There are two great issues on which November 2006 will pronounce. The first has to do with spending. But here the voter is perforce equivocal. He can feel as strongly on the subject as the deprived local mortgage collector, but it isn't obvious whom to kick in the behind. The voter reminds himself that all money bills, by constitutional direction, have to originate in the House of Representatives. Is he then going to punish for wild spending whatever incumbent is within his reach? Perhaps the voters will be permissive with Congress -- on the grounds that the president, after all, was there with a veto power he never exercised. Will they satisfy themselves with sending the legislators back for another session and storing up their rage and resentment to be used against the GOP in 2008?
Overhanging all other concerns, of course, is the war in Iraq. That, the voter will tell himself, is the work of one man: the outgoing president of the United States. It is not easy to punish a lame duck, but one way is to bring in as his successor a chief executive from the other political party. So that even 2 1/2 years before Election Day 2008, party strategists are thinking about Iraq.
Certainly George W. Bush is doing so. At West Point on May 27, he spoke to the graduating class. He was acutely aware that this was the first class to have matriculated at the academy after Sept. 11. Mr. Bush didn't wish away the hard edges of service in the U.S. Army. He stressed that we were at war. He spoke of the "34 times since your class arrived (that) you have observed a moment of silence in Washington Hall to honor a former cadet fallen in the war on terror."
There was not a hint of retrenchment, on the military, the historical or the ideological front. Mr. Bush reiterated in some detail the line set down by Harry Truman. "He told the Congress: 'It must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.'"
Mr. Bush cited the early costs of this doctrine. "More than 54,000 Americans gave their lives in Korea. Yet, in the end, communist forces were pushed back to the 38th Parallel -- and the freedom of South Korea was secure." What about North Korea?