Smart politics, for once.

“We don’t have plans to call Congress into session — it won’t make a difference if Democratic leaders are unwilling to bring up a bill for an up-down vote,” said White House spokesman Tony Fratto.

Republican Study Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) asked President Bush to convene the special session in an Aug. 1 letter. The same day, House Republicans launched an unusual protest on the House floor urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to call Congress back to work.

“Since Speaker Pelosi has decided not to keep the House in session to allow this vote to take place, we urge you to use the power vested in you by the Constitution to convene an immediate energy special session of Congress,” the letter said…

House aides said that while the president can declare that Congress must sit for an emergency session, he cannot set the agenda – only the leadership of the majority party can do that.

Even if the White House could set the agenda, getting them involved accomplishes two things: It puts Bush’s dirty fingerprints on an issue that’s otherwise golden for the GOP — so golden that MoveOn admits they’re losing this debate — and it lets the Democrats play the victim by complaining about executive overreach. Which makes me think Pence’s and Hensarling’s letter was simply pro forma, a way to show the public how urgent they think the situation is. Besides, congressional Republicans need good press before the election even more desperately than McCain does; anything that can be done (or rather, not done) to leave them alone in the spotlight is worth (not) doing. Even McCain should try to keep some distance, although the way he plays it below, by not only challenging Obama but offering to come off the trail himself, is savvily done. Click the image to watch.