'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Dance, Scottie, Dance 

Extremely funny exchange at today's gaggle.

So here's the context ... The Bushies want to privatize social security by diverting money within the system to private accounts invested in the stock market. This is what's known as a "carve-out" plan, because it carves money out of social security. Another way to introduce private accounts, if for some reason you really wanted to, would be to set up an entirely different government program funded independently of social security, such a plan would be an "add-on" plan.

Recently, Bush screwed up and used the term "add-on" to describe his vision of social security reform. The press didn't quite know how to react because it was either a case of (a) Bush blatantly lying, (b) Bush making a major concession, or (c)Bush demonstrating that when he speaks he has no idea what he is saying.

The statement is best understood as being a result of explanation (c), and it is, therefore, extremely funny to watch Bush spokespeople attempt to perform damage-control, given that if they were honest they would have to say something like, "Well, come on, don't worry about the actual words he uses. Lord knows, George says all kind of crap... He's not a real smart guy."

Anyway, here's Scottie doing his Scottie dance:

Q: Would private accounts as an add-on, as a supplement to Social Security, as opposed to an integral part of Social Security, satisfy the President's desire to create private accounts?

SCOTTIE: I think the President has made his views clear. The President firmly believes that personal accounts are an important part of a comprehensive solution for strengthening Social Security.

Q: But is he -- Secretary Snow suggested last week he's not married to the idea of it being within Social Security, that it could be an add-on.

SCOTTIE: No, that's not what he said. The President talked about how -- first of all, the President has made it very clear in his principles that personal accounts, where younger workers can invest a portion of their own payroll taxes into personal accounts, is an important part of strengthening Social Security. [ ... ]

Q: A follow-up question.

Q: Is that still an absolute red line for him?

SCOTTIE: Is what an absolute red line?

Q: Personal accounts within the framework of Social Security?

SCOTTIE: Well, you've heard the President talk about how this is a time when we all have to talk about the problems facing Social Security and we must have a common understanding of what those problems are. Social Security is unsustainable on its current course. It faces a massive unfunded liability at this point. And he has also talked about the importance of moving forward in a bipartisan way to solve it. He wants to create a climate where people will bring forward their ideas for solving this problem.

We've made some significant progress in recent weeks, because several weeks ago, there were many saying that there is not a problem. Now it appears to be at a point where more and more people are talking about possible solutions to the problem. That's a sign of progress.

Q: So I take it, then, from this long explanation, simply yes or no, that he is leaving the door open, that this is not necessarily a red line?

SCOTTIE: He is saying he welcomes all ideas. He is not embracing those ideas. He has put forward what his ideas are, but he welcomes all ideas for solving this problem.

Q: So it's not a red line.

SCOTTIE: The President's principles are clear, John. He believes firmly that personal accounts are part of a comprehensive solution.

Q: But it's not a red line.

SCOTTIE: John, that's not the way I would describe it.

Q: How would you describe it?

Q: A follow-up question?

SCOTTIE: Go ahead, John.

Q: Thank you. Just as a follow-up --

SCOTTIE: I don't know what part you weren't hearing, because, I mean, his views are very clear. But --

Q: It was the yes or no part that I didn't hear.

SCOTTIE: No, the point that the President has made, John, is that we should work together. This is a serious problem, and we need a bipartisan solution.

Q: Red line, yes or no?

SCOTTIE: That's why the President is not getting into ruling things in or out. He made it very clear to you all several times that we're not going to get into commenting on each and every idea that is thrown out there by members of Congress --

Q: He threw out the idea.

SCOTTIE: We welcome ideas by members of Congress for solving this problem. That's how we get things done in this town. We've managed to get a lot done in the first term through the President's leadership and the willingness to tackle the big challenges that we face. And the President believes that the approach that we're taking now is the right way to proceed.

The best bit is when Scottie says he doesn't know what part the reporter is not hearing, and the reporter replies that he didn't hear the part in which Scottie said yes or no... Good times, good times...

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