Monday, March 14, 2005

Bush's Bubble Coming?

The Pensacola News Journal's paid stenographer, Nicole Lozare, transcribes in today's paper that President Bush likely will be visiting Pensacola in his continuing campaign to promote privatization of Social Security:
"The White House will not confirm the list of Florida cities Bush will visit, but several local leaders and active Republicans have received calls about a possible Pensacola stop later this week."
Why do you suppose Ms. Lozare's sources are "active Republicans"? Ms. Lozare doesn't say. A real reporter might have warned us that the president prefers to preach only to the carefully-culled and converted.

He travels in a bubble, as Tom Dispatch described while passing along Canadian reporter Don Murray's report of what it was like to tour Europe with Bush. As the president stumps here at home, three Newsweek reporters say, things are no different.

How are the crowds managed? Just as they were during last year's partisan presidential campaign.
  • Los Angeles Times reporter Peter Wallsten, who accompanied Bush on last week's Social Security tour of Louisiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee explains: "Tickets to the events are distributed mostly to Republicans."

  • The same thing happened in Jackson, TN., as that city's Jackson Sun confirmed last week: "Most of Bush's events to pitch the plan have been open only to pre-screened audiences, with Republican lawmakers and selected groups distributing tickets. The White House also usually selects a small handful of area residents to talk with Bush on stage during the campaign-style events."

  • In Louisiville, KY., tickets had to be obtained through local Republican officials.

  • Republican party officals were tasked by the White House with screening attendees in Fargo, N.D. -- and someone among them along the way composed an 'enemies list' of do-not invites.

  • In Montgomery, AL, the Mobile Register reported Republican officials and "administration-friendly" advocacy organizations distributed the tickets to a crowd described as "overwhelmingly Republican" and "overwhelmingly white."

  • The week before, all 6,000 tickets were distributed by a Republican congressman's local office, acoording to the Associated press.

Naturally enough, the ostensible town hall atmosphere is "orchestrated", too, according to reports in the Miami Herald and Palm Beach Post. Guests on the president's platform and the lucky ones he calls upon in the audience are hand-picked supporters of a presidential 'plan' that has not yet even been released in any detail. As the Post explains --
"[S]uch events are always the same: Bush as congenial host with hand-picked on-stage guests with stories to prove the president's point. * * * In addition to orchestrating the on-stage portion of the events, there is evidence that the White House works to control the live audience. Presidential appearances are 'ticketed events,' with ticket distribution controlled by local officials and organizations. The locals operate under marching orders from the White House 'advance' staff."
As Washington's widely-read Josh Marshall has repeatedly pointed out, other than proposing that it be at least patially privatized, the White House has yet to release its own detailed plan for reforming Social Security. But according to The Century Foundation, all known plans developed by White House-friendly commissions and think tanks --
"would require enormous levels of new federal borrowing. An analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities of the president's plan shows that over the first 10 years the plan is in effect, new federal borrowing would amount to more than $1 trillion.

Over the following 10 years, an additional $3.5 trillion would be borrowed, bringing the total to $4.5 trillion over 20 years."
A detailed analysis of census data by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has concluded that "in Florida alone, Social Security lifts 1.1 million elderly people above the poverty line, reducing the elderly poverty rate from 50.2 percent to 8.7 percent."

To be exact, that's 1,116,000 Floridians. Maybe some of those soon-to-be poor folk ought to be given tickets to the show, too.

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