Dissent among the ranks

Published February 19, 2005 12:00AM (EST)

With President Bush backtracking on his Social Security plan this week by alluding to the possibility of a tax hike, fierce opposition from Democrats is no longer his only worry. Some Republican faithful are now expressing sharp displeasure with Bush's signaling compromise on the issue. The Times reports today that both House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert have openly rejected Bush's moderating message. Hardliners in the policymaking community are also weighing in: "It's exactly the wrong way to go," said Richard Lessner, executive director of the American Conservative Union, according to the Los Angeles Times. "If you're looking to rally the American people around a reform plan, you don't lead off with a tax increase or benefit cuts. Those are both political losers."

Maybe so, in conservative Republican tradition. Yet at least one tradition of American legislation -- age-old and nonpartisan -- could ultimately rule the day, with nobody but the president himself appearing to budge. As the New York Times reports, Bush, "acknowledging that he has yet to gain much momentum, said at a news conference at the White House that his plan was 'going nowhere' unless he could convince Congress and the American people that there was a problem that must be addressed now."

Maybe it's time to get that "crisis" jump-started again?

By Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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