The Note: I Know I Messed It Up Before



Into the President's two current biggest boiling stews -- which even Fred Barnes acknowledges are creating a persistently stinky reservoir of unpalatability -- the Washington Post says Major New Ingredients are being added.

Per these must-read accounts, the recipe now calls for twin PMAs -- two Presidential Message Adjustments -- which are not the same thing as PMCs -- Presidential Mood Changes.

On Social Security, Mr. Bush is said to be being urged to start to hedge his bets.

On Iraq, he's getting ready to devote renewed and increased time to more forcefully justify his optimism.

1. Jonathan Weisman and Jim VandeHei breathlessly report that Republican Senate leaders have begun to tell the White House, in meetings with Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, that it needs to seek an exit strategy on Social Security. LINK

Because the Democrats have stuck together (and it is still Snoweing), Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee don't have the votes to move the plan, which would allow people to divert some of their payroll taxes to personal/private accounts -- or the votes to pass a plan restricted to dealing with solvency without personal accounts.

In the House, Speaker Dennis Hastert will not allow a vote on a bill to keep private accounts if the Senate won't act. The Speaker does not believe in plank walking his members.

"White House aides have been locked in a debate over whether it would be a victory if Bush settled for a Social Security deal without private accounts. Some White House domestic policy officials have suggested that the savings that would flow from reducing future Social Security costs would go a long way toward fixing the government's long-term financial problems."

"But Rove, among others, has told Republicans that it would be unwise, both from a political and policy standpoint, to reduce benefits without offering people the potential of better returns through personal accounts, aides said. 'It gets no easier without private accounts,' a senior White House official said."

"Bush shifted his strategy somewhat Tuesday night, setting the stage for what some consider the best excuse if his plan fails. Social Security will assume an even lower profile on his agenda in the weeks ahead, as Bush shifts more attention to Iraq and the economy."

(The Washington Times, on its brand-spanking new Web site, reports that "rank-and-file House Republicans, citing nervousness among colleagues and lack of intensity on the issue, say their leaders probably won't force a vote on Social Security this year. But the White House is calling for action and promising to campaign for those who back the effort to revamp the program.") LINK

2. With Americans increasingly discontented with the war in Iraq, President Bush is set to begin talking more publicly about the conflict to reassure both voters and congressional Republicans about the White House's plans, VandeHei reports in a separate solo treatise. Mr. Bush will meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari at the White House next week, and he'll talk about the war in several speeches, including a "major address on the first anniversary of Iraq's sovereignty this month, White House officials said." LINK

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