Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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Yesterday we mentioned that the rapid deterioration of Republican support for President Bush's Social Security phase-out plan had necessitated a revision of the bylaws of the Republican Conscience Caucus.

The entry today of Sen. Gordon Smith (R) of Oregon made the need for a new system of classification even more pressing.

In a subsequent post we will go into more detail about the Caucus's new bylaws. For now, however, with the entry of Sen. Smith, we are adding a new subdivision of the Caucus. As you know, "L&P" Caucus members are those who appear "Loud and Proud" in their opposition to the president's phase-out plan. Our new designation "FIW" ("Finger In the Wind") designates those representatives or senators who have publicly made more or less clear, as Sen. Smith has done, that they are happy to begin phasing out Social Security so long as the president can make it safe for them to do so.

See the revised Conscience Caucus list here.

Late Breaking Margaret Spellings Lesbian Update!

Earlier we noted that fast on the heels of the SpongeBob controversy, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings had come out swinging against another well-known cartoon character (Buster the Rabbit) for associating with lesbians.

In our earlier post, however, we incorrectly stated that she was attacking "lesbian cartoon characters." Not so. In fact, I'm told now by several TPM readers, the lesbians with whom cartoon character 'Buster' met were living, breathing, human lesbians.

Apropos of this point, the topic of cartoon-human interaction itself appears now to be emerging as a source of some controversy and press attention. Here, for instance, is a photograph of a recent meeting between SpongeBob and The Rev. John H. Thomas, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ at the Church's world headquarters in Cleveland.

Terence Hunt of AP: a 'personal' accounts man.

Not so, David Espo: He's stickin' with 'private' accounts.

Late Update: My bad. Not sure how I didn't see this on first inspection, but it turns out Espo's switch-hitting, mixing his 'personal' accounts with his 'private' ones, and actually leaning toward the former.

Never too Late to Update Update: Okay, now things are really getting fishy. TPM Reader PF just sent in this note: "In your linked column, Espo does not use 'private accounts' at all. The article appears to have been posted at 4:31 pm EST, 45 minutes after your post. Did you see a different version of his article? Is this evidence of retroactive deprivatizing?" And by golly, he's right! I just checked and this time 'private accounts' doesn't appear once. So, yes, over the course of the day the phrase 'private accounts' would appear to be swirling down the memory hole before our very eyes. I suspect now that my first reading wasn't wrong either. It must have gone from 'private' accounts, to both, to now just 'personal'.

A note from TPM reader Paul Krugman ...

Today's WSJ lead editorial is a classic. It's titled "All you need to know", and shows the CBO projection of declining deficits and stable debt. What they either don't know or believe readers don't know is that this is the *baseline* projection, which assumes that the sunset clauses in the tax cuts actually go into effect, with the whole thing expiring at the end of 2010 (which is halfway through fiscal 2011, in their chart.) It also assumes that nothing is done to reform the alternative minimum tax, which amounts to a stealth tax increase. So what they've proved is that the tax cuts are affordable as long as they go away ...

I say that man deserves a Special Edition Privatize This! TPM T-Shirt!

Another senate Republican checking out the upholstery in the Conscience Caucus cloakroom?

From today's CQ ...

A second moderate Republican on the Finance Committee, Gordon H. Smith of Oregon, would not commit to supporting Bush’s plan, and added that the administration has not marketed it well.


"I’m philosophically open to [Bush’s plan]; I’m not signed up to it,” Smith said.

Both Snowe and Smith said they like the idea of “add-on” Social Security personal accounts funded from a source other than Social Security’s payroll tax revenue.


"A lot of us expressed that the White House started the debate, but the media and the other side are finishing the debate,” Smith said. “He needs to go back on offense.”

Sen. Smith: If you can protect me, you have my vote. <$NoAd$>Otherwise, I'm in the Caucus. I may even get a TPM T-Shirt out of it.

Oh boy ... If at first you don't succeed, etc.

According to a July 28th, 2000 article in USA Today, back in 1978 when President Bush was running for congress in Texas, "he predicted Social Security would go broke in 10 years and said the system should give people 'the chance to invest money the way they feel' is best."

1978 is in the pre-nexis era. So it's difficult to find coverage from the time if you're not on the scene. But presumably there are some local papers accessible on microfilm down in Texas that would shed more light on George W.: The Early Phase-Out Years.

(TPM's got a pretty sizable Texas readership. Anyone have a few hours free? A Special Edition Privatize This! TPM T-Shirt and a mug for any contemporary articles on President Bush's first Social Security scare campaign.)

Jill Lawrence has the byline for the piece. Let's ask her.

[ed.note: Credit to the folks at Center for American Progress for the find.]

Late Update: Here's a bit more information on The Early Phase-Out Years from a 1999 article in The Texas Observer ...

According to Gary Ott, who was then a reporter for the Plainview Daily Herald, Bush stopped by the paper’s little office "maybe five or six times. He’d sit down at my desk; he was a fun guy. He was very outgoing, very friendly, and we would argue politics since I was a liberal. We’d argue over Carter policies." Bush criticized energy policy, federal land use policy, subsidized housing, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration ("a misuse of power," he said), and he warned that Social Security would go bust in ten years unless people were given a chance to invest the money themselves. None of this really distinguished him from Hance, though, so in the end Bush simply argued that a Republican could better represent the district: "If you want a chance in the way Congress has been run, send someone who will be independent from those who will run the Congress."

So where are the microfilms of the Plainview Daily Herald?