In One Eye

Friday, May 20, 2005
It's long been an open secret that the president's Social Security "town meetings" are staged. The Los Angeles Times gives a few more details today.
[A] memo circulated this week among members of one group, Women Impacting Public Policy, illustrates the lengths to which the White House has gone to make sure the right points are made at the president's public appearances.

"President Bush will be in Rochester, N.Y., for an upcoming event and has called on WIPP for help," said the memo to New York-area members, from one of the group's leaders. "He would like to visit with local workers about their views on Social Security."

The memo went on to solicit several types of people "who he would like to visit with" — including a young worker who "knows that [Social Security] could run out before they retire," a young couple with children who like "the idea of leaving something behind to the family" and a single parent who believes Bush's proposal for individual investment accounts "would provide more retirement options and security" than the current system. The women's group memo said the White House was seeking only people younger than 29. It reflected the latest refinement of the White House strategy for promoting its Social Security plan: highlighting the benefits Bush sees for younger workers ...

The theme was on full display Thursday as Bush took his campaign to Wisconsin, the 26th state he has visited to promote Social Security restructuring.

"You got any thoughts about Social Security?" Bush asked 22-year-old Concordia University senior Christy Paavola, one of five younger workers who appeared on stage with him at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

"Yes," Paavola said. "I don't think it's going to be there when I retire, which is really scary."

Many young people, the president commented, think they are paying into a retirement system that will never pay them back. He asked Paavola: "Got anything else you want to say?"

"I really like the idea of personal savings accounts," Paavola said.

"You did a heck of a job," Bush told her. "You deserve an A."

The participants in Thursday's event in Wisconsin appeared to mirror the criteria outlined in the memo to members of WIPP. In addition to Paavola, Bush was joined in Wisconsin by a preschool teacher, a small business owner, and a dairy farmer and his wife, who worked as a bookkeeper in a bank. None was older than 27.
I suppose this isn't a surprise. After all, any speaker wants the luxury of preaching to the choir. At the same time, media outlets have presented these appearances as real news when they're really nothing more than scripted events. TV stations, newspapers, etc., might as well write up news articles on the vicissitudes of Everybody Loves Raymond.