Torturing Geneva Intelligence. GOP hopes for a showdown over tribunals and torture are blocked by Senate GOP rebels John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Chairman John Warner. Armed with a get-out-of-jail-free letter from Colin Powell, they call President Bush's bluff that he will stop all terrorist interrogations. McCainiacs, also giving Democrats cover, cite "principle"—prompting several colleagues to reach for their dictionaries.
Treason Season Midterms. The always fickle Zeitgeist does a near 180. After expectations that Democrats could take the House, Republicans regain the edge by accusing the opposition of being in cahoots with Osama Bin Laden and other forms of high treason. Will the public fall for it for the third straight time? New polls point to "yes."
Faith-Based Warfare Iraq. Bush sees a "Third Awakening" of religious fervor in the United States. He'd better hope so, because a giant leap of faith will be needed to build support for the war in Iraq, where a single day found nearly 100 dead in Baghdad, some by beheading and torture. Embattled Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn., holds hearings to give Republicans a chance to join Democrats in denouncing the administration.
Another One Abram-Offed Scandal. Jack Abramoff imbroglio enjoys a brief revival as Rep. Bob Ney, R-Prison, enters a guilty plea; the Ohio congressman blames alcohol for his addiction to lobbyist cash. The House, applying a SpongeBob SquarePants Band-Aid to its ethics hemorrhage, votes to ban anonymous requests for special-interest "earmarks." But Democrats' glee is muted by fears of an indictment of Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson and his well-stocked freezer.
September Surprise Economy. Wealthy denizens of political Washington are impervious to gas-price swings but learn from new polls that Americans are less worried. Gallon of gas drops to $2.62 from $3.04 a month earlier—causing a corresponding drop in Democrats' midterm prospects.
Lincoln Logs a Win Republicans. RNC avoids surrendering a Senate seat in Rhode Island by pouring money and support behind incumbent Lincoln Chafee, a guy who voted against Bush in 2004, wouldn't execute Bin Laden, and opposes the administration more than any other Senate Republican.
Bring Back the Chads Home News. Adrian Fenty secures Democratic nod for the D.C. mayoralty, as expected. But the story is eclipsed by Montgomery County, Md., which becomes the new Miami-Dade when election officials forget to deliver the plastic cards needed to make the newfangled electronic voting system work.
She Said WHAT? Democrats. There are two things that pretty much everybody agrees are true but nobody is allowed to say: that the Iraq war is unwinnable, and that getting Bin Laden won't solve our problems. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stuns fellow Democrats by uttering the latter, giving Republicans a Treason Season gift.
Bridge to the 14th Century Homeland Security.Pope Benedict lends his voice to the fight against terrorism, reading a 700-year-old passage about how Islam brought "things only evil and inhuman," such as violence. Washington misses much of the ensuing uproar because it is focused on the latest threat to the homeland: bagged spinach.