Both observations, I think, are largely true. But the parties' respective problems stem from different sources. Much of the Republicans' problems result from their being in power at an extraordinary time and the unrealistic expectations the public demands from its leaders.
We live in an enormously dangerous world. We don't even know for sure who our enemy is. Yes, it's radical Islamic terrorists. But what about ostensibly less radical Muslims? How about anti-American Arab populations whose governments are controlled by apparently America-friendly regimes, like the UAE?
Our failure to recognize our ambivalence about the degree to which we can trust "friendly" Arab states, whether the UAE, Saudi Arabia, or even the newly formed Iraqi government once we loosen the reins, clouds our judgment. If the Dubai Ports deal demonstrates nothing else, it reveals our uncertainty in that we've fully identified the enemy.
As ominous a threat as Communism was, the threat came from its dictators. The subject people, all oppressed, were hardly invested philosophically, much less theologically, in Marxism, which had long since lost its idealistic appeal -- except, perhaps, to European and American "intellectuals" -- and become an excuse for subjugating the people it promised to deliver.
But radical Islam is an animating worldview, for which many of its adherents are willing to martyr themselves. Unlike Communism, the global threat it represents does not wholly depend on the rise and fall of nation states.
President Bush inherited the War on Terror. He didn't have the choice of inaction, like President Clinton before him. Once our mainland was attacked, we had to respond, quickly and decisively, though we didn't have a sufficient understanding of the nature and extent of our enemy and hadn't yet developed a comprehensive strategy to deal with Islamic terrorists. But President Bush, building on a prescient blueprint drafted by President Reagan, formulated one with remarkable alacrity.
While things appeared to be going well, President Bush was widely respected and most Americans felt comfortable under his national security stewardship. But war is unpredictable and doesn't always go as planned. The only thing certain about it, say the generals, is the inevitability of the unexpected. This, I believe, is where many of the president's problems lie.