The stakes could not be higher this political year: Control of the Congress is at stake, not to mention the rest of the president's agenda. If he loses control of either house this fall, Congress might just as well adjourn for a couple of years, because nothing will get done.
Not that anyone would notice the difference. As members of Congress return today, they're on another tear to provide bumper-sticker fodder for the elections. Before they left town, Republicans were intent on making sure the cultural conservatives were happy--so they brought up a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning and yapped on and on about banning gay marriage. Now, they're back from a long summer break, and they've got another job to do: convince the American public that if this election is going to be a national referendum on anything, it should be about the GOP's ability to better fight the war on terrorism.
So forget about an immigration reform bill or Social Security or tax reform. Focus instead on security of all sorts--like defense spending, terrorism surveillance programs, and the like.
But there's something to watch here: Instead of retreating on national security, the Democrats have decided to play on that turf. And it's tricky business for them: Even with all of the unhappiness with the war in Iraq, the single area in which the GOP still beats Democrats--albeit by a small margin--is national security. But the Democrats figure that if there were ever a time to forge ahead on an issue, this is it. So, they're calling for Rummy to step down. They're sending the president a letter calling for him to begin pulling troops out of Iraq this year. And they're betting the American public will be with them.
If there is a nationalized midterm election, it will be about Iraq--and the war on terrorism. Right now, each side believes it has the edge. But neither knows for sure.