Hastert, who recently made a local appearance in St. Louis for the NCAA Wrestling Championship, says he would have liked to see the as-yet-undefined reform plan for Social Security passed this year, but said it will most likely have to wait until next year.
For a President re-elected with a self-described mandate and political capital to burn, this must be a blow. The President is in the middle of barnstorming around the country trying to drum up support for his Social Security ideas and Hastert's verdict must have resulted in a few raised voices on Air Force One.
The President has been waiting for months for a Congressman to throw himself upon the sword and actually write out a social security privatization plan. The White House believed they could put the ideas out there and at some point someone would propose a plan that the President could endorse or back away from depending on how it played with the voters.
Not surprisingly, the Congress was waiting for the President, while the President waited for Congress; the two parties staring at each other, each one ready to take credit for the other's bold action.
The White House lost what it cynically thought would be its most ardent supporters, the retired and those near-to retirement, right off the bat. Then, once the basic details of the idea were out there, they lost the support of most everyone else, except those who had too closely aligned themselves politically with the President. Everyone else was out of the office when the President came knocking.
This campaign is not over, however. The President still has stumps to stand on, but we can expect a change in the language. The White House is nothing if not an excellent political machine and they know how to turn back into the wind and recover a bit of ground.
Even still, I think the privatization plan is as dead in the water as when it began.
It will be interesting to see how much capital the President has left. He said he intended to spend it, and spend it he did. A second-term President only has so much time before people stop paying attention. You have to use that time wisely and decide which issues are worth investing in. Pick the wrong one, and you may find you have a little less weight to throw around, the parties are already taking bets on 2008.