The Corner

Jonah

I didn’t mean to ignore your earlier question; I’ve been having technical difficulties all day, and now that I’m back online I’m trying to catch up on email and blogs.

I liked the president’s remarks (which I read rather than watched) on Social Security. They may modestly help him.

You may recall that back in January, there was some debate in conservative circles about whether Congress or the president should lead. The last three months have, I think, conclusively shown that Congress is incapable of getting where the president wants it to get on its own. By beginning to outline a plan, the president may encourage some consolidation among Republicans. And by including progressivity in his benefit cuts, he may increase his chances of picking off a Democrat or two.

What’s changed over the last few months? The Beltway has over the last few months pronounced reform dead, dead, dead, but the Beltway was basically saying the same thing (albeit with less conviction) in late December. The White House line is that the president has succeeded in persuading the public that Social Security needs to be reformed, and now can move to specifics. So what’s changed are the political class’s view of Bush’s likely success (marginally down), the public’s view of the urgency of the problem (up), and Bush’s popularity and pull (down). I think Democrats are overconfident that they’ve already beaten Bush on Social Security–but it will take more than last night to turn things around.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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