In a little less than four hours, the president is scheduled to address the nation. The subject of the address is immigration, and it has been widely reported that Mr. Bush will announce that he is sending the National Guard to help secure the border with Mexico. The president will undoubtedly give a number of reasons for this in the address (I predict that we will hear about 9-11 once or twice tonight) but the real reasons are purely political.
Bush is in desparate need of some sort of "win" right now. His poll numbers are heading toward Nixon-land. He's under 70% support from Republicans, and under 60 with Conservatives right now. His popularity with Democrats, Liberals, and Independents is getting so low that it risks becoming statistically indistinguishable from zero. He really doesn't care too much about the people who are against him, but the drop with the base is starting to really concern the administration.
They need a win. They need to show that they can get together with congress and solve a problem, and the solution needs to be bipartisan - involving both moderate and conservative Republicans. Right now, immigration is probably their only hope - social security, taxes, and health care definitely won't work anymore, and the war is off limits.
Unfortunately, immigration isn't working out too well. The House of Representatives wants to round up and bring to justice all of the illegals, and ship home all 12 million of them. The president and the senate want an immigration bill that is at least slightly responsive to reality, and recognizes that we might not actually be able to afford 12 million one-way airfares just now. Instead, they want to allow illegal aliens who have been here for long periods of time without getting into trouble to move into a legal status.
Right now, neither group is willing to budge, so the president is stepping up. In a bold move, he's sending thousands of National Guard troops (who, we all know, have nothing better to do with their time) down to the border. He's hoping that this will show the House Republicans that he's serious about enforcement, so that they'll back down enough to let some sort of guest worker program pass.
To put it another way, our troops are being entrusted with a mission of critical importance. They are being sent to guard our border from the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Their mission there is to allow the Republicans to make a deal with the Republicans, saving the President from political disaster.