The George and Ben Comedy Hour
George Bush went to a Maryland suburban high school today to pitch his Social Security "reform" plan to students. In tow, he had Ben Stein, son of eminent economist Herb Stein, but himself basically just a TV buffoon. The laughs kept coming:
THE PRESIDENT: You've been talking about [Social Security] for a while.
MR. STEIN: I talk about it -- I represent two groups. I represent the National Retirement Planning Coalition, which helps people plan for retirement. And I'm also representing for the gangstas all across the world -- (laughter) -- hidden corners in the low-lows, girl. (Laughter.) That's rap music, Mr. President. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. (Laughter.)
That's not rap music. That's embarrassing. Kanye West doing a video about conflict diamonds with a sample from Diamonds are Forever, that's where things have moved to from Ben Stein's cartoonish vision of what is "rap music." Anyway, all this talk about "rap music" put Dubya on the quest for some honeys:
THE PRESIDENT: Wendy, where are you from?
MS. MERRILL: I'm from Reisterstown, Maryland --
THE PRESIDENT: Reisterstown, very good.
MS. MERRILL: -- which is near Baltimore.
THE PRESIDENT: Great, thanks for coming over.
MS. MERRILL: Thank you, my pleasure. I'm 32 years old, and I --
THE PRESIDENT: You don't look a day over 21.
MS. MERRILL: Oh, aren't you sweet, thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, you know how we politicians are. (Laughter.)
That's his line for women too old to ask "What's your major?" But then do things go astray a bit?
MS. MERRILL: I have two family members with me today. I wanted to say "hi" to, my husband Stephen and my father Neil are in the audience with us today.
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for coming, yes. Say hello to them after the event?
MS. MERRILL: Yes.
THE PRESIDENT: Good, thank you.
It reads like Dubya was impatient with the shout-outs. Dubya, like Rick Santorum, is angry at numbers:
MR. STEIN: ... The Standard & Poor's Index compounded at a rate -- I know you [Dubya] don't like statistics -- but 14 percent a year from 1926 to 2004. If you could have your Social Security, or even a quarter of it, or a fifth of it compound at that rate instead of at 1.8 percent a year, the difference would be astronomical -- astronomical.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I do like statistics. (Laughter.)
MR. STEIN: Okay, sorry. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Just not too many of them.
And another booster goes off-message:
MR. FERGUSON: -- because we realized that basically our second chance at Social Security, the only chance we ever have to have this, is if it gets fixed and we get our personal accounts. That's the only way we're going to get it. We know it's not fair, we know we're paying someone money that we're not going to see, and so we need our second chance.
because the obvious response to his complaint about "paying someone money that we're not going to see" is to not pay the money now. But that would endanger Dubya's promise to not start his "reform" plan till he's out of office.
And by the end, even Ben Stein's antics are wearing thin:
THE PRESIDENT: ... Have you got something else, because I've just -- that was my peroration.
MR. STEIN: No, I was just going to say, it is a basic...
Peroration? That's like a word that a French-looking candidate for President would use. And just as John Kerry was a hair guy, George Bush is a shoe guy:
THE PRESIDENT: My final point is, where does a guy get a pair of shoes like that?
MR. STEIN: You can get them at a place called FrontRunners, in Brentwood, California.
How apt that a seminar on the merits of ordinary people undertaking stock market investments with their social security money ends with a reference to a standard stockbroker scam.
UPDATE: The school was just a prop: there was no-one from the school, and maybe even no-one from the county actually at the event!