When Congress returns for some abbreviated post-Labor Day work next week, we'll see if the Republican majority intends to do something or just play partisan politics. The latter appears certain.
Earlier this year, House GOP leaders pressed for a vote to ban flag burning with a constitutional amendment. Of course, it passed, but all knew it would never clear the Senate. It was a futile exercise aimed only at embarrassing the minority.
Members of both parties also wrangled over a nonbinding resolution against setting a timeline for withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq. There was no legal basis for the outcome, and it amounted to another waste of time.
Republicans mostly in lock step with the White House against a phased pullout from Iraq are now feeling the heat. Rep. Chris Shays of Connecticut, among the vanishing moderates in his party, recently said he thinks we should set dates. Previously, he was a steadfast hawk on the issue.
Shays may not be a loner, as opinion polls show a strong majority against the president's policies. The sectarian warfare continues 24-7 with no letup in sight.
How many will be fooled by the outrageous charge by Donald Rumsfeld equating critics of the conflict with appeasers of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany before World War II? As the lawyer Joseph Welch once said of Sen. Joe McCarthy during the Communists-in-government witch hunt days: "At long last, sir, have you no decency?"
Rumsfeld has demonstrated once again that a stay-the-course policy while evoking fear and even hatred is the Bush administration's spin. He made the charge to veterans in Salt Lake City while the president was touring the Gulf Coast and admitting his government's failure to respond quickly to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Right now the Republicans are still favored to hold a slim majority in the Senate while losing a few seats. The House, meanwhile, is a tossup, with the Democrats having better than a 50-50 chance of gaining the 15 seats necessary to regain control the party lost 12 years ago.
Once again, the GOP is trying scare tactics. They say a loss of the House means that Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader and a liberal from San Francisco, will replace Republican Dennis Hastert as speaker. Few voters know Pelosi or probably care about her political leaning.
They worry far more about a nonstop war with 2,500 Marine reservists who have already served being recalled for potential combat.
Political observers say incumbents of both parties should be concerned. Perhaps it is true, but Republicans are running the government at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue and deserve to bear the brunt of anger out there.
Leave it to the right-wing editorial page of the Wall Street Journal to use the fear factor, too. An editorial on August 31 ran pictures of some liberal Democrats who will chair committees in a new Congress if the GOP loses control. Reps. Barney Frank, John Conyers, John Dingell, and Henry Waxman were pictured. My reaction: The Republicans they would be replacing are no great shakes, and we'd be better off with them in the minority.