Washington will be a very grumpy place this month. The day after Labor Day is usually a day of new beginnings in Washington. Springs gaffes are long forgotten and campaign season is underway. September hails the fresh and happy return for a humming Congress moving in sync with a full bore Presidential campaign season.
But this week will be different from any September I can ever recall.
There are several reasons why:
1) Scandals still stink: The most recent scandal involving Senator Craig's bathroom escapades and Senator Vitter's calling call girls from the cloakroom are still too fresh to be forgotten in either the voter's mind or Capitol Hill's water cooler talk. Craig resigned but Vitter hasn't and we haven't seen the end of that discussion yet.
2) Congress must be the "Decider" on the War: An unpopular war will be under the most intense scrutiny it has received since it started from both Democrats and Republicans when General Petraeus comes to Capitol Hill with his recommendations for its future. Despite the interest in the country for the war to end, Most members of Congress are really not comfortable making such important decisions about the war.
3) The Republicans have lost their Leader: An unpopular president has lost the leadership, not just of the American people but also of his own party. Therefore the Republicans running for president are desperately searching for their own messaging while the Republicans in Congress are left to battle the Democratic majority on their own.
4) The Democratic base threatens revolt: House Democrats are facing serious dissatisfaction among the rank and file over a perceived slowness to stop the war by withdrawing funding as well as the summer gift given by the Dem leadership to the White House (over the liberals' objections) that expanded wiretapping authority for the administration.
Nonetheless, I'd much rather be Hillary Clinton or Nancy Pelosi (or Barack Obama and Harry Reid for that matter) than Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney or Mitch McConnell. In the presidential race, the Democrats have a base that is happily choosing among primary candidates they like. And the Democrats in Congress know that they are going to kick the president around all fall. Enough legislation has been moved into position in the Democratic Congress that they can legitimately claim progress even if the Republicans become obstructionists this next session. An we will continue to see successful coordination of the Democratic message.
The Republic picture is not nearly so rosy. And not just because of Senators Larry Craig and David Vitter. The Republicans in Congress are now splitting on Iraq. The venerated John Warner is calling the president on the carpet and will bring several of his more independent colleagues with him. The House Republicans may stick on Iraq but they are still mad about the Immigration debacle and are likely to create an agenda separate from the White House to prove they are powerful to their base. And the Republicans running for president would like to take the next month of Iraq reports and the Bush tour of America and hide. They want none of it. Yet they also know that Republican Party loyalists are still grousing about their primary options so doing nothing isn't really an option.
So, welcome to Washington in September. By October, it may all be different. But it is going to be a grumpy month.
Originally posted on SuperTuesday.MSNBC.com