From Saturday’s “Capital Gang” on CNN:
SHIELDS: OK. Al Hunt, the fact is that -- it's hard to make an argument that there's a mandate for Social Security reform when the country, a third of George Bush's own party, Republicans, are against private accounts and half the American people are.Ha-ha, ah yes, the self-immolation of the Democrats will proceed with fashionable headgear. The Dems think they’re going to stymie like it’s 1993, and do to Social Security reform what Newt Gingrich did to the Clinton health care plan. As David Brooks pointed out last week: not gonna happen. Americans rejected health care reform because it amounted to a government takeover of one-seventh of the entire U.S. economy. The GOP didn’t have to do anything in 1993 because most Americans had concluded that Hillary’s secret plan was a bad idea. But with Social Security, everybody knows there’s a problem (if not a crisis) that will only expand with time. If the Democrats simply sit back and throw spitballs at Bush’s proposals, they’ll seem unserious and obstructionist, especially to the legion of younger voters who will carry the burden of the Social Security system as their own retirement “guarantees” wither away.
HUNT: Well, Mark, in all due respect to you, I think it's a false choice. It's kind of like asking Ed Rendell [governor of Pennsylvania] who he wants to win the Super Bowl, the Steelers or the Eagles. I think -- I think that, basically, what the Democrats have to do is they have to steal a leaf from the Republicans in the '70s and '90s. And it's not enough just to say no, they have to offer alternatives. And I think that's not an ideological issue. I don't think it was a mandate for Iraq. I don't think anyone thinks that. I think Social Security right now, the president is on the defensive and in trouble. But if the Democrats are just negative, then I think they're going to have -- they're not going to win these arguments, though you got to love Harry Reid's hat.
The Democrats are looking for the 1994 “Hail Mary” in 2006 but if recent history is any guide, they’ll likely end up with a repeat of 2002. Sweet.