The Note: Learning to Use Irrationality As a Bargaining Tool

"A respectful relationship with a leader of a great country like Russia is important to maintain. And I have a respectful relationship. I'm able to express concerns and ask questions and get responses in a civil in a civil way. And I think that's very important to make sure our relations are good. And we don't always agree with each other."

On his meeting in Russia with members of "civil society:"

"I think the fact that I'm in a country where I'm allowed to meet with people from civil society is a good signal. I mean, there is a civil society. And they're allowed to speak to the American President about concerns. I have no idea what they're going to say. I'm looking forward to it. I think it's good. And I will assure them that my message that I will give in Latvia, speaking to the world, same message I give here at home, is the message I continue profess, and that is minorities have rights in a democracy."

On Abu Ghraib and perhaps a reference to Lynndie England:

"I'm realistic enough to know that images on TV have sullied our country's image, at times. And we've just got to continue to spread -- tell people the truth, be open about the mistakes of Abu Ghraib, hold people to account."

Social Security:

Two Bloomberg reporters interviewed Bill Thomas, who told them, for the first time in public, that "Congress should consider a package that includes increasing the retirement age, discouraging early retirement, splitting off disabled and survivors benefits from Social Security and slowing the growth of future benefits -- though not as much as the Bush administration has called for. He said those changes may be combined with long-term health and retirement-savings measures and tax-code adjustments."

(John Harwood, in the Washington Wire, Notes that Administration does not want to link tax reform with Social Security legislation "but seeks any source of momentum.")

Mickey Kaus lays out why he thinks Social Security reform can wait: "Before they stabilize the system at this high level of GDP consumption -- cementing it in place, in effect--Democrats may want time to think about whether they want to devote such a large part of society's resources to a universal check-mailing scheme. My guess is Democrats will need at least some of those GDP points for health care. It will be easier to get them if Social Security is still perceived as a program in need of reform, as opposed to a program that got fixed back in 2005." LINK

Next week's Business Week cover story by Lee Walczak and Richard S. Dunham takes a look at the Safety Net Nation, "a diverse group that includes the pathologically risk-averse and those who are willing to take the Ownership Society for a spin -- as long as it's equipped with air bags," and why they're resisting buying into President Bush's idea of allowing people to take a portion of their Social Security savings and investing it in private accounts. And regardless of ideology, much of it comes down to philosophy -- their tolerance for risk, which savings incentives and breaks they think should favor which income groups, and how they view the possibilities and realities of Wall Street. LINK

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