The Note: The Long View

WASHINGTON, March 1 --


This might be the Internet -- and some might confuse The Note for a blog -- but, nevertheless, let us choose our words with particular care today.

We were going to type "The President's efforts to fundamentally reshape the Social Security system are not dead," but the mere act of saying that the patient lives could suggest to some that the patient is very, very sick and it is only a matter of time.

Certainly by the standard ways the Gang of 500 measures such things -- to continue the metaphor -- the patient is in a hospital bed, with all sorts of tubes inserted in every natural and human-made orifice, with CW doctors sweeping in and out of the room, speaking in hushed, knowing, and somber tones.

We would be fighting the obvious critical mass of this news cycle if we reported to you anything but that Republicans remain skittish and tactically divided; Democrats remain united and pumped up; and many Gang members are fundamentally skeptical that anything will happen.

What the White House would seem to need more than anything else would be some momentum on the matter.

Momentum at this point would be generated by a classic political "page turn."

Opening up a war room in the Treasury Department would not seem like the right thematic for a meaningful page turn, however.

Getting some unexpected Democratic support for personal accounts would be meaningful.

So would a new, splashy public poll demonstrating growing support for the President's ideas.

Even getting a previously squishy Republican to return from the congressional recess having heard from supportive constituents and getting all psyched up about passing something big (and soon!) would be a meaningful page turn.

But none of those seems to be happening; see below for some evidence of the opposite in each case.

Yes, the political world is talking about Social Security; yes, Republicans on the Hill are more open to hugging the third rail like a cute puppy (LINK) than ever before; yes it is far, far too early to count this White House out; yes, the President could switch to the long game and figure out a way to pass this in 2007 (teasing on that one, sort of . . . ) -- but, as of now, we still can't write the prospective, Schoolhouse Rock narrative of how a Social Security reform bill becomes a law.

But we are still watching and waiting.

President Bush delivers remarks at White House as part of a "Faith-Based and Community Initiatives Leadership Conference" in Washington, DC at 10:00 am ET.

The National Governors Association winter meeting wraps up today with an address to the morning plenary session by Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt about improving the quality of U.S. health care at 9:00 am ET. At 12:45 pm ET, NGA Chairman Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA), and Govs. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) and Tom Vilsack (D-IA), host the closing press conference of the NGA winter meeting.

At 10:45 am ET, Sens. Jon Corzine (D-NJ), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) headline a presser on Social Security.

House Democrats talk about their Social Security town meetings at noon ET.

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