Taking the Fight To Where They Live, Part 1 - Force Them To Eat Their Own:
If there's one thing that the White House fears more than the President on a coke binge, it's the shadow of the Gipper. Why? Because the dark, gigantic shadow of Ronald Reagan eclipses the dim light of the strange, sad little man who occupies the Oval Office. We saw it when Ronnie had the poor timing to die when Bush was giving a speech on D-Day, conjuring thoughts of the old Nazi-cemetery-visitin' Prez's speech at Normandy, fondly remembered by genuine conservatives and speechy wonks everywhere. We saw it again, when Karl Rove threatened to break Nancy Reagan's hips if she even visited Boston during the Democratic Convention. Bush breaks into gales of weeping at the idea of Reagan, his true father, being seen as reprimanding him, reaching a wrinkled finger out of hell to shake at George, Jr. It's because for the Red Staters, the White House knows, the Gipper is worshipped in ways that Bush can't imagine.

So as we gear up for the battle over Social Security, the greatest tool in the toolbox of the Democratic Party is actually Ronald Reagan. Because, you know, history is a series of repetitions: "As you know, the Social Security System is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. Over the next five years, the Social Security trust fund could encounter deficits of up to $111 billion, and in the decades ahead its unfunded obligations could run well into the trillions. Unless we in government are willing to act, a sword of Damocles will soon hang over the welfare of millions of our citizens." That's from Reagan's 1981 Letter to Congress, setting up a bipartisan commission to look into solutions for Social Security. Reagan said there were three goals in preserving Social Security: "First, this nation must preserve the integrity of the Social Security trust fund and the basic benefit structure that protects older Americans. Second, we must hold down the tax burden on the workers who support Social Security. Finally, we must eliminate all abuses in the system that can rob the elderly of their rightful legacy." Sure, sure, Reagan at one point had pondered privatization, but he knew it wouldn't fly, and, sure, sure, Reagan wanted to use massive cuts in Social Security to save it, and, sure, sure, Reagan was dealing with a Congress that had a Democratic majority. But these are - wait for it - nuances in any argument against what Reagan actually did. And we know, Lord, how we know, nuance is a dog that don't hunt.

By the way, this was at a point when Social Security really, really was looking down the barrel of insolvency. But let's give it over to Joshua Green, in his article in the Washington Monthly on "Reagan's Liberal Legacy": "Reagan made one of the greatest ideological about-faces in the history of the presidency, agreeing to a $165 billion bailout of Social Security. In almost every way, the bailout flew in the face of conservative ideology. It dramatically increased payroll taxes on employees and employers, brought a whole new class of recipients--new federal workers--into the system, and, for the first time, taxed Social Security benefits, and did so in the most liberal way: only those of upper-income recipients. (As an added affront to conservatives, the tax wasn't indexed to inflation, meaning that more and more people have gradually had to pay it over time.)" The Social Security Amendments of 1983 are a fuckin' gift from heaven to our current Democrats.

Of course, the truth of the matter is far more complex. Reagan's monumental blunder, early in his presidency, on cutting Social Security, led to large congressional losses for Republicans, so, in essence, Reagan was saving his ass. But, you know, in the world of political rhetoric, who gives a happy monkey fuck? All that matters is this: in the war with the White House, invoking Ronald Reagan gives cover to every politician who thinks George Bush is a craven, greedy, petty monarch. Start the ad machine now: "Ronald Reagan rescued Social Security without wrecking it - why can't George Bush?" Now, what died-in-the-wool Oklahoman or Mississippian is gonna choose fancy-pants Bush over the Gipper?

And the beauty part? It's Freddy Vs. Jason, motherfuckers, Dracula Meets the Wolf Man. It forces the White House to argue with the ghost of Ronald Reagan. It forces them to eat their own or get eaten. They're either going to have to dig up the Gipper and make a soup from his gnarled bones or the Democrats are going to have to use the zombie corpse of Reagan to eat Bush's brain. Either way, it is an engorgement that'll be pure pleasure to our tired hearts.

(Side note: the Social Security Administration website actually is quite compelling in its history of the act. Check out the Brief History, with its look at what existed prior to the SSA. Scary, funny, prescient.)

Tomorrow: More on Social Security and maybe a bit on Alberto Gonzales.