Saturday, February 26, 2005

Draining the Talent Pool

You know the Republicans are getting a little desperate when the brightest spokesman for reforming Social Security has to be in bed by 8.

The battle over Social Security has been joined by an unusual lobbyist, a 9-year-old from Texas who has agreed to travel supporting President Bush’s proposal.

The boy, Noah McCullough, made a splash with his encyclopedic command of presidential history, earning five appearances on the “Tonight” show and some unusual experiences in the presidential campaign last year. He beat Howard Dean in a trivia contest at the Democratic National Convention and wrote for his local newspaper about his trip to see the inauguration.

“He’s very patriotic and very Republican,” said Noah’s mother, Donna McCullough, a former teacher and self-described Democrat. “It’s the way he was born.”

In a sign of how far groups go to carry their message on Social Security, Progress for America has signed up Noah, a fourth grader, as a volunteer spokesman. He starts on spring break from James Williams Elementary School in Katy, Tex.

[…]

Noah will travel to a handful of states ahead of visits by the president and will go on radio programs, answer trivia questions and say a few words about Social Security. Though he is obviously not an expert (and not really a lobbyist, either), officials say the effort is a lighthearted way to underline Mr. Bush’s message.

“What I want to tell people about Social Security is to not be afraid of the new plan,” Noah said. “It may be a change, but it’s a good change.”

The trip was a brainchild of Stuart Roy, a former aide to Representative Tom DeLay, Republican of Texas, who recently joined the DCI Group, a political consultancy here with ties to the Republican Party and Mr. Bush.

The firm is heavily involved in Progress for America’s efforts. The president of the organization, Brian McCabe, is a partner at DCI, and the organization contracts with the firm. In the 2004 campaign, the Progress for America Voter Fund paid DCI about $800,000, records show. Mr. Roy knew Noah because the boy lives in suburban Houston, part of Mr. DeLay’s district, and the House majority leader has met him. “We’ll have Noah there as the face of Social Security reform,” Mr. Roy said. “It’s about the next generation.”

Aha. I knew there had to be a herring in the pickle barrel; Tom DeLay rears his shiny head. Noah’s mom had better be on the alert: if his head spins around and he spews pea soup, call a priest.