TPM Reader G flagged my attention to an article in today's LA Times about whether or not President Bush is a lame duck.
The piece includes quotes you'd expect from folks on both sides.
But then there's this line from the author of the piece, Janet Hook: "Many of the assets Bush brings to his second term distinguish him from other two-term presidents. Unlike President Reagan's broad-brush "Morning in America" campaign for reelection in 1984, for example, Bush ran in 2004 on a specific agenda of new issues, notably overhauling Social Security and the tax code. Some Bush allies say his recent troubles in Congress are a measure of how ambitious his aims are, not how much <$Ad$>leverage he has lost."
The idea that President Bush ran on a specific agenda that included privatizing Social Security strikes me as little more than preposterous. And I am surprised to see Hook accept it so uncritically.
Yes, he did mention it during the campaign -- just enough to allow his supporters to say now that he didn't spring it on the public without ever having mentioned it before. But when he did mention it, it was almost always in speeches to loyalists and just as a few toss-off lines intended for said loyalists' eager consumption.
But he didn't bring it up in ads, in the debates, in any prominent setting. And for good reason. His entire campaign was framed around two planks: strength against terrorism and the flaws of John Kerry. The first time it got any sort of significant emphasis from the president was a couple days after the election.
Indeed, I think we could make the whole point more specific. Since his election President Bush has laid out a very aggressive legislative agenda, one based on reforms that would fundamentally change how the country looks -- privatization, tax reform, etc. These just weren't the things he ran on. It may not have been 'Morning in America', more like 'Midnight in America'. He ran on toughness against terror. Then once he'd bagged reelection he shifted gears entirely to focus on political economy.
If he really had run hard on privatization and won, even narrowly, he'd be in a vastly stronger position on the issue now than he is. What this last six months has shown is the poverty of the idea that winning an election gives you a 'mandate' if you try to use it to push policies you'd never told voters you were going to push.