Thursday, February 17, 2005

A Line For Every Situation

Well the President held a Press Conference today, to announce he was nominating Ambassador John Negroponte as Director of National Intelligence. Not much to say about that, and plenty of others are covering Mr. Negroponte's ascension. So let's move on to some interesting statements by the President once he opened the floor to questions. Let's start with a long one.
Q Mr. President, you've made clear that Social Security reform is your top legislative priority. The top Republican leader in the House has said you cannot jam change down people's throats. And in your interviews with the regional newspapers, you made very clear that you would not rule out raising the cap on payroll taxes. If you were to do that, why would that not be seen as going back on your pledge not to raise taxes?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I -- a couple of questions there. One, I agree, you can't cram an issue down people's throats. As a matter of fact, the best way to get this issue addressed in the halls of Congress is for the American people to say, why don't we come together and do something. And so the first priority of mine is to convince the people we have a problem. And I'm going to do that a lot. As a matter of fact, I enjoy traveling the country, and I hope you do, too, because I'm going to be doing a lot of it. I fully understand, Norah, that nothing will happen if the members of Congress don't believe there's a problem that needs to be solved. And so you'll see a lot of travel.

And the problem is plain to me: You've got baby boomers getting ready to retire -- they've been promised greater benefits than the current generation, they're living longer, and there's fewer people paying into the system. And the system goes negative starting in 2018 and continues to do so. There's the problem. Nothing will happen, I repeat, unless the Congress thinks there's a problem.

Once the Congress -- once the people say to Congress, there's a problem, fix it, then I have a duty to say to members of Congress, bring forth your ideas. And I clarified a variety of ideas that people should be encouraged to bring forth, without political retribution. It used to be, in the past, people would step and say, well, here's an interesting idea, and then they would take that idea and clobber the person politically.

What I'm saying to members of Congress is that we have a problem -- come together and let's fix it, and bring your ideas forward, and I'm willing to discuss them with you. And so that's why I said what I said, and will continue to say it. And it's not -- I've got some ideas of my own. Obviously, I think personal accounts are an important part of the mix and want to continue working with members of Congress to understand the wisdom of why personal accounts makes sense for the long-term, to be a part of a long-term solution for Social Security.
Did you notice what part the President forgot? He forgot to answer the question. He failed to confirm whether or not he would consider raising the cap on payroll taxes and he failed to confirm whether or not he considered that going back on his pledge not to raise payroll taxes. It's also noted that Personal Accounts have apparently been demoted from the solution to part of the solution.

Also apparently it's really important for us all to believe there is a problem and call our congress people and tell them there is a problem. If we all believe in the problem than we can solve the problem by following the President's plan. Unless of course there is no problem. Or, to be more precise, the problem isn't exactly as President Bush portrays it.

Anyway here's an odd exchange.
THE PRESIDENT: Let's see, have I gone through all the TV personalities yet?

Q Yes. (Laughter.)


Q Mr. President, good morning.

THE PRESIDENT: A face made for radio, I might add.

Q Thank you. My mother appreciates it.
That just strikes me as a little sophomoric.

Here's the President on how Iran and Iraq are different.
Well, first, Iran is different from Iraq -- very different. The international community was convinced that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction -- not just the United States, but the international community -- and had passed some 16 resolutions. In other words, diplomacy had -- they tried diplomacy over and over and over and over again. John was at the United Nations during this period. And finally, the world, in 1441 -- U.N. Resolution 1441 -- said, disclose, disarm, or face serious consequences. This was not a declaration by the United States of America, it was a declaration by the United Nations Security Council -- and a 15-to-nothing vote, as I recall. And we took that resolution very seriously.

As you know, the Iranian issue hasn't even gone up to the Security Council yet. And so there's more diplomacy, in my judgment, to be done. And we'll work very closely with our European friends and other nations. As I mentioned before, we're an active member of the IAEA board, which will give us an opportunity to continue -- to continue to say to the Iranians, you've got to be transparent with your program and adhere to -- adhere to protocols that you have signed.
Anyway it sounds like we won't be invading at the drop of a hat. But we'll have to see how this pans out.

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