“If after the Foley episode — a maraschino cherry atop the Democrats’ delectable sundae of Republican miseries — the Democrats cannot gain 13 seats, they should go into another line of work.” —George Will

If we were asked a month ago “Who’s going to have more influence on November’s election: a kook with a nuke or a perv with a computer?” the answer would have seemed obvious.

Today, we would be obviously wrong.

Who cares about North Korea and its No Dong missiles when we’ve got Mark Foley and his Republican pocket rocket ready for lift off? Now that’s an issue voters care about.

Back in my political flak days, one of my “Rules To Live By” was that the guy with the best bumper sticker always wins. And boy, this year do the Democrats have a doozy.

Whether it’s “Republican: Their Scotch Is Older Than Their Boys,” or “Time To Turn Over A New Page (And/Or Intern),” Freaky Foley is all the spark Democrats need to burn down the Republican Congress.

Not Iraq. Not North Korea. Foley. Is it fair? Is it right? No. It’s politics.

Remember 1994, when the indictment of just one Democratic congressman — Dan Rostenkowski for stealing money from the House Post Office — helped send 56 Democratic congressmen out to pasture? Then there was the GOP massacre of ’74, when Republicans from Congress to county ag agents lost elections all because of Watergate and Richard Nixon. These Republicans weren’t involved in the scandal. They were just in the wrong party at the wrong time.

The voters got mad. Then they got even.

You have to wonder if Mark Foley ever imagined, as he sat at the keyboard in his underwear sending IMs to 18-year-olds, that one obscure congressman’s stupidity and twisted sexuality could cost so many strangers so much.

Like Rosty and Tricky Dick, Mark Foley isn’t the issue. He’s the poster boy who helps voters focus their general sense of frustration and annoyance. The mainstream media trace all that anger back to Baghdad. They’re almost right. Blue-state liberals name other sources: globalization dragging blue-collar workers out of the middle class, concerns about civil liberties, or health care, or the environment or some other “crisis of the day.” Not even close.

Voters are cranky because at a gut level they know that we are living in a moment of consequence. This isn’t the “Naughty ’90s” or the “Morning In America ’80s.” Islamism, terrorism, globalization, the impending doom that is Social Security/Medicare — these are real problems that, if not handled right, could screw us up for years to come.

And brother, are we screwing them up.

Americans aren’t mad because Iraq is hard. We understand that this is the time for hard work. We’re angry because we’re not doing the hard work well. Nobody is demanding instant victory in the War on Terror (except John Kerry, maybe). We just need to see that we’re winning. And we don’t.

Meanwhile, North Korea’s going nuclear, Iran’s right behind them, and who the hell knows what’s going on in Afghanistan?

Back home, the only thing our “Open Borders” congressmen find harder to track down than an illegal alien in Texas is an internet-cruising perv in the next office over.

Defeat Al Qaeda? These idiots can’t run a Capitol Hill page program.

Republican activists point out that dumping the GOP will not solve any of these problems. They remind us that Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid will waste time and money on investigating the past six years instead of planning for the future. Siccing a Democratic Congress on a Bush White House will mean two more years of nothing but political dogfights.

You know what? The voters don’t care. Why should they?

The irony of the Mark Foley Fiasco is that the unintended, unforeseeable outcome is very likely to be the most unusual one of all: Justice. For all the wrong reasons, voters are about to do the right thing and throw the bums out.

The Republicans, who lack the character or credibility to run a back-alley craps game, deserve to lose. Unfortunately for America, the Democrats don’t deserve to win. If there is anything more embarrassing than the third-rate leadership of Bush and the Republican stooges, it’s the fact that the Democratic Party hasn’t offered a single relevant or worthwhile idea in the past six years. Not one. (Sorry, but “Bush Sucks” doesn’t qualify.)

On Tuesday, November 7, it will be the incompetent versus the irrelevant. Either way — we all lose.

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