The Moose warns defense hawks that the elephant can handle only one quagmire at a time.
It is now dawning on the chattering class, if not Republicans, that Bush did not exactly win with a commanding mandate. His 2.5% margin of victory was not exactly LBJ in '64 or Dutch in '84. And there is no strong argument that can be mustered that Bush won because the huddled masses were longing for the privatization of social security.
Key to Bush's victory was his leadership in the war against terror. And now the public support for the war in Iraq is clearly waning. Although the Administration has raised expectations that conditions will improve after the Iraqi elections, it is not terribly evident that this will be so. If anything, violence could actually escalate as the disgruntled Sunni population realizes that they are the big losers.
Note this passage from today's Washington Post,
"The war's worse, the insurgency's worse," said a senior U.S. Embassy official in Baghdad, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to talk candidly. "This is not going to be a short fight. Nobody should think it is."
The assessment reflected a new willingness among senior Iraqi and American officials to acknowledge that large tracts of the country remain beyond the control of their combined forces. More than three months ago, interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi asserted during a visit to Washington that 15 of Iraq's 18 provinces were stable and largely peaceful. Now, in interviews, he routinely refers to the situation as "our catastrophe."
What has this to do with social security privatization? Well, a President has only limited political time and capital. He is likely going to need all the capital a second term (and increasingly lame duck) President can muster just to maintain support for the war. If he is also spending precious time and attention to build support to radically transform the most popular government program, that can only can come at the expense of his efforts on behalf of the war.
Imagine if Clinton had to contend with a full scale war as he fought for his health care proposal in '93 and '94. Social security privatization promises to be no less contentious than Clinton health care. And it could become a domestic political quagmire.
On the policy front, if the Bushies plan to borrow $2 trillion to pay for privatization that means there will be less money for discretionary spending which includes defense. The Bush tax cut deficit is already requiring reductions in defense at a time when the military is burdened by the war and disaster relief in Asia.
It has been the height of irresponsibility for the supporters of the war to remain silent while W. continually rewards the ultra-wealthy with lavish tax cuts. Now, he is pursuing a costly privatization scheme that will further limit resources for defense. Your choice hawks - expand the military or provide a bonanza for the financial services industry.
Which will it be - the dollar or the flag?