John Harwoods squib on

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John Harwood’s squib on Social Security from today’s WSJ Washington Wire (sub. required) …

PRESSURE RISES on Social Security.

A senior Bush adviser sees “ice breaking” around opposition of some Democrats to the administration plan. Fellow Democrats, chafing at Lieberman’s flirtation with Bush, circulate his criticism of “risky private accounts” in the run-up to his 2004 presidential run.

Despite White House courting, Democratic Sen. Nelson of Nebraska is unlikely to embrace Bush’s private-account plan, an associate predicts. House Democratic campaign committee seeks donations to fuel “caught-on-tape” drive to weaken Republican members by publicizing alleged flip-flops on the issue.

Plan B? Republicans insist Bush could “win” without legislation by hitting “anti-reform” Democrats.

On point one, I’ve watched this crew long enough to know the MO. So I don’t think there’s any <$Ad$>reason to believe this ‘senior Bush adviser’ is doing anything but talking out of an orifice other than his mouth. Their whole angle is say they’re holding more cards than they are to push their opponents off balance.

But why not be careful? As we’ve said, I think two members of the Graham senate book club are looking to make a deal. And I think their angle is to fiddle with the payroll tax as a way to let their faint little hearts get to that Holy Grail of Faintheartedness, the prized private accounts. That’s what they want to do and I think that’s what they’re trying to do.

I talk to various of Sen. Lieberman’s political friends and we wonder between ourselves: What is it exactly? Is he just a man out of time now? Too stung by how the 2004 primaries went and just doesn’t care what Dems think? Or maybe he thinks he’s legislating for history here. A lot of folks who are generally in line with Lieberman, and like him, ended up not supporting him in the primaries because they worried not about his political views but about his political judgment. So the irony here is that he’s displaying the same political tin ear and questionable judgment that kept many like-minded Dems from supporting him. And their very lack of support stung him so badly that it has accentuated those tendencies that kept them off the Joe team to begin with.

And remember, I’m not talking about John Sweeney or Andy Stern here. I’m talking about card-carrying New Dems.

Just this morning I was talking with some political players involved in the Social Security fight and they were wondering how quickly a few hundred thousand dollars of seed money could be raised to fund a decent primary opponent to run against Lieberman next year. And I have to say, I think they could raise it pretty quickly.

After half a decade without any senators to represent me, I’m happy to have two I can call my own again. And luckily, Schumer and Clinton are strong supporters of Social Security. But if I lived in Connecticut and my own senator ended up deep-sixing Social Security all by himself, I’d certainly support someone who challenged him. Actually, I’d happily see him replaced by a Republican if that’s what it came to.

Millions rely on Social Security, a right earned through a lifetime of work. It’s a compact between citizens and between generations. And like all truly good legislation it makes for good policy and good politics. One senator from Connecticut is a small thing when weighed in that balance.

He’s the deal-maker. All the signs are showing it.

Sen. Lieberman’s popular in Connecticut. But there must be some folks in Connecticut who support Social Security too.

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