- The Washington Times - Monday, January 31, 2005

President Bush will reveal previously undisclosed details about his plan to reform Social Security in tomorrow’s State of the Union address, although Democrats yesterday began attacking the speech before the final draft was completed.

“He will talk in certainly greater detail than he has previously on Social Security,” said White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan. “You’ll also hear him talk, in a more specific way, about some of the ways forward to finding solutions to strengthen it.”

Although details of the speech were not disclosed, Democrats issued what they called a “pre-buttal” aimed at minimizing the political “bounce” that presidents typically get in the wake of such addresses.

“President Bush sees undermining Social Security as the cornerstone of his ownership society,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, at the National Press Club.

“Democrats will not allow this administration to turn this proud, entrepreneurial achievement of the New Deal into a raw deal for millions of Americans,” she added.

Mrs. Pelosi was joined by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who accused Mr. Bush of overstating the financial challenges of Social Security.

“Social Security is not a crisis,” the Nevada Democrat said. “I would like to see the State of the Union focus on the real problems of this country, not the manufactured crisis.”

The Republican National Committee returned fire by labeling Mr. Reid and Mrs. Pelosi the “dynamic duo of obstruction” who lack the vision for “preserving Social Security for future generations.”

“The Democrat leaders’ attacks on a speech that has not even been delivered are a sad reminder of their determination to score partisan political points — even at the cost of accomplishing the business of the American people,” RNC spokesman Brian Jones said.

Mr. Reid and Mrs. Pelosi were not the only Bush detractors who preemptively lashed out at the Social Security aspect of his State of the Union speech. The liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org used the occasion to solicit donations.

“George W. Bush is going to make Social Security privatization a key part of his State of the Union address this week,” the group said on its Web site. “We need to raise $500,000 for TV ads in key congressional districts to expose Bush’s plan to cut Social Security benefits in order to pay for private accounts.”

Mr. Jones said the ad was as outlandish as those produced by MoveOn.org during the presidential campaign.

“It is as unsurprising as it is sad that the group that produced an ad last year desecrating the Statue of Liberty would produce an attack ad this year attempting to scare seniors,” he said.

“Democrat leaders should repudiate this ad, call on MoveOn.org to immediately remove it and work with the president to prevent Social Security from continuing its current path toward insolvency,” he said.

In addition to attacking the substance of the State of the Union speech, Democratic leaders mocked the president’s communications skills and ridiculed the expected response of Republicans.

“I can remember watching President Reagan,” said Mr. Reid, recalling an earlier State of the Union address. “I was mesmerized by his speaking … because he was so good.

“I don’t think it’s a danger we are going to have Wednesday night,” he added.

Mrs. Pelosi agreed.

“You really don’t have to have many communication skills to have a couple of hundred people who’ll jump to their feet if you recite the ABCs,” she said. “The perception will be that you’re just great.”

Although tomorrow’s speech will address a variety of domestic and foreign policy priorities, Mr. McClellan said the president will place particular emphasis on Social Security.

“This is about fixing a problem that faces younger Americans and future generations,” he said. “And we need to act on this opportunity that’s before us, because it only gets worse over time.”

White House officials said yesterday the speech had undergone 13 drafts and was not yet complete. Mr. Bush spent part of the day practicing the address in the White House theater.

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