Readers wonder whether "Jeff Gannon's" sexuality merits Salon's attention. Plus: Is Social Security privatization in the public interest?


[Read "'Jeff Gannon's' Secret Life," by Eric Boehlert.]

I usually applaud Salon for its inclusive stance toward gays and lesbians, but I was very disappointed in the angle Salon chose to exploit in “‘Jeff Gannon’s’ Secret Life.” Surely, as the author suggests, the real scandal here is that Gannon was “ushered into the White House under a phony name on behalf of a fake news organization — and was never asked to pass an FBI background check.” The fact that Gannon may or may not have been a gay escort is frankly irrelevant.

What’s the story here? Is this article meant to rub the Republicans’ faces in the fact that they may have been cavorting with a (gasp!) homosexual? Could Salon be participating in gay baiting? Is it Salon’s intention to perpetuate homophobia by reinforcing the homosexual-panic motif in its stories?

Gay and lesbian Americans may find ourselves at the center of a culture war, but when our allies start using us as pawns — or, worse, as bait — what hope is there for progress?

If stories like Eric Boehlert’s are a signal of things to come under Salon’s new leadership, I am saddened and dismayed. And feeling a bit left behind.

– Travis Mader

Eric Boehlert’s story appearing on Feb. 15 is important. No wonder some Republican operatives don’t understand why it is significant. The intrusion of such a phony in the White House is alarming because the very integrity of the White House press conference, phonied up enough on a good day, is at issue. The disclosure of “Gannon’s” falsity should be trumpeted by all members of the press. A free press only exists when news reporters are courageous and independent, and the public insists on their credibility.

– Jack Etheridge

Eric Boehlert’s report that paid White House shill “Jeff Gannon” apparently worked as a male escort is non-news — just as were the stories of President Clinton’s sextracurricular adventures.

“Gannon’s” sexual activities, whether for pay, pleasure, both or neither, are of no consequence to any of us.

– Richard Knee

Thank you, Eric Boehlert, for getting to the point:

Why was this man, who had no real journalistic experience, not only allowed into the White House press corps but also allowed access to classified CIA documents that revealed the status and identity of Valerie Plame?

Is this yet another case of “It’s OK because he’s a Republican”?

– Tamara Baker

I fail to see what relevance Guckert’s alleged past as a gay male escort has to do with anything. I admit it is deeply weird that a man who was clearly shilling for the Republican White House turns out to have been recently involved with a gay escort service, but this article seems to be dwelling on the sensationalism of this one detail while detracting from the scandal as a whole: that some guy was allowed to bypass the notoriously stringent access rules of the White House press corps despite a lack of journalistic credentials and despite operating under an assumed name.

I almost suspect this article of trying to play the queer card. It’s certainly using the fact that he may have been a “hooker” to lob a cheap-shot ad hominem attack.

Frankly, I expect much more from Salon’s writers.

– Rishi Mukhopadhyay

[Read "The Battle Over Social Security," by Farhad Manjoo.]

Farhad Manjoo’s article on Social Security suggests Bush could win his fight by assuming a more “centrist” position. Bush is not interested in fixing Social Security any more than he instituted tax cuts to aid the poor and middle class, or went to Iraq to fight tyranny.

By pushing private accounts that will not contribute to any shoring up of the system, and refusing to raise the Social Security tax, Bush is working hard for his wealthy corporate core.

As with other Bush programs, Americans are being fed lies and half-truths about this proposal and being asked to trust the details to Bush.

Judging by his history and his obvious lack of grasp of the details, it is unlikely Bush will move to a centrist position. Let’s wait four years and hope someone who knows what they are doing takes on Social Security.

– Nita Martin

Unfortunately, Bush has a couple of options overlooked in Farhad Manjoo’s article. Either has the potential to shatter both the Democrats’ front of solid opposition and the promise of Social Security.

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First, the president could revert to his well-established M.O.: Dangle a reasonable compromise before the Congress, and once it has been approved by both houses, have a Democrat-free reconciliation process drastically change its terms. Then the GOP leadership insists on a 24-hour passage of the fat, unread markup. The moderate Republicans, as they always have done in such situations, will cheerfully go along. Meanwhile, the back of their party discipline having broken on the original vote, the Democrats will be powerless to mount an effective resistance.

Second, the president can push for the most massive of all benefit cuts, on the sophistic grounds that it doesn’t cut benefits at all: Index future benefits only to prices, and not to wages. Numerous Republican moderates have floated the idea, few Democrats have specifically rejected it, and explaining why it is the most drastic of benefits cuts, a poisoned gift that keeps on taking, requires careful explanation with math in it. Most Americans are under the impression that SS benefits are purely price-indexed right now and won’t feel like they’re losing anything. (Bush has mentioned this option, tangentially, in several of his speeches. The risible flounder last week that Bush himself called “muddled” may have explained nothing; but its centerpiece clearly was the elimination of wage indexing.)

Bush may spring the second trap a couple of weeks before the vote. He will announce that it constitutes “no reduction in benefits.” We will have little time to educate the public, and we’d better have a powerful counterframe ready in advance.

– Royce Buehler

I’m not happy that Bush was reelected, but I really don’t see a problem with his changing course and properly reforming Social Security. As far as I’m concerned, that’s more important than how the Democrats end up looking. If Bush discards what seems to be a muddled, expensive and risky plan in favor of fixing the problems with Social Security, we will end up ahead as citizens.

If the Democrats really want to get out of their slump, they’re going to have start being proactive and stop waiting for Bush to undo himself with his policies.

– Christopher Coccio

If you look at privatization from a macro-economic perspective, you’re forced to realize that it won’t even work. Dollars put into private accounts (an increase in savings) are immediately offset by dollars borrowed in the marketplace by the government to finance transition (decrease in savings). The result: no increase in national savings from privatization. Without new savings, there is no new capital to finance new investment to create wealth and generate the high returns attributed to privatization.

Instead what will happen is that private account dollars will chase after existing returns in the market, driving up price-earnings ratios, which means that returns will be lower, not higher.

There are many reasons to oppose privatization, I believe, but the fact that it won’t even work should be at the top of the list.

– Richard Gonzalez

I take from Farhad Manjoo’s piece that Bush can win if he actually “saves” a program that he and the people who think for him fervently want to destroy. In fact, raising the income cap and using some measure of means testing for determining the level of benefit (everyone, including Bill Gates, would get something) are pretty sensible ideas that would be broadly supported by the Democratic grass roots. But I doubt Rove’s hand puppet will ever propose them, because they run exactly counter to the desired outcome.

Such ideas would certainly form the basis for a positive Democratic proposal. Moderate Republicans might even be attracted to such a plan. Howard Dean, are you listening?

– Chuck Van Wey

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