NATIONAL SECURITY….John Dickerson says in Slate that the president’s sudden enthusiasm for a congressional investigation into the NSA’s surveillance program is probably bad for the country:

But that’s precisely why George Bush wants hearings on domestic spying. He’s inviting Democrats to another round of self-immolation. In 2002, the Republican Party used the debate over the Department of Homeland Security to attack Democrats in the off-year election by arguing the party was soft on terror. The president and his aides hope the NSA hearings will offer the same opportunity in 2006.

That’s exactly right. Marshall Wittman, who I think is dangerously complacent about George Bush’s apparent belief that he has emergency war powers forever, nonetheless provides the obvious explanation:

One can question the legal rationale that was employed by President, but there is absolutely no evidence that he was attempting to do anything else but protect America. It might be satisfying for partisans to cast around comparisons to Nixon or Harding, but this was a program to thwart terrorists not for political aggrandizement.

Politically, this is almost certainly how a majority of Americans will see it, especially after a few friendly rounds of traitor-mongering and mushroom-cloud-alarmism to soften up the crowd. What’s more, there’s another looming national security issue on the near horizon as well: Iran. Martin Walker lays out the issue succinctly:

The only question now is whether the world is prepared to put up with a nuclear-armed Iran, which is currently led by a religious zealot who declares publicly that the Holocaust never took place and Israel should be wiped off the map.

….If Iran, as an oil-rich sovereign state, is determined to become a nuclear power there are no obvious steps short of all-out war and occupation that could prevent it eventually from doing so. So just as the world has learned to live with the Soviet-American nuclear balance, and with the Indo-Pakistani nuclear balance, it may soon start to accept that it will probably have to live with the balance of nuclear terror between Tehran and Tel Aviv.

Sometime this summer and fall we can probably expect yet another marketing campaign from the White House, this time aimed in the direction of Iran, and before long the alternatives are going to get pretty stark: do we recommend continuing sanctions and multilateral opprobrium, or do we support air strikes? Do we “live with” Iran’s nuclear program or do we do something about it? Yes or no?

All this is by way of saying that although Democrats would like the 2006 election to be about Jack Abramoff and Republican corruption, the White House still has something to say about that. George Bush is going to do his best to keep national security front and center, and Democrats had better have a more crowd-pleasing answer on this subject than they did in 2002 and 2004. Just saying.