[Homestead] Bubble Boy---speaks to preselected audience of his claque---at taxpayer expense

tvoivozhd tvoivozd at infionline.net
Tue Feb 8 16:40:52 EST 2005

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*Should Tax Dollars Fund Bush's Bubble?*
Tuesday, Feb 08, 2005; 11:39 AM

A controversial president barnstorms through the country attending 
carefully controlled events where tickets are distributed by his own 
party, where no one disagrees with a word he says and no one puts him on 
the spot.

When this happened in the heat of the political season, the events and 
at least part of the president's travel costs were being paid for by his 
campaign. But now it's a post-election president spending tax dollars 
and ostensibly acting in the public interest.

Some of my readers think it's not appropriate.

"The president's dialogue with America on Social Security should be just 
that -- a dialogue, not a series of campaign events controlled by the 
local GOP bosses," writes John Deem of Huntersville, N.C.

"Obviously, these 'town hall' meetings, packed with W's most vocal 
supporters, and no dissenters allowed, are purely works of propaganda. 
Why is the American taxpayer paying for these 'town hall' meetings?" 
asks Tom Deaton.

President Bush developed the habit during the fall campaign of riding 
Air Force One from one protective bubble to another. That may not be 
everyone's idea of how to earn people's support, yet it's hard to argue 
with success.

But now the White House would appear to have established these bubble 
trips as standard operating procedure whenever the president wants to 
make his case to the American people.

One good test of whether this is appropriate might be to compare what 
Bush is doing with what other presidents have done when they decided to 
take their message on the road.

*The Clinton Comparison

I'm no presidential historian -- and I welcome those of you who are to 
chip in with an e-mail -- but I do remember a bit about the last guy. 
And Bush himself invited comparison with President Clinton in his Jan. 
26 press conference 

"I look forward to . . . traveling around the country discussing this 
issue -- similar to what President Clinton did," Bush said. "President 
Clinton highlighted the issue as an issue that needed to be addressed, 
and an issue that needed to be solved. He fully recognized, like I 
recognize, that it's going to require cooperation in the House and the 

But Bush's approach couldn't be much more different than Clinton's. When 
Bush has one of his "conversations" on Social Security, it's with people 
prescreened to agree with him and he asks the rehearsed and leading 
questions. When Clinton had his "discussions" on Social Security, he 
intentionally brought opponents along with him, spoke before a mixed 
crowd, and let himself get grilled.

For instance, here's the transcript 
of an April 7, 1998 appearance by Clinton in Kansas City. He invited 
Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), among others, to join him.

And while the audience was laboriously prescreened, that was so that it 
would /not/ be one-sided. Members were selected by a market research 
company to reflect the demographic and economic characteristics of the 

By comparison, skim through the transcripts from Bush's two-day 
five-stop trip last week to Fargo 
<http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/02/20050203-6.html>, Great 
Falls, Mo 
Omaha <http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/02/20050204-3.html>, 
Little Rock 
<http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/02/20050204-7.html> and 
Tampa <http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/02/20050204-13.html>.

Bush stays in the bubble because his aides figure that, just like during 
the campaign, events like these are an effective way of getting his 
message out without any downside risk. They work, they make nice sound 
bites and headlines, and nobody complains, at least not much.

As for the president himself, last fall's debates with Sen. John F. 
Kerry indicated that he doesn't much like it when people disagree with 
him. And one reason Bush is avoiding tough questions could be that he 
hasn't quite figured out how to answer them.

Consider this exchange at Friday's Tampa event 
where a woman (whose question was somehow not transcribed by the White 
House) asked how the private accounts would fix "the red problem." She 
was referring to Bush's snazzy charts illustrating what he said was 
Social Security's "red ink."

Here's Bush's response, in its entirety:

"Because the -- all which is on the table begins to address the big cost 
drivers. For example, how benefits are calculate, for example, is on the 
table; whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price 
increases. There's a series of parts of the formula that are being 
considered. And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, 
affecting those -- changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to 
get what has been promised more likely to be -- or closer delivered to 
what has been promised.

"Does that make any sense to you? It's kind of muddled. Look, there's a 
series of things that cause the -- like, for example, benefits are 
calculated based upon the increase of wages, as opposed to the increase 
of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate -- the benefits will 
rise based upon inflation, as opposed to wage increases. There is a 
reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect. In 
other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised benefits 
grow, if those -- if that growth is affected, it will help on the red.

"Okay, better? I'll keep working on it."

*Live Online

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