Republicans have a fair story to tell about what they've accomplished over the last two years, but their narrative has been interrupted by the trashy subplot of Mark Foley and his trolling for male House pages.
Democrats are constantly changing their narrative when it fails to match reality. The reason Democrats don't talk about the deficit like they used to is because it has dropped from the $423 billion predicted by President Bush, as recently as last February, to $250 billion, according to projections by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The CBO says the reason for the decline is better than expected tax receipts, especially from corporate profits. There are more tax receipts because individuals and corporations are being taxed at lower rates, giving them increased incentive to earn bigger profits. Bigger profits produce more tax revenue.
Gasoline prices are down sharply from just a few months ago; the Dow Jones Industrials set a new record high last week. The unemployment rate now stands at 4.6 percent - down from 6.3 percent in 2003, lower than the average of the 1970s, 1980s, or the 1990s, and equivalent to the unemployment rate in September 1998. Since August 2003, the economy has created 6.6 million new jobs.
What Republicans did not do is conduct a crusade against new spending, as well as waste, fraud and abuse. Instead, too many of them joined the Democrats at the spending trough, setting earmark records. If Democrats win a congressional majority in next month's election, they would increase spending and raise taxes. This would slow and possibly halt the economic expansion.
The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act is a fine accomplishment. It will create an earmark database that the public can easily access on the Internet. The bill passed largely because of the bipartisan leadership of senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Barack Obama (D-Ill).
The problem for Republicans is that they seem to have run out of ideas. They now ask for votes on two levels, neither of which is appealing. The first is that the Democrats would do a worse job than Republicans, which is like choosing which of two ugly sisters to take on a date. The second is they crave power for its own sake. Republicans have failed to give voters sufficient reason to vote for them, except for one that trumps all the rest - they can better defend the country.
Democrats have no plan for keeping America safe, or winning the war against the fanatics. They have opposed most of the Bush administration's domestic surveillance methods. They have opposed aggressive interrogation tactics designed to get information to protect us, including opposition to the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where detainees are treated better than they could expect if they were detained in their homelands.
This election isn't about House pages; it's about survival. In his new book, "America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It," columnist Mark Steyn states this irrefutable fact about the importance of winning in Iraq: "Being seen not to run - or, if you prefer, being seen to show Œresolve' - should be the indispensable objective of U.S. foreign policy. Were these colors to run from Iraq, it would be the end of the American era - for why would Russia, China, or even Belgium ever again take seriously a superpower that runs screaming for home at the first pinprick."
For all of their promises to do a better job of fighting this war, Democrats have no plan, other than retreat. That is the plan the terrorists have for us. Retreat is not in their playbook. The terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere don't speak of timetables for withdrawal or bringing their fighters home in time for Ramadan. They're in it for the long haul. They believe we are not. A victory by Democrats next month will validate their view and encourage them to fight harder.
Republicans have been far from perfect in this war. They have barely approached mediocrity in their handling of domestic issues. But to change horses and leaders mid-war is a prescription for a longer engagement, because this is a confrontation that will end only in victory or defeat for one side or the other. That's why the Republicans need to keep their majority and conservatives need to keep the pressure on them to get back to the original GOP principles that brought them that majority. That's a better strategy than Republicans acting like Democrat-lite.