Giving to much credit. Not taking enough credit.
There has been some speculation that the Republicans never really meant to push that hard for dismantling Social Security and replacing it with private investment accounts (or, as I like to call them, "forced gambling accounts"). There has been speculation that, because the battle over Bush's plan seems to be going so badly so quickly that there must be some ulterior motive behind their proposal.
Kevin Drum has a good writeup on this possibility:
I wonder if the final phase of this strategy is behind Bush's Social Security posturing? Maybe the plan looks something like this:
1. Bush proposes private accounts for Social Security.
2. As expected, Democrats go to the mattresses in opposition. However, in an effort to demonstrate reasonableness they all agree — almost in passing — that of course they have nothing against encouraging savings, but that it should be done in addition to Social Security, not in place of it.
3. After pretending to give it a good try, Bush counts noses, realizes he can't win, and reluctantly agrees to settle for tax-free private accounts on top of Social Security, just like the ones Dems say they have nothing against. Of course, this will be the Republican version of tax-free private accounts — big, unrestricted ones that mostly help the well off — but by now the Dems can hardly oppose a compromise like this, can they?
4. Part 5 of Five Easy Pieces is now enshrined in law.
The idea being that it was really some form of tax-free private investment accounts that the Republicans were after all along.
Now, I am as good at paranoid speculation as the next man, but really, can't we be open to the possibility that the Republicans simply over-reached? Can't we give ourselves credit for simply putting up a much stronger opposition than they expected? Or are we really so insecure as to believe that we can't actually win a fight now and then?
I admit that these guys are good at strategy. But even this idea seems a bit far-fetched. The potential political damage to Bush for coming out strongly for his plan (and he did come out strongly for it), only to have to backtrack would be enormous. Would Karl Rove really play a game that on the edge?
Admittedly, Kevin's analysis might be a good description of the inevitable face-saving plan the Republicans will come up with. Bush has been very good at making it look like whatever he gets in the end is precisely what he wanted all along (e.g., he initially opposed the Homeland Security Department. Now he touts it as a signature initiative of his first term.) As such, we need to take this analysis to heart and think about how we can keep Bush from saving face while bringing credit for saving Social Security to the Democrats..
But let's not spend to much time on paranoid visions of grand conspiracies. You'll drive yourself mad trying to avoid the simpler explanation that they just fucked up.
Not even Karl Rove is perfect.