Sure the poll numbers are bleak -- and even the National Enquirer thinks Dubya is in trouble -- but when a loyal yes-man like Rick Santorum decides to break ranks ... Here's Santorum trying to distance himself from the White House on Social Security in the Pittspurgh Post-Gazette:
In an interview in his office last evening, Santorum said he "pleaded" with administration officials to develop and launch a strategy to convey the issue's importance to the public immediately, and even to forgo Christmas breaks to ensure that a plan was in place.
But the White House preferred to wait until Bush's State of the Union address Feb. 2, a strategy that made it difficult for GOP senators to build support for Social Security changes among their constituents, Santorum said.
"It's the old thing in politics: You either define your opponent or your opponent defines you, and we sat back and let our opponents define us and define the issue," he said. "We were just playing catch up the whole time, and that was the fundamental error." [LINK]Yes, it's a gripe about strategy and not substance (Santorum's turned on Bush not his ideology), but what's important is the reason little Ricky is complaining about the Bush administration in his hometown newspaper: the good senator is introducing a Social Security legislation of his own. And clearly without permission from the gods on Pennsylvania Avenue. That's the kind of thing that used to get a drone kicked out of the hive.
Mark Schmitt over at TPM Cafe spells out just why a number of the GOP drones may be less than worried about that prospect:
But what's really interesting is not just that Santorum said all this -- after all, he has a history of saying things in conversations with reporters that might not be, um, official policy -- but where it came from. The story was e-mailed out widely to reporters at 9:08 this morning by the Senate Republican Conference itself.
This might be the official declaration of the end, not just of Social Security privatization, but of deference to Bush. And members of Congress, especially those like Santorum who are worried about reelection, have so many years of docility to make up for that if they really want to separate themselves from a highly unpopular president, they will have to make a very fast, very decisive break. [LINK]