A Press Conference
- A Press Conference
This time, with real live reporters
© Bryan Zepp Jamieson
Putsch, clearly feeling his back was against the wall on the whole
issue of Social Security, came out from under the White House where he
had recently been hiding from stray clouds, and braved a press corps
that was noticeably absent paid GOP hacks and male prostitutes.
With approval ratings for recent GOP miscues such as Social Security,
ending the filibuster, and Terri Schiavo all in the 30s, and his own
down around the mid 40s (the lowest ever for a President just four
months after reelection), Putsch’s handlers clearly felt that the risk
of Putsch saying something really stupid was outweighed by the need to
stop the slide.
Of course, just six months ago, they didn’t need to worry about Putsch
saying something stupid. He did, all the time (“I own a timber
company?”) but the American media, so ably represented in class and
intent by Jeff Gannon, never reported such things, preferring instead to
rhapsodize about how Churchillean Putsch was.
So, Bob Scheiffer notwithstanding, when Putsch screwed up the other
night, it did get reported. (More on Scheiffer’s efforts to protect the
president from his own mouth in a moment.)
Folks at Air America and MediaMatters and the new anti-Drudge website,
“Raw Story,” had a field day with the press conference, of course, but
mainstream reporters, doubtlessly mortified by Armstrong Williams and
Jeff Gannon, actually asked Putsch some pointed questions, and reported
on his generally weak responses. No word on if they were still being
required to submit the questions in advance. Putsch dealt with the hard
questions by not answering them, of course. Compare with that painful
charade of a press conference held in March of 2003 on the eve of battle.
And, not to be too cynical, but a lot of the business-oriented
associates who own all those little reporters in the mainstream media
are beginning to get cold feet over the insane ideology and religious
whackery that is the hallmark of this administration. I suspect a lot
of reporters feel freer to report critically, without feeling their jobs
might be at risk, than was the case just a year ago.
When Putsch pulled one of his usual gambits, trying to have his cake
and eat it too, it got reported. He pulled one of his favorite talking
points, the pre-fabricated phrases that make up so much of his
vernacular, which he had been playing all during his efforts to
dismantle Social Security: He referred to the funds as “...file cabinets
full of IOUs” (in Putsch-friendly “town meetings” he likes to say
“useless IOUs” – apparently he was warned to avoid that particular
adjective during a full-blown – even without Jeff Gannon – press
conference) and then, literally seconds later, said, “People say, Well,
I don't want to have to take risk. Well, as I outlined in my opening
statement, there are ways where you don't have to take risk. People
say, I'm worried about the stock market going down right before I
retire. You can manage your assets. You can go from bonds and stocks to
only bonds as you get older.”
Those “cabinets full of IOUs” are the very treasury bonds he’s
encouraging people to invest in! What’s more, it’s what people
CURRENTLY have their Social Security accounts invested in!
This is where Bob Schieffer stepped in, remarking after the press
conference that it seemed that “the President did not appear to step on
his own story” when of course it was transparently evident to one and
all that he did. I wonder if Schieffer was Gannon’s mentor?
Putsch stated at one point, “I feel strongly that there needs to be
voluntary personal savings accounts as a part of the Social Security
system.” Well, why not have voluntary personal savings, period? That
way, there’s no cap on returns, like there is on his half-baked scheme
(that’s right, folks: working folks would assume the risk, but the
government would assume the rewards beyond what people would get
anyway!) and it could be done without messing with Social Security: just
encourage companies to pay their workers better.
When all else failed, he tried blustering. When the focus shifted to
his efforts to have “means testing,” the practice of cutting benefits in
relation to other income, he avoided mentioning that his plan envisioned
implementing such cuts when the other income exceeded twenty thousand a
year (that would be “the upper middle class”, it seems). A reporter
asked of means testing, is it “... a system where a rich person, say
Dick Cheney, wouldn't get much out of it?” Putsch snapped, “Now wait a
minute, don't get personal here, that's international TV. That's a cheap
No, it isn’t. Of course, Cheney won’t get much of a Social Security
check, since he spent most of the past twenty five years in public life,
but his pay-off, the short time he was President of Halliburton, ensures
that he’ll never have to worry about the size of his Social Security
check. No eating dog food for old Dick!
Incidently, there is one little nasty in his Social Security
privatization scheme that he forgot to mention: the accounts would not
be protected in the event of bankruptcy. As it stands now, if you go
bankrupt, for whatever reason, your Social Security is still there, and
your checks are protected. The privatized ones won’t be. So you work
all your life, get hit by a bus, your insurance doesn’t pay (and why
should they, since it’s nearly impossible to sue them under “tort
reform”) and you declare bankruptcy at the age of 65. No Social
Security for YOU; it all goes to satisfying creditors! Enjoy that dog
food, and be glad that Dick Cheney hasn’t bought it all up!
When Putsch wasn’t contradicting himself, he was playing games with
numbers. “The system goes broke in 2041. In 2027, for those listening,
we'll be obligated to pay $200 billion more a year than we take in in
order to make sure the baby boomers get the benefits they've been
promised.” The “goes broke in 2041" is based on an assumption that the
economy will only grow at 1.3% a year for the next 36 years. But even
then, look at what he was really saying: if we wait 23 years to fix it,
it will cost $200 billion a year, or nearly as much as we’re wasting in
Iraq now. If we do something about it right now, it will cost less than
$50 billion a year, and will bullet-proof Social Security against 36
years of severe recession. That’s what he was saying!
And then, of course, he flatout lied, too. For example, he referred to
the charming practice of “renditioning,” which is that of shipping
people off to other countries to be tortured, as “hypothetical.”
There’s no hypothetical about it. America has been doing it for some
time, and the proof of it is there for all to see. If Putsch is bright
enough to run a computer, he might get on what he calls “the inter nets”
and do a Google for Maher Arar. It’s not a common name: nonetheless,
he’ll get quite a few hits on it, mostly dealing with a huge lawsuit by
the Syrian-born Canadian against the US.
On Iraq, he was, as always, panglossian. He chirped happily about the
progress of the Iraqi army (that would be the one that is getting
slaughtered at the rate of over 100 a week), remarking, “Recruitment's
high. It's amazing, isn't it, that people want to serve, they want their
country to be free?” Well, when it’s the only paying gig in town, maybe
it’s not so amazing. The very best neighborhoods in Iraq get eight
hours of electricity a day, and others average less than three. The
very town where Saddam gassed the Kurds has been without fresh water
since the Americans deliberately destroyed it during the early fighting
in the spring of 2003. Less than one percent of reconstruction projects
have already begun. Oh, and there is a civil war going on.
No, Iraq isn’t doing very well at all, Putsch.
We did get to see a new verbal tic this time. Every time he got hit
with a hard question, he would begin his reply with, “Yes, I appreciate
Just like we appreciate him, no doubt.