We're all post-9/11 now: Congressional Democrats and Republicans, after a week's vacation, resume the important work of trying to make each other look soft on terrorism and weak on national security. In the Senate, debate on the amended Patriot Act begins Monday, followed on Tuesday by a vote to end debate and on Wednesday by final passage. Democratic threats of a filibuster pretty much dissolved after Republican dissidents reached a compromise with the White House and Dick Durbin, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, signed on.
Republicans will portray a "no" vote on the Patriot Act as a vote for the terrorists.
Democrats, meanwhile, will seek to unwrap the gift they received last week in the form of the agreement to transfer management of six U.S. ports to a Dubai-owned company. Expect a profusion of press conferences, floor speeches, bill introductions, and perhaps hearings aimed at delaying or killing the deal. Democrats will portray a "yes" vote for the Dubai deal as a vote for the terrorists.
Cheney in our sights: The secretive vice president will be in Norfolk, Va., to lend firepower to GOP Rep. Thelma Drake, who is facing a serious challenge from Democrat Phil Kellam. If you miss Cheney in Norfolk, you'll have another shot at him Tuesday, at the 46th annual American Legion conference in Washington.
Where in the world is W? President Bush leaves for a four-day trip to India, followed by a day in Pakistan. The visit, once hoped to bring a breakthrough on nuclear diplomacy, is now seen mostly as ceremonial. Much of the speculation is about whether the president, following the success of his surprise Iraq Thanksgiving visit, will attempt a "surprise" visit to another country in the general neighborhood. Baghdad is about 1,500 miles from Islamabad, though this may not be the best time for a presidential visit. Dubai is just over 1,200 miles from Islamabad—and Kabul is only a bit more than 200 miles.
Low-fat Tuesday: It's Mardi Gras in bedraggled New Orleans, and the party peaks on Tuesday. The city promises it can host and control the crowds, even though its police department and hospitals, like most everything else in the town, are depleted because of Hurricane Katrina. If anything goes wrong, of course, New Orleans can always call in FEMA.
Here in Washington, Former President Bill Clinton (D-McDonalds) will speak to the nation's governors, assembled here for the National Governors Association's "Healthy America Forum." Clinton, who has slimmed down since his heart-bypass surgery, has teamed up with Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on a campaign to reduce obesity. Clinton and Huckabee, a Republican, are both former Arkansas porkers.
Those seeking that Mardi Gras spirit here in Washington can instead visit the National Cathedral for its annual "Shrove Tuesday Pancake Races."