WASHINGTON -- The preliminary findings from the presidential-appointed fiscal commission calling for drastic cuts to Social Security and Medicare in addition to major revisions in tax law, were released, it appears, without prior knowledge of the administration.
Hours after the commission's two chairs -- former Sen. Alan Simpson and former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles -- unveiled their 50-page list of deficit reduction recommendations, White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod admitted that he had to find a copy of the report on the Internet.
"I heard at noon that those guys were going to hold a press conference at 1 PM," Axelrod told The Huffington Post. "And I pulled off the Internet the coverage of it."
Asked if he was bothered by the lack of warning, Axelrod replied: "I think they set out to be an independent commission and they are being independent. But we will let them complete their work and we will take a look at what they've done. Maybe they will get consensus around some of these ideas, maybe they won't. We will take a look at it."
While Axelrod insisted that "the president's commitments haven't changed" with respect to Social Security policy, both he and the administration have steadfastly refused to weigh in on any of the commission chairs initial findings, leaving them absent the veritable mob of critics who have called the recommendations a non-starter.
This may be a simple matter of courtesy for the process. But the fact that the administration wasn't given a forewarning about the announcement being made by the commission it appointed only adds to the speculation that Simpson and Bowles were hoping to steer the conversation around deficit reduction before it really started. When the commission votes on its final report in early December, the basis of comparison will now be the chair mark that was released on Wednesday.
As The Huffington Post reported on Wednesday, other members of the commission had little to no notice that a press conference was to be held and a major document unveiled.
"Members didn't get a copy until they walked into that room," said a source who works with the commission. "And once we were there, the politicians said, 'If this is going to leak, you might as well get in front of it, put out a press release or hold a press conference."