Perhaps I’m reading it wrong, but it seems to me that Bush is trying to avoid tax increases. The exchange suggests that he doesn’t want to give any credence to the idea–i.e., if the Democrats put it on the table, so be it, but Bush will not put it on the table himself.
Letting the opposition put something on the table is a far cry from agreeing to it. As I recall, Reagan didn’t tell Gorbchev that Gorby couldn’t put SDI on the table at Reykjavik. SDI was on the table, but Reagan in the end said no to Gorby’s demand that the U.S. not pursue SDI. They walked away from that meeting with no deal.
My guess is that Bush will let the Democrats use it as a bargaining chip, but he will walk away from any plan that has a tax increase. Bush’s biggest domestic legacy is the tax cuts. Part of that is the fact that he has not raised taxes in any significant way. That’s a lot to give up to get a deal on Social Security.
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