Last night, on Paula Zahn's CNN program (which was hosted by John Roberts), I debated the nature of the push by President Bush to remind the country why Iraq is important.
My opponent was Paul Glastris, the editor-in-chief of the Washington Monthly, a liberal magazine. He was making the point that the Democrats have only to say to the voters, in effect, "We Ain't Them" and Nancy Pelosi can begin measuring for drapes in the Speaker's office.
I like Paul. We've debated before and he's very smart. But, I reminded him of what happened in 1998 when I was running GOPAC.
At exactly this point in the cycle - coming off the August recess we were rubbing our hands together in glee. The Democrats had been home for a month listening to their constituents about what was wrong with Bill Clinton and they were getting pretty squirrelly about hanging with him.
Given the six-year curse - the party of the President almost always loses seats - we had the champagne on ice.
I said there is a reason that we say that Labor Day marks the beginning of the campaign season: That's when the majority of Americans who intend to vote (which, in a mid-term election will be well less than half of all registered voters) begin to pay attention.
In 1998 we overplayed the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal. We gave the voters nothing else. They rewarded us by giving the Democrats an additional five seats when we had been planning on Republican gains in the 10-12 seat range.
In 2006 the Democrats will, I promise you, overplay the public's unhappiness with Iraq. They have nothing else.
The Ned Lamont win in Connecticut may well be added to the dictionary definition of the phrase "Pyrrhic Victory." It is important to remember that the Lamont/Lieberman race was solely a Democratic Party activity. Independents and Republicans were not invited to participate.
Starting next week the Democrats will have to begin wrestling with the "We Ain't Them" strategy on national security and foreign affairs. It is the issue of the confirmation of John Bolton to be the US Representative to the United Nations.
To review the bidding, Senate Dems would not allow Bolton's nomination to come to the floor for a vote, so the President made what is called a "recess appointment."
Without getting too deeply into the weeds, Bolton's recess appointment runs out when the Senate adjourns in November or December. To keep his job, he has to be confirmed by the Senate before then.
A senior Senate staffer told me that it is likely Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, Dick Lugar, intends to get a committee vote on the Bolton nomination on September 7. It appears the nomination will be brought to the floor as soon as possible after that.
Bolton has gotten very high marks from his UN colleagues
Here is the dilemma, upon the horns of which, Senate Democrats now find themselves:
If they attempt to filibuster the nomination, Republicans will appropriately claim they are playing politics with the very institution - the United Nations - Democrats so adore; that they are willing to put America's interests at risk for sordid political gain.
If, on the other hand, Senate Dems allow Bolton's nomination to come to a vote, he will be confirmed and they will hand the President a major foreign policy victory in the first days of the fall campaign season.I may have told you this before, and I will probably remind you of it again, but here is what I believe will happen on November 7th: People will go to the polls being disappointed, disgusted, disenchanted, and/or disaffected with the way Republicans have run the House and Senate.
But when they actually vote, they will decide that they might not like the people who are running things on Capitol Hill now, but the world is too dangerous a place to hand it over to a bunch of rookies whom they don't know, don't trust and, so, won't elect.
National security is a political issue. And it is not a plus for the Democrats.
On the Secret Decoder Ring Page today: The "rush" transcript of my appearance on CNN last night; a Mullfoto why neither you nor I can live on Central Park South; and a Catchy Caption of the Day.