POLITICAL HARDBALL….Over at Tapped, Matt Yglesias says today’s Democrats need to do to George Bush what Tip O’Neill did to Ronald Reagan in 1983: beat his brains in.

Right now, strictly speaking, the White House doesn’t need any Democratic support to pass a bill and doesn’t expect to give much up in order to get it. That means there’s no basis for a genuine compromise. The only way to get a compromise is to convince the Republicans that a failure to achieve one is going to bring the rest of their agenda crashing down around them. That calls for demonstrating an eagerness not for compromising with the GOP but for using Social Security as a political bludgeon with which to destroy the Republican Party.

After all, liberals have been moaning since forever that cultural politics prevent them from getting voters to focus on the left’s popular economic ideas. Well, what better way to get the voters to focus on economics than to have a president whose top agenda items are gutting Social Security and enacting drastic budget cuts? This is a fight Democrats should be thrilled to have. And if they win ? not just blocking the carve-out, but humiliating everyone associated with it ? that, and only that, will lay the groundwork for a sensible compromise that adjusts the benefit structure, tax rates, and retirement age of Social Security while creating new ways to boost private savings.

Sam Rosenfeld disagrees. What we really need to do is what Bill Kristol did to Bill Clinton in 1993: beat his brains in.

Bill Kristol?s famous strategy memos [urged] Republicans to reject any and all health care proposals from the White House ?sight unseen.?….Kristol penned these memos as head of the Project for a Republican Majority, launched in November 1993 to ?frame a new Republicanism by challenging not just the particulars of big-government policies, but their very premises and purposes.?

Kristol warned of the political and ideological repercussions of a successfully passed health care bill ? it would revive the Democrats? reputation as ?the generous protector of middle-class interests? and ?relegitimize middle-class dependence for ?security? on government spending and regulation? ? but he also promised that a successful and total defeat of Clinton?s plan, if handled in the correct way by the Republicans, would mark ?a watershed in the resurgence of a newly bold and principled Republican politics.?

Hey, 1983, 1993, whatever. These both sound like pretty good analogies.

Sam’s real disagreement with Matt is whether the end result of all this Democratic hardball should be some kind of Social Security compromise plus the destruction of the Republican party, or whether we should be focused solely on the destruction of the Republican party. I could live with either of those, I suppose, but since my first choice is to leave Social Security alone for a while, I guess I’m in Sam’s camp. The consequences of not reaching a compromise are pretty much nil, after all, so why bother?

In any case, leaving the Republican leadership lying in the gutter and begging for mercy would do wonders for Democratic morale, wouldn’t it? Count me in.