Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Barbara Boxer interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air

A friend told me today that Barbara Boxer was on Fresh Air last week (Thursday, February 10th). This is a strong interview. You can listen at the link. There's no transcript. (Again, I do feel NPR should be providing transcripts to all of their programs online for free.)

It's a thirty minute interview over a wide range of subjects: Anita Hill's testimony in the Senate, the "Year of the Woman," Boxer's start in politics, how the women in the Senate relate to one another regardless of party affiliation, the vote against certification for Ohio and a number of other topics.

This is a transcript from minutes 14 to 20 (if I'm remembering correctly, it may be "19 minutes and __ seconds"). I've typed it up so expect typos. Don't use it to quote Terry Gross or Barbara Boxer. It's provided for the members who do not have the listen option. For those who are able to listen (and would like to) you can read along with that six minute section while you listen.

Here's the description of the broadcast offered at the Fresh Air site:

Fresh Air from WHYY, February 10, 2005 · Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) recently made headlines with her tough questioning of Condoleezza Rice during her confirmation hearings for Secretary of State. Boxer was also the only senator to object to the certification of Ohio's electoral votes, bringing about a two-hour debate on the matter.
Boxer became a senator in January 1993, after 10 years representing the area around California's Marin County in the House. Boxer has recently written a novel based on her 12 years in the Senate. It will be published later this year.

What I've elected to focus on was the section on social security. Here's the transcription (full of errors, I'm sure) of that section:

Barbara Boxer: There are two papers that I want to introduce into Senate discussion. One of them is a White House memo that was leaked and had a very clear statement. And that clear statement is that for six decades they’ve been trying to get rid of social security and finally they have their opportunity. I can give you the exact quote, I have it in front of me. This was written January 3rd, 2005 by one of Karl Rove’s assistant:
"For the first time in six decades," he writes, "the social security battle is one we can win."

Now let's just analyze that. That's sixty years. So it's right out there. For sixty years they've been trying to do away with social security.
And then the other document is a 1983 paper that was put out by a very right-wing think tank and it was called, "Achieving a Leninist Strategy." And they talk about the strategy that this tyrant, communist Lenin used to overturn capitalism. And this is one of the quotes in there:
"Unlike many socialists of the time, Lenin recognized that fundamental change is contingent both upon a movement's ability to create a focused political coalition and upon its success in isolating and weakening its opponents."
And in that paper, it essentially says you have to buy off the people who were older, tell them they are going to be okay, and, essessentially, everything they suggest the president is doing. For example, this is what they said:
"The sine qua non of any successful Social Security reform strategy must be an assurance to those already retired or nearing retirement that their benefits will be paid in full. . . . By accepting this principle we may succeed in neutralizing the most powerful element of the coalition that opposes structural reform."
Now that was written in 1983 by this right-wing think tank. Here's George Bush, February 2, '05, state of the union, "I have a message for every American 55 or older: Do not let anyone mislead you. For you the social security system will not change in any way."
So there's a blue print out there and the blue print is clear and this administration is carrying it out. And it's a tragedy for the people of this country.

Terry Gross: In a way, it's not a surprise that there would have been a paper like this in 1983 because a lot of conservatives have never really liked federal funding -- particularly of programs that have been called "entitlements" -- including social security, Medicare, Medicaid. So what do you find shocking about this? I mean it’s one memo.

Barbara Boxer: Oh I find it, I find it very shocking that these right wingers who are supposed to hate communism lay out a strategy to emulate Lenin and say exactly how the president -- a president, they didn't know George Bush would be the one -- should carry this out. In it, they call for building a powerful well financed coalition:
"That coalition should consist not only of those who will reap the benefits from the private system, but banks, insurance companies and other institutions."

And what do we see happening now? We see the, and this is a quote from the Wall Street Journal – from an article called "To Get Backing for Overhaul, 35 Million Dollar Effort Begins:"
"The administration's careful planning of the pro-overhaul lobbying effort, its messages and scope, are being cooridinated by the White House political guru Karl Rove."

Now, why should people be shocked? Because here's the president coming to them, via the State of the Union address, one of the most important speeches that a president gives and he's telling them social security is in crisis, it's on the verge of collapse . . . He uses the word bankruptcy several times. And he's trying to tell the people that this is why they have to essentially end the system when in fact this has been the right wing's plan for six decades.
This is not about a crisis so I find it really shocking that the president would put that out to the people -- that he's acting because there's a crisis. By the way, in 1978, President Bush, then candidate for Congress, said, "Social security is going bankrupt by 1988 if we don't do private accounts. He was wrong then. He is wrong now. He is doing this because he is so idealogoical. He runs the Senate, he runs the House and he runs the White House so this is the moment that the people who wrote about using a Leninist strategy had been waiting for. And I do find it really shocking that the right wing would be embracing Lennin.

Terry Gross: So what do you hope the outcome will be when you bring up these two memos in the Senate? What do you expect the repercussions will be?

Barbara Boxer: I have no idea what the repercussions will be but it's going to become part of the debate, these documents will become part of the debate. Now they've been exposed in the press already so it's not as if I’m doing something [Boxer laughs] completely original. But I think it really is an expose of their real intent here. When you see a document that's written just a month ago that says "we've been waiting for this day for six decades," when you read the right wing think tanks . . . Listen, you don't even have to go that far. I believe it was NPR, it could have even been on your show, I don't know. They had Grover Norquist and Senator Reid was saying that Grover Norquist said, "Look social security's not really in crisis, it's just a lousy system. We want to get rid of it." Well, that's the most honest statement I've heard.
But the president is letting the people think that he's quote-unquote "Saving social security" when in fact, they just want to do away with it. And the thing I would say to folks 55 and older, you are not off the hook because imagine a two-tier system where everyone under that age gets a way worse system, and a future president say eight, ten years from now, faced with the borrowing that has to go on to save the system. The future president's going to say, "You know I can't do this for twenty-percent of the population. What about eighty-percent that isn't going to get this rich system? So no one is protected here.

Terry Gross: By the way that report with Grover Norquist that you mentioned, I think that one was on Morning Ed -- He's been on our show too, but I think the comment you made was from Morning Edition.

BB: Okay. Let the record be clear.

TG: Let the record be clear exactly.

I've provided a link to the report Senator Boxer was referring to.
For further comments on that right-wing instute report, you can check out Bonnie Yarbrough of Political Strategy and Arianna Huffington who both have addressed "Achieving a Leninist Strategy."