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.
However, the deal between McCain and the White House, which most observers - including the ACLU - believe gave the President a great deal of what he wanted, will be brought to the floors of the House and Senate this week and political operatives on both sides will be watching with interest to see who says what during the debate, and how they vote when the debate ends.
The danger now has shifted from the GOP back to the Democrats. If the ACLU/George Soros/MoveOn.org wings of the Democratic party provide the best quotes, those quotes will be picked up and the Democrats will have painted themselves into a very risky political corner as being soft on terrorists.
The House and Senate want to get out of town by next weekend so they can go home and campaign and Republicans don't want this issue to be one which is left undone prior to November 7.
Speaking of being undone, former President Bill Clinton, for some reason, agreed to be interviewed by Chris Wallace for his Fox Sunday morning program and went off on a "I never had you-know-what with you-know-who" kind of rant. According to Brian Knowlton's piece in this morning's International Herald Tribune:
When the interviewer, Chris Wallace, asked Clinton why he had not done more to pursue Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, Clinton became angry.
Eyes flashing, he leaned forward to tap the clipboard in Wallace's lap and blamed "conservative Republicans" for trying to scare Americans and make terror an issue for political ends.
At one point in his answer, Clinton loses control completely and says, "You [sic] got that little smirk on your face; you think you're so clever."
Six weeks from tomorrow. It looks more and more like it is going to be a National Security election and it is not likely the Democrats can win control of the US House in that environment.
On the Secret Decoder Ring Page today: Lots of Links including the AP, the IHT, a brief backgrounder on the Burr-Hamilton duel, and a link to the video of the Clinton interview on Fox. Also a Mullfoto left over from the New York trip a couple of weeks ago and a Catchy Caption of the Day.