As the 2008 spouse club -- Bill included -- makes headlines, and the Democrats talk about the poor while those poor Republicans talk more about abortion, let's pick up the pieces (and the pizza crust) from the Senate all-nighter. What do Democrats have to show for their antics? A grand total of four Republican defectors. Several very tired presidential candidates, including some early-rising (or night owl) front-runners. An anti-war left that's still anxious to see action. Republican charges that they're abandoning the troops. And one unusual (pseudo-)filibuster that we'll be hearing about again and again.
Was it all a misguided political stunt? Don't take this feat for granted: Democrats stuck together in yesterday's vote, and picked up one more Republican than they expected. Democratic leaders' decision to pull other Iraq proposals from consideration -- for now -- makes the Democratic unity the main take-away from this much-anticipated week. As Democrats continue the process of forcing a change in course, yes, it's taking longer than their base would like. But does anyone doubt that they're moving in the right direction?
"The point is there is no military victory here," former President Bill Clinton told Diane Sawyer on ABC's "Good Morning America," saying that "evidence of progress" on the security front isn't spilling over into the political and diplomatic realms. "The president has weathered the challenge in the Senate because of the filibuster. . . . But in the end, September will come, and it won't be long."
Even the Democratic presidential candidates stopped sniping at each other long enough to stay on the same page. The Senate's Iraq debate "had the effect of blurring distinctions among the party's presidential candidates," Janet Hook writes in the Los Angeles Times. "That convergence among the Democratic presidential candidates was a far cry from just a few months ago, when [Sen. Hillary Rodham] Clinton opposed a withdrawal deadline and was heckled by party activists for it."
It's the GOP presidential candidates -- not the Democrats -- who are doing the scrambling these days. The New York Times' Adam Nagourney chronicles the movement sparked by the fading of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and the impending candidacy of former senator Fred Thompson, R-Tenn. Candidates are being forced "to rewrite their strategies as they adjust to a playing field vastly different from just one month ago," Nagourney writes. It means former mayor Rudolph Giuliani, R-N.Y., is putting more emphasis on Iowa, and former governor Mitt Romney, R-Mass., is ready to take on Thompson and weaken Giuliani, he reports.
On Iraq, now comes a critical period for both parties, starting with a Senate hearing and a Pentagon briefing for lawmakers today. On the political front, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has decided to move slowly, and so far isn't compromising with Republican war critics. Democrats are "betting that time and grass-roots pressure over the August recess will bring them the Republican votes they now lack to begin the withdrawal of US forces," David Rogers writes in The Wall Street Journal. Said McCain, "I am more sad than I am angry."