DOG-WHISTLE POLITICS. One almost -- almost -- feels sorry for social conservative leaders who, like true Pavlovian devotees, believe that they can keep ringing the bell and the dogs will come running even though the politicians have stopped delivering the treats. As Noam Levey in The Los Angeles Times reports, House Republicans are desperately trying to pass another restrictive abortion bill to dupe their base into believing that somehow the most wasteful-spending Congress in American history is still run by conservatives:

Scrambling to pass anti-abortion legislation before they recess for fall congressional elections, House Republicans on Tuesday won passage of a bill that would make it a federal crime to evade one state's parental consent laws by taking a minor to another state for an abortion.

But in a mark of the majority party's struggles with its "values" agenda, Senate Republicans may run out of time to vote on the measure before lawmakers leave town at the end of the week. That would leave Republicans with few trophies to show their socially conservative base as they try to motivate voters in the final six weeks of the fiercely contested 2006 campaign.

If the GOP were really trying to outlaw abortion, they would show the guts to propose a constitutional amendment to ban it outright, make as much fuss about abortion as they do about the gay marriage amendment, and thereby force not only a national discussion but the issue itself onto the docket of the newly-configured, Roberts-plus-Alito Supreme Court. Instead, they rely on dog-whistle politics. The problem is, there are fewer and fewer dogs attuned to their frequency, and those who can hear it are getting wise to the fact that the GOP is more whistle than treat.

--Tom Schaller