piece may be something Hastert felt he needed to do after he found that severed horse head at the foot of his bad over the weekend. (After all, they've gotten better men than Hastert to recant after a trip to The Chamber.)

But, this definitely isn't over.

So let's see those senators and reps get up on the floor and announce their support for phase-out. Let's draw the drum tighter. We can't wait. Especially the switch-hitters like Chris Chocola and Heather Wilson and Jeb Bradley. For now let's just start with the Conscience Caucus list. Who among them is going to flip?

Ahhhh, ye olde flippity-floppity ...

Last week Speaker Denny Hastert told National Journal that it might not be possible to get a phase-out bill passed this year.

"Politically," he said, "we probably need to get something done by next spring, a year from now. You can't carry it right up to an election. That's just political dynamite."

Today, Hastert's spokesman Ron Bonjean tells Roll Call they took the Speaker's words out of context: "The Speaker wants to get Social Security done by the end of this year. It’s not like he’s doubtful we can get it done this year.”

I'd figured that with all the <$NoAd$> astroturf maestros behind Progress for America that they'd have a more selective spread with their Tommy Lasorda phase-out phone calls. But we're hearing from not just Dems but Dem activists and even officeholders who've been getting the call. And now this one ...

Josh --

Congrats on getting hitched, BTW ...

Anyway, I also got a robo call from Tommy Lasorda. I live in Scottsdale, AZ, so I thought he would told me to call Hayworth, McCain or Kyl. Yet he told me to call Chuck Grassley! Why would Grassley listen to me -- I'm not an Iowan!

Anyway just thought you should know,


They're going to get Grassley off the dime with a flood of calls from Arizona?

For those of you in the New York City area, our friend Ruth Gerson is going to be performing at the Mercury Lounge at 217 E. Houston Street tomorrow evening, April 5th, at 7 PM.

The New York Times Jon Parales said: "With a voice that rises from tender endearments to a bluesy, impassioned growl, Ruth Gerson sings folk-rock songs that reach for the status of anthems; she's a Bob Dylan fan who can be as galvanic as Bruce Springsteen."

Stop by.

Okay, what's the deal with Tommy Lasorda being a phase-out man?

As someone who grew up in Southern California in the 1970s and 1980s, to me it's second nature knowing who Lasorda was. But in case you don't, he was an extremely long-serving (twenty years, I think) and I would say genuinely legendary manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

I've now gotten a slew of emails from readers across the country who report receiving robo-calls from Tommy Lasorda -- apparently sponsored by the White House's pro-phase-out front group Progress for America --telling them to call their local Republican congressman and get him or her to support the president's phase-out plan.

From my limited information, the calls all seemed aimed at wavering or potentially wavering Republicans and the calls have gone to voters in New York, Pennsylvania, Florida and New Mexico.

Alas, another childhood hero bites the dust. And why Tommy anyway? USANext already snagged Art Linkletter? And, admittedly, Lawrence Welk is dead. But still, why Tommy?

Late Update: New reader mail confirms that the Tommy call is going out all over the country and, at least in one case, to push Democrats. As TPM Reader JdA says, what's next? Vin Scully for the Bankruptcy Bill?

Private accounts supporter Rep. Chris Shays (R) of Connecticut takes a stand on privatization: "I am not going to impose my beliefs on Americans if they don't buy off onto it because this is too huge a program."

Actually, I'll give Shays his due. This quote is from a townhall meeting he held in Darien on Sunday. And like a slew of other House Republicans, one of Shays' special guests was President Bush's childhood friend and now deputy Social Security commissioner James Lockhart, who must be racking up a helluva lot of frequent flyer miles. But Shays apparently also had AARP President Marie Smith on hand too.

So for once, it seems, both sides actually got represented at a Republican Social Security townhall meeting.

Count Chocola's Chief of Staff a <$NoAd$> stand-up comedian?

This from Bloomberg: "Chocola, in a 2002 campaign statement, pledged 'no cuts in benefits, no increase in the retirement age and no new taxes,' according Brooks Kochvar, his chief of staff. Chocola's position has been consistent, Kochvar said. 'The system is bankrupt and we need to look at solutions to these problems,' he said. 'He thinks we should explore personal accounts as one of the many options to help fix the problem.'"


Isn't this the guy who told the local paper he was for total privatization in October 2000 (see adjacent graphic), then changed his mind and denied saying it a few weeks later, then said he was against privatization and now says he may or may not be in favor of the privatization?

Indeed, Rep. Chris Chocola (R) of Indiana is one of the great Social Security Switch-Hitters of all time. He'll certainly be in the top ten.

I really hope the folks at the DCCC are noting down Kochvar's whopper for their oppo research book on the Count.

A lot of Republican Social Security Switch-Hitters in the House are hiding behind their own phony definition of 'privatization' and thus claiming they don't and never have supported it and don't even support it now. And admittedly once you have to pull out the public policy dictionary on these bozos they've pretty much fought you to a draw in political terms.

But the Count is so bipositional that he not only used the word in 2000 he said he was for 100% privatization. "Eventually," quoth the Count, "I'd like to see the entire system privatized."

That was two years before he said he was 100% against 'privatization'.

They should be able to run the Count out of office next year on comedic value alone.

(ed.note: Special thanks to TPM Reader SR for giving us a heads-up about the Bloomberg piece.)

Many principles and lessons from military history are readily applicable to the political world. And one that is particularly applicable is that few maneuvers are more difficult to execute than an organized and orderly retreat under hostile fire.

Without a good discipline, a good plan and good morale, it can degenerate quickly into a rout and a slaughter.

Which brings us to the question of Social Security. An orderly retreat is what the White House and its congressional allies are trying to do.

I get asked a lot just what the White House is thinking. Every day, it seems, they get more bad news on the Social Security front. So just what do they think is going to happen?

I wondered about this myself a lot. And I can't say that I really have a good answer. But I have a tentative one. And perhaps that will do since I don't think the White House has more than a tentative answer either.

Basically, what I think is happening is that the White House is trying to keep up the Bamboozlepalooza thing long enough and monotonously enough that eventually people start forgetting that this was supposed to be a specifc piece of legislation the president the president was going to push through Congress this year, even this spring.

After a while it starts to sound a bit more like background noise. And suddenly it's more like some vague public education campaign with no specific or immediate goal in mind, like President Clinton's ill-fated 'conversation about race'.

Basically, having thrown down the gauntlet, President Bush is trying to wriggle out of the challenge so that he can get out of admitting to an abject political defeat.

Do that, they figure, and give the tremulous folks in Congress marching orders to keep their comments vague. Then you can either wait and see if other possibilities develop or just let the whole thing die and hope no one remembers how it all started.

Music to our ears.

From the Times: "Whatever the reason, people who have worked on Capitol Hill for generations said they could not remember a time when Democrats in the Senate were so unified. Except for Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, who says he has not made up his mind, every Democratic senator is committed to opposing diverting Social Security taxes into individual accounts."