The best way to gauge whether the White House believes it is in a strong position to push Social Security privatization isn't to listen to what the president says--as when he claimed a mandate for reforming the entitlement at his first postelection press conference. It is to consider what the White House is actually doing. And, so far, the only practical step the White House has taken is to search frantically for political cover from congressional Democrats.
Tampa, Florida On a Saturday morning about two weeks before Election Day, I follow Betty Castor, the Democratic U.S. Senate nominee from Florida, to an Albertsons supermarket in Tampa, where senior citizens began lining up at seven o'clock in the morning for scarce flu shots. By the time I arrive at around 10:15 a.m., the line has snaked around the front of the store into the deli section and the bakery. Some of the weary-looking seniors have brought lawn chairs to sit on; others have planted themselves on cases of Capri Sun and Quaker Chewy granola bars.
I've never thought the chances of John Kerry winning this fall were very good, since it's become clear these last four years that George W. Bush and his advisers are more cynical and ruthless than pretty much any group of politicos in the country's history. I figured that even if the race got close--or, God forbid, Kerry surged to a late lead--Rove et al. would pull some dirty trick and that would be that. This may still happen--the forthcoming anti-Kerry "documentary" being exhibit A in this brief. But, after last night, I'm not sure it matters.
Paul O'Neill probably knew what to expect when he showed up for a White House meeting about tax cuts in November 2002. Nearly two years as Treasury secretary should have taught him that the Bush administration never misses an opportunity to cut taxes for the wealthy. And, in case they hadn't, Vice President Dick Cheney clarified the White House's intentions at a meeting earlier in the month. When O'Neill politely suggested to Cheney that a cut in dividend taxes wasn't necessary, as Ron Suskind reports in The Price of Loyalty, Cheney coldly informed him, "We won the midterms.
new york, new york John Kerry may or may not know what agita is. (It's an Italian word for indigestion appropriated by American Jews of my grandparents' generation.) But Neal Turk could give it to him. Turk is the head of Beth Israel, an Orthodox Jewish congregation of some 250 families in Miami Beach. He's visiting New York this week for two reasons. First, to drop in on his son at Yeshiva University in New York City; and second, to attend a Bush-Cheney campaign briefing for Orthodox Jews.
Boston, Massachusetts It's the afternoon before the start of the Democratic convention, and I'm standing in the lobby of the Park Plaza Hotel, the temporary home of New York's Democratic delegation. Around 4:30 p.m., I notice Senator Chuck Schumer, dressed in a blue blazer, khakis, and a red-and-white striped shirt, 15 feet in front of me and fast approaching.
So far this year, inflation has clocked in at an eyebrow-raising 5 percent annual rate. But that didn't stop the Senate Banking Committee from giving the nation's chief inflation fighter, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, the kid-gloves treatment during his reconfirmation hearing two weeks ago. Senators of both parties fell over themselves to praise Greenspan's "cool head and keen understanding of the markets" (Liddy Dole) and "your integrity, your intelligence, your ability to balance prosperity and inflation, a very difficult thing to do" (Chuck Schumer).
Joliet, Illinois—"Sloppy drunk" is not a term that warms the hearts of advance men, the people responsible for making politicians' events run smoothly. It is, however, a fairly apt description of at least a quarter of the audience at the Will/ Grundy County Annual afl-cio Dinner on this Friday night in late April, just before State Senator Barack Obama arrives to make a pitch for his U.S. Senate campaign.
Last May, Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter trekked to Manhattan to make his pitch before a monthly gathering of conservatives known as the "Monday Meeting." Specter, who even then was concerned about the looming primary threat from right-wing Pennsylvania Representative Pat Toomey, touted his record of supporting tax cuts and the death penalty--even his vote to put Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court. But several of the Monday Meeting faithful, a collection of economic conservatives known for opening their wallets to Republicans, remained skeptical.
Greg Mankiw is a nerd. The current chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), Mankiw is tall and lanky with hunched nerd shoulders. He has a round nerd face, with a big nerd nose and squinty nerd eyes. He does wear sleek, metal-framed glasses. But, as they sit atop a perpetually pinched, nerd expression, the effect is less to mask his overall nerdiness than to draw attention to it. Occasionally, Mankiw lets slip that he, too, considers himself a nerd.