Middle East. Washington worries that Israel is on the road to Damascus as ground troops enter Lebanon, Beirut is crippled, and more rockets hit Haifa. U.S. greenlights Israel, to the consternation of Europe and the Kofi-klatch. Bush, thinking he's off-microphone, gives Syria some of the best off-color advice since Cheney met Leahy.
Culture wars. Bush appeases base but hands Democrats a rare wedge issue to use against GOP candidates in midterms when he vetoes expanded research on embryonic stem cells. Americans—including Bill Frist, Orrin Hatch, and Nancy Reagan—disagree with Bush, 2-to-1, even though he surrounds himself with "snowflake" children adopted as embryos.
Maybe They Double-Counted Zarqawi
Iraq. United Nations reports that 14,338 Iraqi civilians died violently in the first six months of 2006. In June, the rate was 100 a day. U.S. military reports that attacks actually increased after the June 14 security crackdown. Republicans tone down the war whoops that followed Zarqawi killing.
Hands Off the Chancellor
Diplomacy. President Bush has always been known to suffer heavy jet lag, but it's getting out of hand. At G8, he's caught uttering a four-letter word to Blair— and he was talking with his mouth full. Then he surprises German Chancellor Angela Merkel with a quick, unsolicited massage—the most touch on the world stage since Condoleezza Rice traveled with British then-counterpart Jack Straw.
Scandal. Ralph Reed—ex-Christian Coalition chief, Bush White House darling, Georgia GOP kingpin—goes down hard in a primary for lieutenant governor. Reed's dip in the Abramoff Indian gambling swamp hands the nomination to an unknown. Meantime, Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D), conqueror of Capitol Police, faces a primary runoff.
Al Gore's Revenge
Weather. Would the world be cooler today if Justice Anthony Kennedy went the other way in Bush v. Gore? It certainly could not be any hotter, as temperatures approach triple digits in the capital, and pretty much everywhere else.
Pander Not Accepted
Race. NAACP: National Association for the Admonition of Chastened Presidents? At the NAACP convention, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and the like tee off on Bush, who ends his five-year boycott and does the compassionate conservative speech, with predictable results: awkward politeness, punctuated with boos and heckling. Oh, and the Voting Rights Act is being renewed.
Get a Dog
Democrats. His prospects about as stable as a Boston highway tunnel, Joe Lieberman falls behind anti-war primary challenger Ned Lamont in Connecticut poll as Washington colleagues distance themselves. Bill Clinton will campaign for Lieberman Monday, but both he and Hillary say they'll support the primary winner in November.
A Mission From God
Republicans. House GOP, with just five weeks left on its legislative calendar for all of 2006—yes, it's only July—holds a debate on a gay-marriage amendment to the Constitution, even though the Senate already killed it. Numerous proponents say they're doing the Lord's work, but a two-thirds majority cannot escape Satan's grip.
Schlock. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest shatters box-office records by grossing $258 million in its first 10 days—despite being panned almost universally by critics. Will political journalists, disparaging Democratic efforts for November midterms, be similarly confounded? Don't bet on it.