Thursday, May 05, 2005

Bush Taking A Bath In The Press On Social Security

When Napoleon and Hitler crossed into Russia, they set themselves up for the falls of their lives, and it's beginning to look like the same for President Bush when he took on the social security issue.

Everything in the newspapers these days, the news stories, the editorials and the letters from readers, makes it clear that there is no easy recovery for the President from the devastating hits he is taking on social security.

But the New York Times, with its more skillful editorial page, is really cutting him up.

The NYT's May 3 editorial, "Hitting the Middle Class, Again," was basically unanswerable with its point that it is the heart of the President's own constituentcy that stands to take the biggest hit from his second social security alternative, a cutback in the majority's benefits so that the very poorest workers can get more.

It is very doubtful the Republican majority in Congress will ever vote for this, because it hurts the people who are its most loyal voters. These are the people who have been paying social security for years, and expect to get their investment back out of it. To substantially cut them out of the program would ultimately, I believe, mean the end of it as anything but a dole to the poor.

It all shows again how treacherous the second term can be for an incumbent President. He wins a sizable majority for reelection, he thinks anything is possible, and then everything seems to come apart.

It makes you wonder where his "architect," Karl Rove, has been during all of this. Didn't this genius tell him to avoid these pitfalls? And, if he did, why didn't the President listen?

Yes, such pro-Bush, pro-drug industry conservative groups as USA Next are taking the Administration's side of the fight. Back on Feb. 28, L.A. Times political columnist Ron Brownstein took on that group's planned campaign against the AARP, a foe of Bush's social security plans. Brownstein aptly called the USA Next campaign "offensive, objectionable, odious, repulsive, repugnant, revolting, disgusting, sickening, loathesome, foul, nasty, contemptible, despicable and noxious." Brownstein sometimes seems too mild, but in this case, he is barking up the right path.

The press has actually been taking it in the ear quite a bit for not having taken Bush on more on Iraq, the War on Terror, etc., since his reelection. But on social security, the coverage has been extremely negative, and there has not been much of a White House response. Of course, the President has been traveling, making his points, but this is one of these issues where, no matter what he says, he can't make headway.

The letters columns have been even worse than the editorials. It seems the President has very few friends out there on this issue, and there is no prospect for a turnaround. It is affecting everything else he does too.

Bush is normally resilient. On Iraq, he has fought back against his enemies, often effectively. On social security, he seems at a complete loss what to do. My feeling is, it won't get better.

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