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Saving private accounts Or

Saving private accounts?

Or Saving Private W.?

Just, why is Karen Hughes coming back to the White House?

In his piece breaking the story today, Peter Baker notes sources who "said Hughes will not be a formal member of the White House staff but will take on a specific and particularly important assignment involving international affairs, but they would not identify it."

Color me skeptical.

Notwithstanding her communications assignment post-9/11, Hughes isn't a foreign affairs person. She's a politics and communications person. And a good one. Indeed, one who's always been in tension, if a collegial and productive one, with Karl Rove, as Dan Froomkin does a nice job explaining today.

And where does the president seem to need help right now? On the international front or the domestic politics front?

Right.

A new poll just out again puts the president's public approval on Social Security below 40%. This time 37% according to AP/IPSOS. The poll also shows that rather than cementing a new Republican governing majority, as Karl Rove has long argued for and planned, Social Security has split the current tenuous Republican majority right down the middle. The AP poll shows that the president is having problems with "independents, married women and Southerners."

Will Sen. Lugar give

Will Sen. Lugar give us the bum's rush on John Bolton?

Opposition to John Bolton's nomination to be Ambassador to the United Nations is widespread, if latent, even among some of the more sensible Republicans in the senate (not that that means they won't vote for him, mind you). And awareness and opposition to his nomination is picking up speed quickly outside Congress too.

But from what I'm told, much of this is going to come down to whether Sen. Richard Lugar (R), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, calls for hearings on the nomination today. Senate procedures come in to play here. But basically, if Lugar calls for the hearing today, there's a six day notification rule. And that pretty much means that a quick committee hearing can be held next week and the full senate can rush Bolton through before there's a chance for there to be any serious debate over his qualifications or appropriateness for the job. If he doesn't call for it today the whole thing will get pushed into April.

Steve Clemons reports that the State Department is leaning heavily on Lugar to rush the thing through to avoid precisely that open debate. (Steve's a former senate staffer. So he knows the ins-and-outs of the place as well as anyone.)

If this is something you care about, stop by Steve's site now to find out more and see what you can do.

It sure would be

It sure would be a pity if Andrew Heyward's troubles turned CBS News into a White House mouthpiece on Social Security privatization. But this report on privatization in Chile from last night sure does make it seem that way. Compare CBS's report with this one from January 27th in the Times.

It really is amazing

It really is amazing that anyone takes Alan Greenspan seriously anymore. Sen. Reid was right when he called him one of Washington's biggest political hacks. Here's an article about a speech Chairman Greenspan just gave in which he said that our structural budget deficits are a far greater threat to the nation's economy than either the trade deficit or our low savings rate.

That's almost certainly so.

But without putting too fine a point on it, the deficits are his fault!

Not exclusively his fault, certainly. But by placing his seal of approval on the president's 2001 tax cut package (the primary cause of our rapidly escalating indebtedness) he probably played as a big a role as any single individual after the president himself in ensuring that those tax cuts (and those that followed them) became law. Anyone can be wrong. But the rationale he gave at that time was clearly disingenuous.

It's an elementary point. The man simply has no credibility on this issue. And even though criticism of Greenspan along these lines has become more vocal of late, he still remains close to sacrosanct in polite political debate.

Some day it will be an amazing history to tell, how this acolyte of a half-baked Russian emigre eccentric became the economic avatar of America's turn-of-the-century political class.

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