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Read His Lips: Bush's Exercise in Fiscal Restraint

Press You've Got -- Not the Press You Want

In one of his first acts as Republican National Committee chairman, Ken Mehlman went for the time-honored tradition of attacking the press. "The president has great goals for our country," he wrote in a fundraising e-mail on Wednesday. "But we need your help to get the president's message past the liberal media filter and directly to the American people."

Never mind that exactly a week earlier the RNC sent out a news release full of praise for Mehlman found in newspapers and television shows nationwide.

From his chair at the RNC, Ken Mehlman wants to poke a hole in the "liberal" media filter. (Stephen J. Boitano -- AP)

The Mehlman complaint came on the same day Bush was being grilled by the liberal media in the White House briefing room.

Some sample questions from the day: "How are you going to work with people [Democrats] who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?" and "What kind of an effect do you think these statements [criticism from Democrats] have on the morale of our troops and on the confidence of the Iraqi people that what you're trying to do over there is going to succeed?"

With zingers like these, it's no wonder Bush sounded less caustic than Mehlman when he spoke about the media. "I'm confident you'll be, over the course of the next four years, willing to give our different policies an objective look," he said. "Won't you?"

The New Poll Tacks

(Social) Security alert: Don't get caught in the crossfire of polls about private accounts. Last Monday, the AARP, which opposes Bush's plan for partial privatization of Social Security, released an opinion poll by Roper Public Affairs concluding, in AARP's words: "If given a choice, three-in-five Americans would strengthen Social Security with as few changes as possible. . . . The poll also found that the more Americans learn about diverting Social Security taxes into private investment accounts, the less they like the idea."

But on Friday, the Cato Institute, which favors converting part of Social Security to private accounts, issued a poll by Zogby International proclaiming, in Cato's words: "A majority of Americans agree that younger workers should be allowed to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes in individual accounts . . . (d)espite a drumbeat of criticism for weeks by congressional Democrats and a concerted public relations campaign by powerful interest groups such as the AARP against Social Security choice."

So who is a nervous politician to believe? Actually, the polls are all finding roughly the same thing -- just asking the questions differently and spinning the results to suit their positions.

The nonpartisan Pew Research Center surveyed polling on Social Security and concluded that while opinions in the evolving debate are still fluid, some patterns have emerged. First, the public is "receptive to the idea of private investment accounts in Social Security." Second, support for the private accounts "declines when the potential downside of private accounts is raised." And, third, "while Americans believe the Social Security system faces major problems, it is not in crisis."

Or, if you're keeping score at home: one for Bush, one for his opponents, and one tie.

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