My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


Continuing to Move The Debate

President Bush has, to my mind, two signature characteristics through which he governs: one is a willingness to be bold and tackle serious issues in ways that used to be considered "dangerous;" and the second is his ability to move issues down the field through his persistence.

For example, in 2000 one of the key components of the political playing field was the budget surplus--W wanted to return that to the people through a tax cut. When the surplus melted away with the Clinton recession, the President wanted to bolster the economy through a . . . tax cut. One year later, the economy rocked by 9/11, the President moved to stabilize Americans' wallets through a . . . tax cut. As a result, what was one key feature of John Kerry's economic plan this past year. That's right--a middle-class tax cut. But sticking to his guns and persisting in the idea that cutting taxes is good under any circumstances, this President reshaped the field so that his opposition was no longer to tax cuts, but to the specifics of how to cut taxes.

And now, W's doing it with Social Security. From the WaPo:

Note: the following quotes contain only factual information, and have been edited to remove all WaPo (read: Dana Milbank) editorializing

President Bush has wide support for his argument that Social Security needs dramatic change to meet its obligations to future retirees . . .63 percent, do not think Social Security will have enough money to pay the benefits they are entitled to, and 74 percent think the system faces either major problems or is in crisis -- as Bush has asserted. The president also has at least general support from 53 percent of the public for the concept of letting people control some of their contributions to invest in the market.

This President has, once again, managed to take a dangerous issue and move the ball down the field by--of all the crazy ideas--actually TALKING TO THE AMERICAN PUBLIC about it. And it is paying off, both in the survey, and with the direction of the discourse.

Some people described the Democratic options toward Bush's plan as either "yes, but" or "hell, no." Reflecting the first approach, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) has endorsed individual investment accounts, but as a supplement to Social Security that would leave the traditional benefit intact. "The best critique is a plan of our own rather than a defense of the status quo, and our plan must reveal the weaknesses in Bush's own plan," he said.

If somebody as smart and as politically savvy--in a safe district--as Emanuel comes around to the idea of partial privatization, the Democrats should pay attention.

And here comes that word again--LEADERSHIP. This President, for all his syntactic foibles, is the strongest leader of my lifetime, with the possible exception of Ronald Reagan.

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