Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- Six months into the first session of the Democratic Congress and the last two years of the Bush administration, the news isn't good.

The Democrats have staggered and stumbled through an ill-conceived, haphazard agenda that seems to be going nowhere, and they've got the failing mid-semester scores to prove it. Their approval polls have sunk into the 20s, and in some surveys the teens, as Americans overwhelmingly disapprove of the job they're doing.

The latest Gallup Poll shows that voters are most concerned about the war in Iraq, the economy and jobs, and the costs of health care, in that order. But there is little if any evidence that Congress is dealing effectively with any of these issues.

Instead, the Democrats seem intent on fighting the 2004 presidential race all over again. Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the deeply partisan Judiciary Committee chairman, is lobbing subpoenas at the White House to demand internal documents and memos about the president's handling of national-security actions taken to foil further terrorist plots to kill more Americans.

Apparently, Leahy has not heard of the separation of powers inherent in our constitutional system of government. He wants every e-mail, every scrap of paper prepared for the president and vice president regarding the issue of warrantless eavesdropping on terrorist intercepts to be delivered to Congress' doorstep, where it can be leaked to the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Presidents are fully entitled to receive confidential advice, opinions and recommendations from their national-security advisers and other experts outside the politically pernicious purview of Democratic lawmakers intent on waging war against this administration in preparation for next year's elections.

Absent any evidence of wrongdoing, and Leahy hasn't produced any, President Bush and Vice President Cheney, too, are well within their rights to protect a separation of powers that was frayed and torn asunder in the scandal-plagued Clinton years.

Bush, of course, has a plateful of his own problems that seem to have gotten worse. His immigration-reform hopes have sunk into a morass of opposition on Capitol Hill. It seems likely the Democrats will let most of his across-the-board tax cuts expire in 2010. A move is under way to end his fast-track trade-negotiating authority to expand U.S. markets overseas. And a stalemate is brewing over a bunch of spendthrift appropriations bills that Bush intends to veto.

Iraq remains the president's toughest issue. Small victories appear here and there in the troop-surge effort, but the insurgents have struck back with deadly force, killing U.S. and Iraqi soldiers at an ever-increasing pace.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.