Members of Congress applaud during the president's State of the Union address, February 2, 2005. Front row, from left are, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, Transportation Secretary Norman Minetta, Attorney General John Ashcroft, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Treasury Secretary John Snow and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
If there was ever any doubt that reform of Social Security will be the central domestic effort of President Bush's second term, there was no question after the president's State of the Union address. The president challenged a highly partisan Congress to work with him to make major changes, including the gradual introduction of private investment accounts. The question is whether the Democrats have decided to just say no. Peggy Noonan, a contributing writer on the editorial pages, joins the panel to discuss the president's chances for achieving bipartisan consensus on his plan.
"You saw the Republican and Democratic reactions. As Senator Schumer says, 'We've got 44 votes, forget about it.' The political math here is that the president needs five, maybe six, Democrats to get 60 votes in the Senate. Is there any chance of real bipartisanship emerging here?"
"People on the ground in America in general see Bush as a tough, serious and sincere person. If he says 'We've got to do this as our number one priority,' they'll actually listen. If the Democrats altogether enforced 'Just say no,' the public won't necessarily take that seriously. They'll figure it's part of a political game."
"Remember when Lyndon Johnson said 'Come let us reason together?' I think bipartisanship died back about then. The only way this is going to happen is if George Bush goes out into the country and sells this idea and if the country responds. Then Congress will feel it's under some pressure to do something. Absent that, if Bush proposed Hillary Clinton's first health care plan they'd oppose it."
"He's hitting states, specifically red states, that he won with moderate Democratic senators and trying to put the pressure on those senators by speaking directly to their constituents. He's hit Kent Conrad in North Dakota and he's hit Ben Nelson in Nebraska. He's going to try and put some pressure on these moderate Democrats to come on board."