44 Days Until Inauguration Day
President Bush spends the day with Marines at Camp Pendleton in California, arriving at the White House late tonight. The House and Senate are expected to agree to the intelligence reform overhaul hashed out yesterday and then, as the kids say, Audi 5.
To paraphrase Bill Clinton's favorite Albert Einstein quote, insanity is predicting the defeat of George W. Bush's legislative agenda over and over and expecting a different result.
With the presumed passage of the intelligence reform bill in the coming days, those who bet against George W. Bush's achieving the very tough twin acts of Social Security and tax reform do so at their own peril.
You might have thought the farm bill was too expensive and too anti-market.
You might have thought that No Child Left Behind was too big an expansion of control of education by Washington bureaucrats in sandals and beads and/or too expensive and/or underfunded.
You might have thought the Medicare/prescription drug bill went too far -- or didn't go far enough – in expanding a huge entitlement program.
You might have thought it the height of hypocrisy for the President to have strenuously opposed the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, but then not only champion it in back-to-back elections as a political issue.
You might have thought any and all of these things, but the bottom line -- from any reasonable standard of analysis -- is that this president has almost always found a way to achieve his monster legislative objectives, even when the media, the Democrats, and many Republicans are in woe-is-he/perils-of-Pauline mode.
Chances are that the White House will double back to energy policy and tort reform early in this term (watch for their big touting in the SOTU), but the Big Casino for Bush 43/II will be the aforementioned Social Security and tax reform.
Based on the President's meeting late yesterday on Social Security reform with bipartisan, bicameral leaders, it would appear that trying for changes in that system will be first up, despite, as the Los Angeles Times reports, "House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) want(s) to give higher priority to overhauling the tax code, because 'it was an easier sell,' according to a source attending the private meeting." LINK
And those Republican members of Congress who don't understand that the President is serious about spending political capital and getting stuff done should ask their contacts at the White House what they think of the Bob Walker quote in the same Los Angeles Times story:
"'Many Republicans know the party lacks credibility on the Social Security issue,' said Robert S. Walker, a former House Republican who remains close to GOP leaders. 'For us to wade out there and take that on makes the party politically vulnerable.'"
The White House broke the borrowing barrier yesterday by signaling "how Bush will frame his campaign to persuade Congress to make it possible for younger workers to invest some of their Social Security taxes in stocks and bonds," reports Mike Allen in the Washington Post. "The White House has not provided an estimate for the cost of converting to the new system, but outsiders put the figure at $1 trillion to $2 trillion over 10 years." LINK
"McClellan acknowledged that the conversion would be paid for partly with debt, which he referred to as 'up-front transition financing.' McClellan said Bush opposes raising taxes to pay for the change."