- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 10, 2005

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — President Bush yesterday turned the tables on opponents of his proposal to create personal Social Security savings accounts, telling Americans they should demand that their elected representatives “come to the table” and negotiate.

“If you see a problem, member of Congress, regardless of your party, you have an obligation to come to the table. You have an obligation to sit down and come up with a permanent solution,” the president told several thousand supporters packed into a performing arts center.

Mr. Bush spelled out plans to take his message across the country in the coming days and weeks, despite criticism from opponents.

“I’ll be heading out West, to Colorado and New Mexico and Arizona. I’m going to go out and I’m to talk and talk about this issue. I’m going to tell the American people we have a problem,” he said.

Mr. Bush took aim at seniors and members of his Republican base, two groups that polls show oppose the creation of personal accounts. His two-day trip takes him to Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee and Louisiana — all states that supported him in last year’s election — and each event included grandparents concerned about whether Social Security will be solvent for their grandchildren.

In his speech here — a round table with two retired men and their granddaughters that was interrupted three times by hecklers, one who shouted, “Mr. President, your plan wants to do away with Social Security” — Mr. Bush asked Gerald Allen, 71, what he was hearing about personal accounts.

“When you’re sitting around the coffee shop, are they saying, “I’m OK, but my granddaughter is not?’”

“Right,” the grandfather said.

“That’s good to hear,” the president said. “Part of my job is to make sure people understand the nature of the problem. See, if Congress doesn’t think there’s a problem, nothing is going to happen. But when Congress realizes people all over the country say we’ve got a problem, then I pity the politician who stands in the way of the solution.”

Mr. Bush acknowledged that personal accounts are “not a permanent fix,” but challenged Democrats to stop demagoguing and begin to negotiate over what their party’s leadership calls a looming problem.

“All ideas are on the table. I quoted President Clinton’s ideas. I quoted Congressman Tim Penny, former congressman from Minnesota, Democrat; Daniel Patrick Moynihan, former Democrat senator from New York. I quoted a lot of interesting ideas and said they’re all on the table, now come to the table,” the president said.

Since Mr. Bush made his proposal in the State of the Union last month, the AARP, a lobbying group for seniors that boasts 35 million members, has deluged the airwaves with messages against the president’s plan.

The White House yesterday described the effort as “scare tactics.”

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