Beyond the Beltway: Social Security on the Road

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", Feb. 26, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Congress takes Social Security on the road as we go Beyond the Beltway.

Members of Congress used the Presidents’ Day recess this week to visit their home states and districts, many of them holding town hall meetings on Social Security reform. Both parties held events this week, but it’s the Republicans who faced the most questions, and hostility over President Bush’s plans.

You know, I think you’ve heard my colleague and your colleague Bill Kristol (search) talk about how this is not quite like what faced the Clinton health care plan in 1993 and ‘94, when members of Congress went home to hear what people thought. There, they found almost unmitigated hostility toward that plan, and the more they went home, the more hostility they found, and they found the plan died.

This time with Bush, it is somewhat different, because these lawmakers, particularly the Republicans, went home, and they found some hostility, but then some support, sort of a mixed result. Particularly in the district I watch, in the middle of West Virginia, a marginal seat, formerly Democratic seat, held by Shelley Moore Capito (search), and she found exactly that when she went to Elkins, West Virginia – she found people were mixed.

And so the result, in my mind, anyway, is not that this meant that the Bush plan is, is headed toward death, but it didn’t get any momentum out of this either, and doesn’t seem to have gotten any out of all of the speeches that the president’s made in the recent weeks.

JUAN WILLIAMS, GUEST CO-HOST: No, I mean, the president, as you know, Fred, visited eight states and tried to put pressure on especially Democratic senators, who are vulnerable, because those are states that supported President Bush in the presidential race. But you take some of these states, and what you find is, the Republican senators are coming back saying, well, you know, it was kind of a mixed message. We’re not sure. I don’t think, I think this is trouble for the president’s Social Security plan, because Republicans are going to have to feel secure politically in moving forward. And I don’t think they got that message from home.

BARNES: Yes, trouble, not a death knell.

WILLIAMS: Well, let me just say quickly that I think the real story behind the story on Social Security this week was the decision by a group called USA Next (search), and Fred, you may know that they’re connected to the group that was involved with Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (search), that absolutely submarined John Kerry.


WILLIAMS: They have pledged to spend $10 million dollars to attack AARP (search), the group for the retired in America, because they say AARP is the roadblock that’s trying to stop Social Security, and they’re going to tie gay marriage to AARP. Is that ridiculous? That’s what the Texan president should say, because that’s ridiculous.

BARNES: Well, what is ridiculous? The Swift Boat ads and what the Swift Boat veterans said was all true, by the way.

WILLIAMS: Well, all right, we’ve got a fight about that one.

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