As with most political battles, the set-to over Social Security reform has produced competing dramatic narratives. For the Democratic faithful, there's Al Gore fighting the good fight against the right's effort to privatize Social Security, the crown jewel of the New Deal. For Republicans there's George W. Bush, courageously tackling the Social Security crisis while Gore panders. But another story line has captured the imagination of the national political press. It goes something like this: Bush proposes his Social Security initiative; Gore attacks it as a risky scheme.
Harry Dent assures me that George W. Bush is going to win big in South Carolina on February 19. "He's Mr. Handsome," the South Carolinian recently told me, "got a gorgeous wife, good family. And he believes in Jesus Christ. That's pretty strong down here." Dent should know. A longtime adviser to the state's nonagenarian Senator Strom Thurmond and a storied figure in the history of the post-civil rights era South and the Republican Party, Dent is widely credited as the principal architect of Richard Nixon's Southern Strategy.
If Republicans can't figure out that George W. Bush is their man, Dent said, "they might as well go back into the hills again."
"I love a 50-50 tie," Senator John Breaux of Louisiana told me recently. "This is the kind of thing you dream about being involved in. It's a mandate for getting things done." And, boy, does he want to get things done. Breaux has a reputation in the Senate as a consummate deal maker, a people person, a backslapper. He's a Democrat who more often than not agrees with Republicans on signature issues like Social Security and Medicare, so his penchant for compromising and deal making has many Democrats worried. According to the prevailing wisdom, Breaux looks perfectly poised to serve as George W. Bush's go-to man in the Senate. But there's something funny about Breaux's deals: They never quite seem to get made.
If you would strike at the king, said Machiavelli, kill him. The underlying
logic here applies to democracies as well as monarchies. If you put your all into
bringing down a presidential candidate and come up short, expect him to come at
you--hard. And that pretty much describes organized labor's current predicament
with George W. Bush.