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.
"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.
If you've caught much of the TV commentary about the "war
against terrorism," you've probably seen a lot of Richard Perle, the portly,
Ronald Reagan-era assistant secretary of defense who kept the defense-hawk home
fires burning throughout the Bill Clinton years from a perch at the American
Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. On such shows as MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews and CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, Perle
advocates taking our fight against Osama bin Laden to the next level and using
American military power to overthrow Saddam Hussein. And if the president's
recent comments are any indication, his media blitz is having an effect. Politics