Perhaps we could arrange for a group apology. It would certainly save time.

The capital has been racked by a bipartisan barrage of incautious remarks this year -- a bull market in over-the-top rhetoric -- as Democrats and Republicans take turns expressing outrage that the other side has crossed the line.

Thursday, it was the Democrats' turn to be outraged, after they learned that President Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, said in a speech Wednesday night that "liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers."

That blast -- which the White House defended as accurate and fair -- took the heat off Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), who apologized Tuesday on the Senate floor for saying, a week earlier, that what Americans had done to detainees was similar to what was "done by Nazis."

The Durbin mea culpa, in turn, moved the spotlight away from Rep. John N. Hostettler (R-Ind.), who accused Democrats of "denigrating and demonizing Christians."

As the nation's political culture grows ever coarser, it has been a big year for vituperative partisan rhetoric.

Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean set the pace early in the year, calling Republicans "evil" and "brain-dead." More recently, he described the GOP as "pretty much a white Christian party." And Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) apologized for calling Bush a "loser" but recently reiterated his view that the president is a "liar."

Meanwhile, the Terri Schiavo case brought Republicans to rhetorical excess. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) said of U.S. judges: "The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior." A week later, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) made a similar point on the Senate floor. He wondered about whether an "unaccountable" judiciary leads "up to the point where some people . . . engage in violence."

Not to be outdone, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said Democrats were using a parliamentary maneuver "to kill, to defeat, to assassinate these [judicial] nominees."

Even before Durbin's troubles, analogies to Nazi Germany had proliferated. Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) likened Republicans to Nazis when he said, "[W]itness how men with motives and a majority can manipulate law to cruel and unjust ends."

Among those outraged was Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) -- at least until Santorum made a similar goof, saying Democrats' parliamentary actions were "the equivalent of Adolf Hitler in 1942."

While Rove's rhetoric now has Democrats pouncing and Republicans squirming, one Republican has reason to smile. Rep. Deborah Pryce (Ohio), chairman of the House Republican Conference, should be relieved that hardly anybody noticed her statement Wednesday that Democrats represent the interests of "foreign criminals" and "would-be terrorists."

Trading Places

The good news for President Bush: A poll last week found massive enthusiasm for him and his policies.

The bad news: The poll was of Israelis.

A poll of Israeli and American Jews done this spring for Yeshiva University finds that Israelis are far more supportive of Bush than Jews here are. Conversely, American Jews are more enthusiastic about Prime Minister Ariel Sharon than Israelis are. Four out of five Israeli Jews had a favorable view of Bush, compared with only 35 percent of American Jews. A majority of Israelis believed the Iraq war made them safer, while only 28 percent of American Jews think the United States is more secure because of the war. Four out of five Israelis supported Bush's policy toward Israel, compared with two-thirds of American Jews.

Sharon, meanwhile, drew a favorable rating from 74 percent of American Jews but 65 percent of Israelis. And his plan for withdrawing from Gaza was supported by two-thirds of Jews in the United States but 54 percent in Israel. Both groups were optimistic about peace with the Palestinians, but both prefer a U.S. policy that emphasizes a peace process rather than the promotion of democracy in the Arab world.

Pick your proverb: A prophet is not without honor save in his own country? Or, familiarity breeds contempt?

Closing the Santorum Loophole

The Republican-controlled state House of Representatives in Pennsylvania took the paddle last week to its home-state junior senator. Santorum, of the aforementioned Hitler controversy, had received tens of thousands of dollars from Penn Hills School District, outside Pittsburgh, for tuition for his children to attend online charter schools called cyberschools. One problem: Although the Santorums own a house in Penn Hills, they live most of the time in Northern Virginia, where their children are home-schooled. In a bill inspired by the Santorum case, the House voted 175 to 24 to restrict eligibility for such payments to people who actually reside in the state. The measure now goes to the state Senate.

Executive Parsing

"It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is."

-- President Bill Clinton in 1998, explaining why, all evidence to the contrary, he was correct when he said "there is no relationship" with Monica Lewinsky.

"If you look at what the dictionary says about throes, it can still be a, you know, a violent period."

-- Vice President Cheney on CNN last week, explaining why, all evidence to the contrary, he was correct to say the Iraq insurgency is "in the last throes."

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) apologized for likening detainees' treatment to acts by Nazis. Bush adviser Karl Rove blasted "liberals' " reaction to Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.Rep. John N. Hostettler (R-Ind.) accused Democrats of "demonizing" Christians.

As Democratic Party Chairman, Howard Dean has called the GOP "evil" and "brain-dead."