Today’s installment of Obsession is liable to be long. The press corps batted Little Scottie around like a tennis ball over whether or not it’s time for Chimpy to move past the “public education” phase of his plan to destroy Social Security and actually put some specifics before congress. Scottie tried to serpentine but the press corps was persistent, noticeably pissing him off. I’ll try to relay as much as possible without losing the sense of what I thought was a pretty good gaggle.
On Scottie quote from his opening monlogue that you should keep in mind for the last segment of today’s obsessive gaggle coverage:
And a lot of these members talked about how important that was, too, and about the magic of the compounding rate of interest, and how people will realize significantly more than they’re realizing under the current system if they’re able to have that option of investing some of their dollars in personal retirement accounts.
OK, remember that one. Now, on to the gaggle.
First, Scottie quibbles over just what it was that Rep. Jim Kolbe said.
Q Representative Jim Kolbe, who was in that meeting, said that he told the President that the time has come to start putting forth some ideas about how to deal with the insolvency problem, and that the President should offer his remedy. Is it time for the President to do that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, those are discussions that we’re having with members of Congress. I don’t know that the discussion was quite the way you described it. There was some discussion —
Q That’s the way he described it.
MR. McCLELLAN: I saw his comments; I didn’t see that that was the way — he talked about —
Q He said, “The time has come where we’ve got to start to put some specifics out there about how we’re going to fix the solvency” —
MR. McCLELLAN: Right. Terry said that that was the way he described it to the President.
Q He said he told the President that.
MR. McCLELLAN: I just wanted to correct your characterization. I think it was a little bit off. (Laughter.)
HA! It is so laughable, the reporter who interviewed Kolbe after the White House meeting, Terence Hunt of the AP, is in the briefing room with Little Scottie yet Scottie quibbles over just what it was that Kolbe told Hunt!
Let’s move on…
Q When do you move to the next phase?
MR. McCLELLAN: John, as you know, I don’t think we’ve ever put a timetable on it. [Oooh, is Scottie getting pissed here?] We said we’re going to do that in concert with members of Congress. We want to listen to them and talk about how we move forward together —
Q Well, they seem to be suggesting it’s time to move to the next phase, so —
MR. McCLELLAN: Maybe you’ll let me finish my comment here in a second. [Oh, yeah, he’s pissed.] That’s why the President has said we want to move forward in a bipartisan way. This is an important issue. It affects all Americans. We need to work together to solve it. And you’re seeing more and more members talk about possible solutions. We would like to see more Democrats come to the table and talk about solutions. They’re admitting now that there is a problem facing Social Security, and something needs to be done.
Q Would next week be too early to move to the next phase? MR. McCLELLAN: We’re still in the — as you’re aware, we’re on a 60-day push to reach out to the American people about the problems facing Social Security. And that continues.
Q Scott, you just said, we’ve never put a timetable on it. But, in fact, the President gave an interview to The Washington Times at the beginning of the year in which he said he wanted legislation by June or July. So how can you still be in the early stages of this, and still want legislation or a bill by early summer and not —
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me just correct you, in terms of putting forward specific ideas for finding a permanent solution. Congress is moving forward on some legislative ideas. Senator Grassley is going to be holding hearings later — a hearing later this month or next month. I think he’s expressed that he intends to move forward this summer in his committee, as well. And so we welcome that. But that’s what we’re discussing with members of Congress, about how to move forward. And at the right time, the President will state his views in a more specific way about how to fix the system permanently.
Q Maybe you could address that, then, because you say, at the right time the President will lay out some specifics. And so what you have is members of Congress, members of the President’s own party that are saying, well, you’ve got some ideas, you’ve got some specifics; we’re interested in your leadership, Mr. President — why not now?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don’t know where you’ve been [YOWSA!] — the President has been leading. He’s been going all across this country talking to the American people about the need to act on this problem now, because it only gets worse with time.
Q But what about you, when you say at the right time he’ll lay out some specifics — what is the right time?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that’s discussions we’ll have with members of Congress, Norah. That’s why we’re having all these meetings.
Q Scott, when you say that the time will be right to start talking about solutions, what determines that? Has the President decided what the solutions are, and he’s worried about the timing, in terms of politics, votes on the Hill, the legislative calendar?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I understand, I know that some want to jump ahead in the process. But this is important that we go through the process of educating the American people, because it is such an important issue — it affects every American.
The President will not hesitate, when the time is right, to be more specific about how we find a permanent solution. But he believes on this issue, this is one we have to work hand-in-hand on to move forward.
Q So are you saying that the President has, in fact, made up his mind what those solutions are and it’s a question of timing?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, not at all, because he’s listening to members of Congress about some of their ideas, and he’s laid out some ideas that he thinks are worthy of consideration, and he has specifically mentioned some of those.
OK, now Scottie is really steamed. But that’s nothing, as we see when a gaggler has the temerity to point out that Dear Leader’s tax cuts for the rich have in and of themselves threatened the solvency of Social Security.
Q Scott, back on Social Security and rephrasing the question, I guess — some on Capitol Hill are saying, why keep pushing privatization when the White House knows it’s holding up the works on getting this thing moved in any way, shape or form on the Hill, and just deal with solvency. Why not? And, secondly, you’re touting the President’s tax cuts, and some are saying that is, indeed, some of the problem because that could have helped pay for some of the problem with Social Security in the near future.
MR. McCLELLAN: What are you referring to? The tax cuts helped get our economy growing. We’ve seen millions of jobs created —
Q But they’re saying that money could have been used to help fund —
MR. McCLELLAN: — we’re seeing strong, sustained economic growth. And when the President has talked about personal accounts, I mean, he’s talked about a gradual transition.
Q If it’s such a problem, why not leave privatization alone and deal with the issue of solvency so it can move on the Hill?
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me talk about why — we’re doing both. Let me talk about why personal accounts are so important and why personal accounts are part of any solution, they’re integral to any solution, because right now you have a system that is promising future generations things that it cannot — making commitments that it cannot meet, it is making promises that it cannot meet.
Q So the magic of Wall Street.
MR. McCLELLAN: So personal accounts — that’s why personal accounts are important to this. No, it’s the magic of our children and grandchildren being able to have more say over their own money and realize a greater rate of return on their money.
Oh, I just love it when the press corps flings Scottie’s words back in his face like feces from the lemur cage!