Friday, April 08, 2005

White House Website Skips Cheney Events Where Dissent Was Heard

Vice President Cheney has led a series of "Town Hall Meetings" over the past few weeks, part of the Bush Administration's broader effort to sell the country on Social Security privatization.

And if you were to go to whitehouse.gov, you'd find transcripts for Cheney's meetings on March 21 and 22, in Bakersfield, Calif., and Reno, Nev.

But try to find the transcripts for similar events on March 24, in Battle Creek, Mich., and Pittsburgh. They aren't available. Why? Some are saying it's because there was some dissent among the partisan and otherwise friendly attendees.

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According to the Lansing State Journal, Cheney shared the stage in Battle Creek with Congressman Joe Schwarz (R-MI), who made it clear to those in attendance that on the issue of Social Security reform, he and the White House have "some disagreements on how we get there." According to the Journal, Schwarz told attendees that "he was not convinced that allowing personal retirement accounts will help solve the problem."

Uh-oh.

Things didn't get any better in Pittsburgh. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Cheney had to field questions from at least two folks who were wary of the administration's privatization plan.

According to the newspaper: "Kim Miller, of Mt. Lebanon, said that she had been a federal employee and invested in the Thrift Savings Plan, 'and I didn't do well at all.' ... Another questioner, Barbara Bush, an AARP volunteer from the North Hills, pressed Cheney on the fund's solvency, arguing that the creation of private accounts would do nothing to solve that basic issue."

Uh-oh.

Did Cheney handle these questions easily? Reading the Post-Gazette, it's obvious that he did. Were there other questioners supporting the privatization plan? Sure. In the grand scheme of things, the meeting would have to be considered a pro-privatization event.

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In Bakersfield and Reno, Cheney faced only friendly questions, and you can read them on whitehouse.gov in their entirety if you want to "educate" yourself on the virtues of privatization.

But whitehouse.gov wasn't interested in offering a dissenting Republican view in Battle Creek, or even the healthy Q&A that occurred in Pittsburgh.

It's a continuation of the broad effort to control information, to the point of pretending only one view point exists. That's hardly evidence of a thriving democracy.

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