Andrew Card in Maine
The President's Chief of Staff came to Maine on Friday to push for privatizing Social Security. The administration has been playing the same tune all over the country, but Maine is unique. Here we have an older population, 20% of state residents (the second highest rate in the nation) on Social Security and two Republican senators who have expressed reservations (and in Snowe's case, outright hostility) towards the President's plan. Opinion polls have shown opposition to privatization in Maine at about 75%. The visit by Card was an attempt to gain some traction.
The plan was for Card to make two quick speeches, one in Portland and one in Bangor with a couple meetings with newspaper editorial boards along the way. The speech apparently went off without a hitch in Portland. Card said his piece and rushed out of the room before any questions could be asked. In Bangor, however, things turned out a bit differently.
The event was held at Husson College, all the TV networks showed up and the crowd was interested to hear what Card would say. I had made a call to the Maine Heritage Policy Center the day before to get on the list, and my friends and I grabbed seats in the second row, right behind Sen. Plowman (R - Hampden).
Card gave his speech, invoking 9/11 several times to justify remaking Social Security (once mistakenly referring to it as September 20th) and using the same tired rhetoric that he has all accross the country to push for private accounts. The exciting part in Bangor didn't come during the speech, but after it. Card had said his piece, the small audience had applauded politely and he was headed for the exit, when an old Mainer stood up in the middle of the room and said his piece. "Where are you going? I thought this was supposed to be a dialogue." Card turned and paused, the cameras flashed, and he began to move back towards the podium.
The man, a retired history professor (whom the BDN identifies as "Clyde MacDonald, 75, of Hampden") asked an excellent question about the wisdom of drawing down the trust fund in order to fund a new program when the real issue in Social Security is solvency. Card mocked him a bit and turned for another question. I think he picked me because I was clean-cut and wearing a young-republicanesque polo shirt.
I began my question by stating that President Bush often denigrates the Social Security trust fund, claiming it doesn't exist and that it is full of worthless IOUs. I didn't get any farther. Card looked right at me and said that the President does no such thing.
For the exciting conclusion, tune in next week. I'll be camping in Fort Kent until Friday and I'm already late for my ride.
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