As badly as the White House has stumbled in these early weeks of the Social Security debate, the presidency is an office of tremendous force and power, particularly one as familiar with and wedded to discipline and demagoguery as this one. All the folks who cover the White House are looking for WMD2. It'll be one big push of fear-mongering and fibs to bum-rush the country into phasing out Social Security.
Do not underestimate it.
As this and other articles make clear, the president will hit the road right after the State of the Union, with the avowed aim of breaking through the biggest obstacle standing in the way of his efforts to begin phasing-out Social Security. As the Times puts it,"the trip next week will be in part an effort to crack the Democratic wall" of opposition.
In fact, that probably understates how central that aim is, since breaking free some Democrats loosens up everything else.
So there it is. The Democrats have built a solid wall of opposition to phasing out Social Security. And it's there -- in many ways more than in his own party -- that his plan has been momentarily stopped in its tracks. He knows it. The Dems know it. Everybody knows it.
The Dems have built it up. And next week we get to see if the president can knock it down.
Sen. Baucus (D) is hanging tough, telling the press that the president can come to Montana as often as he likes; he still won't help him phase out Social Security. Sen. Nelson of Nebraska (one of the most entrenched numbers of the Fainthearted Faction until now) has preemptively announced his support of add-on accounts, rather than phase-out. Others on the hit list are Sens. Lincoln, Conrad and Nelson of Florida.
Will the Fainthearted go fainter still or will they send the president back to Washington with no one else to help him phase out Social Security? It's in their hands; so it's in your hands.