Ummm... Robin... Robin Toner's lead should have been: "Vice President Cheney tries to blow up Treasury Secretary Paulson's attempts to patch together a legislative deal on Social Security." It wasn't.
Robin Toner writes that hopes for Social Security reform are "fragile," and that "few other issues so clearly highlight the limits of bipartisanship these days, the mistrust and ideological division just barely below the surface.... It is, in short, a polarized debate, and likely to become all the more so..."
To back this up, we have:
People of both parties looking for a bipartisan deal: Senators Conrad, Baucus, and Gregg; Representatives Rangel and McCrery; Treasury Secretary Paulson; Assistant Treasury Secretary Davis.
Democrats afraid that Bush's pledges to negotiate in good faith are false: Senators Conrad and Baucus; Representative Emmanuel.
Democrats declaring that compromise with Republicans is unwise and unnecessary: "Brad Woodhouse of Americans United for Change, a liberal labor-backed organization."
Republicans declaring that compromise with Democrats is unnecessary: Vice President Richard Cheney, and Grover Norquist.
The people Robin Toner finds who aren't looking for a deal in the middle are named Cheney, Norquist, and Woodhouse. I guess it's fair to call this "polarized": Brad Woodhouse's standing and influence in the Democratic Party are about equal to the sum of Richard Cheney's and Grover Norquist's standing and influence in the Republican Party, after all.
Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?
Here's the story:
Fragile Hopes for Bipartisan Rescue of Social Security - New York Times: Social Security... few other issues so clearly highlight the limits of bipartisanship... mistrust and ideological division.... [A]ny fix -- which would be likely to involve a politically risky mix of benefit reductions, tax hikes or other painful changes -- will require broad and deep bipartisan support.
"The American people have to sense on these types of issues that it'a absolutely bipartisan and that the agreement was reached in an absolutely fair way," said Senator Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire, the senior Republican on the Budget Committee.... Efforts have been made: Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulsen Jr. has talked to crucial lawmakers, including Representative Charles B. Rangel of New York, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, "encouraging everyone to bring all their ideas to the table, and hoping that some kind of consensus can emerge," as Michele Davis, the assistant Treasury secretary, puts it. Mr. Rangel said he had also been talking about the possibility of action on Social Security with the ranking Republican... Jim McCrery.... Gregg and Senator Kent Conrad... a bipartisan working group....
But... Vice President Dick Cheney... said Mr. Paulsen's openness to all ideas did not indicate that the administration was open to any increase in the payroll tax.... "[N]othing's changed," Mr. Cheney said.... Conrad said that after those comments, his effort to move forward with his working group “is on life support.... People have interpreted that to mean that the administration is not willing to alter their position one iota.”... Rahm Emanuel... said that... it was all the more important “not to take away the one solid cornerstone of their retirement.” He added, “It’s not good politics and it’s not good economics.”
Senator Max Baucus of Montana... said... “I’m more than open, if the president is truly willing to look at all options.”...
[A] polarized debate, and likely to become all the more so.... [A]dvocacy groups are watching.... Grover Norquist... making a pre-emptive case against any payroll tax increase, although he had been assured by the president in December that he would hold the line.... “There is no reason for us, as a campaign working on this issue, and there’s no reason for the Democrats to compromise with this president on the most sacrosanct program to progressives after he lost the privatization debate and lost the election,” said Brad Woodhouse of Americans United for Change, a liberal labor-backed organization.