The deal between Republican Senators John McCain (AZ), Lindsay Graham (SC) and John Warner (VA) and the White House on the issue of how much leeway investigators will have in their interrogation of suspected terrorist was a blow to Democrats.
It also serves as yet another example of the difference in the way Republicans and Democrats are treated in the popular press. Over the past ten days headlines screamed that Republicans were locked in mortal combat over the issue of how detainees should be treated under questioning. The AP called the discussions an "explosive debate."
Here's the shorthand:
If a Republican Member of Congress doesn't hold the door for another member of the Republican Conference on their way into the Members' Dining Room it will be immediately reported as a "growing evidence of bad blood and the disintegration of any semblance of unity within the ranks of the GOP."
But … If two Democrats get into a knife fight on the west lawn of the Capitol, sandwiched between a Burr-Hamilton-like gun duel, and a tomahawk-tossing contest it will be reported - if it is reported at all - as "a frank exchange of views."
The Ds and their allies in the popular press were in hog heaven over this major (and they dearly hoped irreconcilable) rift between the White House and the McCain group. Senator Chuck Schumer said of McCain, Graham, Warner (and Colin Powell), "These military men are telling the president that in the war on terror you need to be both strong and smart, and it is about time he heeded their admonitions."
The Democrats didn't really need to say anything. All they needed to do was to let the cable nets breathlessly describe the action and allow the sharp distinctions on which party is best able to handle national security - which the President has been hammering to great effect for the past two weeks - to blur into a belief that there is no difference between Republicans and Democrats.
I said on Fox on Saturday - "Democrats had been doing the Ren & Stimpy Dance o' Joy" hoping this would be a wedge which on the one hand, would confuse Republican voters and on the other, would provide comfort to Democratic voters on the national security issue.