“DEAD HORSE”….There’s something ironic about a senior Republican congressman proclaiming that President Bush’s forthcoming Social Security proposal is a “dead horse” and then in the next breath musing about the idea that maybe women should get lower benefits because they live longer. That’s not exactly a proposal designed to get broad bipartisan support itself.

But I think Bill Thomas is right: after all the wailing and gnashing of teeth on both sides is over, Bush’s privatization plan will go down in flames. Democrats are going to keep a pretty united front on this, and that united front is going to scare at least 40 or 50 Republicans away from supporting it. The votes just aren’t there.

But here’s the funny thing: surely Karl Rove knows this? Unless I’m missing something, it seems like a no brainer. So what’s the point?

I dunno. Maybe a head fake of some kind? Back in 2002 I couldn’t figure out why Bush initially opposed a vote on the Iraq war either, since it was obvious that he’d win one easily. In that case, generating Democratic demands for a vote was probably the underlying reason, since that prevented Democrats from then claiming that the whole thing was just a partisan trap.

This time, though? What’s the point of loudly pushing a proposal you’re going to lose? What’s behind it all?

UPDATE: Turns out Ed Kilgore is wondering the same thing. His hunch is that it’s a bait-and-switch: Democrats will end up loudly saying that private accounts are great, but only in addition to Social Security, not instead of it. So in the end, Bush will “compromise” and sign a bill that leaves Social Security alone but creates big tax-sheltered savings accounts ideally suited for tax avoidance by high earners.

Could be, I suppose. It sounds a little too clever even for the Karl Roves of the world, but I guess you never know. Something to keep an eye out for, anyway.