Denis Healey's advice: "“It is a good thing to follow the First Law of Holes: if you are in one, stop digging” doesn't seem to have entered the consciousness of one George Walker Bush. He is digging ever more furiously with his proposal to loosen the standards of the Geneva Convention. This is despite opposition from Republican Senators (including John McCain) and Colin Powell, who said:
The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. To redefine Common Article 3 would add to those doubts. Furthermore, it would put our own troops at risk.
John McCain has, and is, playing a very clever game. He has brilliantly distanced himself from Bush. This has paid dividends for him with the public. Currently McCain leads Hilary Clinton 49/39 in a hypothetical match for the 2008 presidential election. A lot will depend on how much of the "comeback kid" magic has rubbed off from Bill's shoulders to Hilary's. In any case, being behind at this stage allows a build-up of "big mo" nearer the time. Being ahead now is a somewhat nervous position to be in. Unless you are Mother Theresa, you can only move in one direction - downwards.
Meanwhile, George Bush's fight with his own party on the Geneva Convention (surreal isn't it?) is likely to crock the Republicans' strategy to fight back against the Democrats on terror. After the summer break, the Republicans threw everything they had at the Democrats to paint them as weak on terror. The Democrats chose a smart move, in response, by picking on the weakest animal in the herd - Donald "I believe what I said yesterday.I don't know what I said, but I know what I think, and, well, I assume it's what I said" and other gems Rumsfeld.
But now George Bush seems set on a suicidal war with this own party, any significant Republican recovery in the November Congress election polls seems less likely.
They have a big gap to narrow. Depending on which polll you believe, the Democrats are anywhere between 3 and 19 points ahead. Mind you, that's the nationwide picture. Congressional elections are obviously very determined by local tendencies which get subsumed in the national poll.
If you want to keep an eye on the US congressional and presidential election situations, you can do worse than occasionally looking at The Emerging Democratic Majority . That site is hosted by Ruy Teixeira, who is Joint Fellow at the Center for American Progress and The Century Foundation. I avidly read Ruy's Public Opinion Watch postings during the last Presidential election. He is the perfect antidote to reading about polls in the normal media. His scientific analysis is exceptionally skilled.