Josh Marshall

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President Bush again pledges more action on phasing out Social Security.

From today's bill signing ...

"Now is the time to move; now is the time to do our duty. I'm going to continue to work with the Congress and call on the Congress to work with the administration to reform [Social Security and Medicare] so we can ensure a secure retirement for all Americans."

Does this make any sense at all?

CNN is excerpting the Christian Science Monitor's series on their reporter Jill Carroll who was kidnapped in Iraq and eventually released unharmed. Today's segment describes the situation Carroll's father Jim found himself in when he had to decide how to respond to Jill's kidnappers deadline to have their demands met.

The FBI recommended that Carroll record a statement basically calling the kidnappers what they are: thugs and murderers. "The FBI wanted the father -- him -- to shake his fist, in essence; to go on TV and address the men who held Jill as murderers and thugs."

But Carroll's colleagues at the CSM thought that would backfire and counselled a 'sympathy statement'. Basically, to try to find any way possible to get the kidnappers on a human level and connect with them on the basis of a father's fear for his daughter.

Needless, to say, one can only imagine the anguish Carroll must have gone through making this decision. And given what we've seen in Iraq over the last few years the odds of making that human connection (or perhaps enlisting public sympathy among the constituency the kidnappers saw as theirs) would seem slight.

But it is hard for me to imagine that a combative message from the father would have been a good idea from the perspective of saving her life. Governments have different priorities. And I would agree in almost every case with a policy of not negotiating with terrorists, for all the standard reasons. But a family, necessarily, has a different set of priorities. And certainly Carroll's priority was his daughter's life.

I could see the negative effects of a plea for sympathy. In a sense, you're giving the kidnappers what they want, drawing out the emotional drama and the eventual shock and outrage at the probable murder. But I would think remaining silent would be better than voluble defiance if your aim was getting her back alive.

Dark days for the Count?

This one's really music to my ears. Last night Charlie Cook moved Rep. Chris Chocola's (R-IN) 2nd District in Indiana from "lean-R" to "toss-up".

We want to follow this race closely. So if you're in the 2nd district, send us your updates for Election Central.

I'm not that surprised by the new Quinnipiac poll out today that shows Joe Lieberman with a sizeable lead over Ned Lamont -- and, very significantly, over the 50% mark. With the nominal GOP nominee drawing close to literally zero support, it makes sense that Republicans and GOP-leaning independents would gravitate to Lieberman. What does surprise me though is that Lieberman didn't take more of a hit from the mere fact of his primary loss.

Politics is all about momentum and perceptions. And beyond all the money and free media, one of the things that makes incumbents so strong is that they are, by definition, winners. And that colors people's perceptions of them. Lose a primary to an unknown and you lose a bit of that sheen. You are a loser.

I thought that would have spread a bit more of the odor of defeat around Joe. But it doesn't seem to be hurting him.

One other issue I'd like to find out more about. It still sticks in my head that Lieberman was out on TV and pretty much everywhere on D-Day+1, +2, etc. He had to be. He had to make absolutely certain everyone realized that as far as he was concerned nothing had changed. Lamont was a lot less visible. And there was that Times piece from a couple days after the election where the reporter had to find him on vacation in Maine to get a quote. Too early to tell. But those first few days may have mattered a lot.

Anyone know where Tennessee senate candidate Bob Corker stands on phasing out Social Security? Let us know what you know.

Puzzled (from the NYT) ...

More generally, the participants said, the president expressed frustration that Iraqis had not come to appreciate the sacrifices the United States had made in Iraq, and was puzzled as to how a recent anti-American rally in support of Hezbollah in Baghdad could draw such a large crowd. “I do think he was frustrated about why 10,000 Shiites would go into the streets and demonstrate against the United States,” said another person who attended.

It's like we just need to be in lock down. How little more damage can we get by with in the next two and a half years?