Bush Warns Social Security Critics

President Bush, joined by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, takes his Social Security reform crusade to Iowa, making his first stop of the day at the Spring House Family Restaurant in Cedar Rapids for a radio interview with conservative talk show host Jan Mickelson of station WHO, Wednesday, March 30, 2005. AP

President Bush suggested Wednesday that lawmakers who oppose his proposal for a Social Security overhaul could face political problems as a result.

"To answer the question of the skeptics, we do have a serious problem," Mr. Bush said in an interview aired on CBS radio affiliate WMT AM in Cedar Rapids on WHO NewsRadio in Des Moines. Mr. Bush conducted the interview at a local diner, the Spring House Family Restaurant. "Now is the time to fix it, and I think there is a political price for not getting involved in the process."

He added: "I think there is a political price for saying, 'It's not a problem, I'm going to stay away from the table.'"

With his visit here, President Bush brings to 21 the number of states he's been to in the last two months on behalf of his Social Security plan, CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller reports.

In his Social Security travels, Mr. Bush has aimed to emphasize the positive and appear the model of bipartisanship — promising Democrats there will be no political retribution for bringing forward any idea to fix the system and arguing that the matter is too important to be the subject of partisan bickering.

But there are few issues as politically divisive as Social Security. As Democrats have persistently opposed — and attacked — Mr. Bush's ideas and polls show support for them dropping, the president has in the last week begun to occasionally use more pointed language.

"I believe there will be a bad political consequence for people who are unwilling to sit down and talk about the issue," Mr. Bush said in New Mexico last week.

There and in other stops in the West, Mr. Bush also had Sen. John McCain join him. The well-regarded Arizona Republican played the heavy for the president, sharply accusing Democrats of being obstructionist and shortsighted.

Mr. Bush did not repeat his hint of a political threat at a town hall meeting here after the interview. Both the appearances were part of a 60-day national tour by the president and other top administration officials to push his top domestic priority.
  • Joel Roberts

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