You got me....

Kevin Drum asks the million dollar question today: why has Bush gone and blown all his political capital on the loser Social Security debate? Its a question that will linger long after this whole thing has blown over, and, indeed, would probably already be hailed as one of the great political swan dives of our time if the press, public, not to mention liberals didn't accord Bush a sort of super-human political infalliability.

But what has been the source of that perception of infalliability so far? Three things: a willingness to push a lowest common demoninator popular sentiment, no matter what the cost in lies and red ink; a right wing machine that only has its (tiny) centrist wing to lose; and a strong coalition of business interests willing to pony up the cash. Unfortunately for G2, the Social Security push is missing two of those things in a major way: its popularity with the public is simply not very resilient (something the pollsters really should have told him in December) and there are a slew more Republicans than just those stuck up Northeasterners that want nothing to do with gutting the program a large number of their constituents rely on.

But that still begs the question: why did he do it? At this point, my guess has got to be sheer unbridled ignorance of the situation. Someone pitched this to Bush, Rove, whoever, as an easy issue with broad appeal. They needed a big domestic issue for the second term because they didn't have anything left to stay relevant, and, as we have seen time and again in this White House, once a decision is made, backtracking on it becomes a form heresy.

So that's it? They didn't have anything better to do and privatization gained some traction? In part, I think it may be just that simple. The other component is the disconnect between the logic of the Washington think tank world, that has been training very smart people to like privatization for 20 plus years, and the rest of the country. The logic of privatization is, quite simply, very attractive to a large number of people in power because they have been learning it for a long time now. The effect of this groupthink, and how out of step it is with popular opinion is not necessarily obvious, but it should not be underestimated. This is the conservative movement catching up with itself, as expected.


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