The defender in chief

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It's not hard to understand why the president had a press conference today. His pre-election plan to link Iraq to the war on terrorism had been going very well, to the point where he was rising in the polls. And it looked as if his plan to deal with terrorists would move quickly, but then he came upon a few human speed bumps–Republican speed bumps. And big bumps they are: Sens. John McCain, John Warner, Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins–all GOP senators of quite some stature (joined by former Secretary of State Colin Powell) who disagree with his plans for interrogating suspected terrorists. So he had to have a press conference in his own defense.

He sounded defensive, but still, the gist was quite clear: It's "Us versus Them" time again.

"The enemy wants to attack us again," he told the American public. "Time is running out." Of course, it's not as if the senators want to stop interrogations; they're just worried about what happens to American POWs if the Geneva Conventions are not applied to our prisoners. In other words, if we lose the moral high ground, our men and women will be treated badly.

The president was having none of it. "It's unacceptable to think there's any kind of comparison between the behavior of the United States and the action of Islamic extremists who kill innocent women and children to achieve an objective," he said. He called it "an important debate that defines whether or not we can protect ourselves," adding, "Congress has got a decision to make."

And so do the voters. The question is whether the public will agree with the GOP dissidents or the president. It's not an intramural fight the president wanted, but now he's got it.