Billionaire George Soros and Sen. Hillary Clinton have been talking about the congressional elections as if they were a civics test for voters. They could almost be speaking from the same lecture notes.
"I think it's very important, actually, to re-establish checks and balances for the Democrats to capture at least one of the houses (of Congress)," Soros told Fox News.
"It's better for New York and it's better for America if we get a Democratic majority back in to restore checks and balances and to prevent this president and vice president from taking such radical positions," Clinton told the Toledo Blade.
But the real question isn't whether Congress should check and balance the president, it is when and how they should do it.
Congressional Democrats have a perverse record here. They've enabled Bush's bad policies and resisted his good ones. Often, but not always, Republicans have done the opposite.
In sum: We don't need Congress to become more liberal to fix what's wrong with Bush, we need Bush to become more conservative to fix what's wrong with Congress.
In his first year, Bush cut taxes. Democrats tried to stop him. Meanwhile, not one House Republican voted against Bush's tax cuts, and only two Senate Republicans (John McCain of Arizona and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island) did.
A Democrat Congress would not have enacted the Bush tax cuts. Check one against the Democrats.
Also in his first year, Bush pushed through the No Child Left Behind Act, dramatically increasing federal involvement in public schools. Without significant Democratic support, this bill would have failed. More Democrats voted for it (198) than Republicans (183). Then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, the Texas Republican, voted against it. Sen. Ted Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat, sponsored it.
Federal education spending has more than doubled since then. Check two against the Democrats.
In his second year, Bush signed the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, while conceding it raised "serious constitutional concerns." Initially, the bill had been stopped by House Republican leaders who refused to bring it up for a vote. It only passed after 198 Democrats joined with 20 Republicans to sign a "discharge petition," forcing a vote under House rules. Then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, the South Dakota Democrat, rammed the bill through a Democrat Senate.
Predictably, the liberal majority on the Supreme Court upheld the bill's restrictions on free speech. Check three against the Democrats.
Throughout Bush's presidency, Democrats have used their power in the Senate to block highly qualified conservative nominees to the federal appellate courts. When they were the majority, they did not allow votes on these nominees. When they were the minority, they filibustered. Then, when Bush nominated Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, the Democrats changed their tune. Miers was neither a constitutional scholar nor a conservative. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat, had recommended her nomination to Bush.
When conservative opposition forced Miers to withdraw, Reid lamented, "The radical right wing of the Republican Party killed the Harriet Miers nomination."
If Democrats had their way, stellar judges such as Priscilla Owen and Janice Brown would never have been confirmed to the appellate courts. But Miers would be on the Supreme Court. Check four against the Democrats.
When Congress approved $62.3 billion as a down payment on the spending Bush promised for Hurricane Katrina relief, House conservatives fought for cuts to offset the spending. Congress finally approved $39.2 billion in cuts. No House of Senate Democrat voted for them. Check five against the Democrats.
Facing up to the reality that our open Mexican border is an open invitation to terrorists, the Republican House passed a tough border security and immigration enforcement bill last December. It did not include Bush's proposal to grant amnesty to illegal aliens by converting them into legal guest workers. The bill won the votes of 205 Republicans, but only 36 Democrats. In May, the Senate passed a bill including Bush's amnesty. Thirty-three of 55 Senate Republicans opposed it. Only three Senate Democrats did.
If Democrats control Congress, Bush gets his amnesty. Check six against the Democrats.
Ironically, Democratic complaints against Republicans in this election season have focused on the war in Iraq. That war was authorized by a resolution sponsored by Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, the 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee. It was approved by a Democrat-controlled Senate. A majority of Senate Democrats voted for it -- including Harry Reid and Hillary Clinton.
Perhaps Democrats are less interested in checking Bush than in checking the polls.