June 2, 2005


Bush's Term II: a slow road: Despite setbacks, the president carefully keeps options open on the key issue of Social Security. (Linda Feldmann, 6/03/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

When asked at this week's press conference whether he was losing momentum, he replied first with some successes - bankruptcy legislation, class-action lawsuit reform, and the long-delayed confirmation of a federal judge. But the bulk of his answer focused on initiatives that are stalled in Congress - energy legislation, Central American free trade, and Social Security. And he sought to put the onus for success on the legislators, speaking of "the standard by which Congress should be judged."

Ultimately, say presidential scholars, no one should count Bush out. He is a seasoned political operator, going back to his father's presidency, and it is clear from the way he speaks that he knows how Washington works. On Social Security, he has not repeated President Clinton's fatal error of laying down an ultimatum on healthcare reform. And Bush says he won't put forth draft legislation on Social Security, because "the first bill on the Hill is always dead on arrival." He has left himself wiggle room for a deal.

"I would be astonished if something does not emerge from the Hill on Social Security which he declares success on," says Fred Greenstein, an emeritus professor of political science at Princeton University. It may not contain precisely the kind of personal accounts that he wants, Dr. Greenstein surmises, but given Bush's longstanding personal devotion to the concept, it will probably have "some token in the direction of private accounts."

As the generally awful prescription drug bill showed, Washington is the kind of place where if you keep the pressure on long enough something gets done. It is the nature of the SS reform fight that when that moment comes it will be seen as a presidential victory. If there are any kind of personal accounts and/or means-testing included in the reform it will be a victory in fact, as well as in perception.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 2, 2005 11:38 PM
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