If we learned tomorrow that George W. Bush needed a teleprompter for even his one-on-one encounters in the Oval Office, I feel quite certain that the very next day Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and the entire Right Wing Noise Machine would be busily churning out sarcastic lamentations about President Obama and his chronic inability to make his way through the King's English unaccompanied by some electronic device.
That's' the only way I can make sense of the email former Vice President Dick Cheney sent through a staffer to a conservative news site on Monday attacking President Obama for not attending more daily intelligence briefings -- a story which appeared on the very same day Kurt Eichenwald was reporting in the New York Times how Bush and Cheney failed to take action during the spring and summer leading up to 9/11 on a whole cache of intelligence briefs that warned of an "imminent" terrorist attack against the US homeland.
"If President Obama were participating in his intelligence briefings on a regular basis then perhaps he would understand why people are so offended at his efforts to take sole credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden," Cheney told The Daily Caller in his astonishing email.
"Those who deserve the credit are the men and women in our military and intelligence communities who worked for many years to track him down. They are the ones who deserve the thanks of a grateful nation," Cheney said.
Something called the Government Accountability Institute, which is a conservative investigative research organization, had apparently examined President Obama's schedule and calculated he had only attended his daily intelligence briefing 43.8% of the time.
The White House responded that the President receives and reads his PDB every day when he is not in the Oval Office to receive the briefing in person. George W. Bush, by comparison, almost never missed his daily intelligence briefing - a perfect attendance record that apparently did not translate into a better appreciation, or understanding, of what was being said.
For among the daily briefings Bush and Cheney overlooked as planes crashed into the Pentagon and World Trade Center towers, reports Eichenwald, was the PDB from May 1, 2001 in which the CIA told the White House "a group presently in the United States" was planning a terrorist operation.
Or the PDB from June 22 reporting an al Qaeda strike could be "imminent."
Or the one from June 29 that mentioned Bin Laden by name.
Or the one from July 1 that the said the operation had been delayed, but "will occur soon."
Or another from July 24 that said the attack had again been postponed but was still in the works.
Or the infamous PDB from August 6 headlined "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S" -- the one in which the daily briefer was told by the president with the perfect attendance record: "All right. You've covered your ass."
Dick Cheney's exquisitely bad sense of timing was matched today by the equally timely column by Ross Douthat, titled "the Elephant in the Room," where the New York Times conservative ponders whether Republicans will ever win again if they cannot come to grips with their own past failures.
Manifestations of this mass denial on the Right are everywhere, says Douthat, who reports that his fellow conservatives are genuinely stunned Mitt Romney is not leading President Obama by high single digits or more.
President Obama's impressive post-convention bounce "comes as a shock" to Mitt Romney's supporters, says Douthat. "Not that they expected an outright landslide, necessarily. But there's a strong consensus on the Right that we should be headed for a much more decisive repudiation of this administration than the current polls suggest is possible."
Douthat takes note of the ubiquitous hand-wringing on the Right.
"If the Republican Party cannot win in this environment it has to get out of politics," said George F. Will. "If you can't beat Barack Obama with this record then shut down the party," added radio host Laura Ingraham. Harvard historian cum Republican hack Niall Ferguson even went so far as to tell Newsweek readers Obama's improving poll numbers proved "the law of political gravity has been suspended."
We've also seen evidence of this astonishing absence of self-awareness from the barons on Wall Street who cannot for the life of them understand why anyone would blame them for the collapse of the economy in 2008 -- and who feel genuinely aggrieved whenever the President suggests they need to do more (like pay taxes) to bail the country out in repayment for the bailouts they got from taxpayers not so long ago.
In their quest to explain away President Obama's popularity, conservatives have succumbed to what Douthat calls "structural explanations." I prefer to call them "conspiracy theories."
National Review blames Romney's underperformance on "the left-controlled education system that has profoundly shaped the Millennials," notes Douthat. Conservative blogger John Hinderaker ascribes Romney's poor showing to liberalism's success at making the "government economy" of "federal welfare benefits" seem more important than the real economy of job creation.
Douthat agrees these might make for fascinating topics at dinner some evening. But before Republicans lose themselves in metaphysical speculations about the causes for their party's underperformance, Douthat thinks conservatives need to get a grip and face the most obvious explanation of all for their party's declining prospects: "The recent presidency of George W. Bush."
Gallup polls going back to the beginning of the Obama presidency have been remarkably consistent: By overwhelming margins, the American public continues to blame George W. Bush for the country's present economic discontents rather than President Obama.
When Gallup first began probing for this "blame assessment" in July 2009, 80% of Americans gave Bush a great deal or a moderate amount of blame, compared with just 32% who blamed the bad economy on Obama.
According to Gallup, the percentage blaming Bush dropped to about 70% in August 2010, and has stayed roughly in that range ever since. Meanwhile, about half of Americans have blamed Obama since March 2010, "with little substantive change from then to the present." Even half of Republicans give the lion's share of blame to Bush.
And what has been the response of Republicans to this inconvenient truth?
They have banned George W. Bush from all public Republican gatherings. They have buried his legacy and record in much the same way as the old Soviet politburo once pulled down the statues of the failed Communist leaders they wanted the Russian people to disremember. And, they have tried to bully Democrats from ever mentioning Bush's name in connection with the present economic crisis.
But denial is not a public program -- even though Republicans did their best to make it one at their most recent national convention, which may explain why Republicans decamped from their conclave in Tampa without their hoped for "bounce."
To achieve the kind of victory conservatives believe they should be winning, Douthat says the Republican Party needs two things: A domestic agenda "that offers more to hard-pressed families than just generic conservative rhetoric about the genius of capitalism; and a foreign policy program that reflects the hard lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Don't hold your breath. As even Douthat seems to admit, such a program is highly unlikely given that it is predicated on conservatives admitting major portions of their supply-side and neo-conservatism ideology are wrong about how the economy - and the world - really work.
Since George W. Bush left office, conservatives have been more than willing to acknowledge George Bush's failures -- but not their own. However, blaming Bush was the easy part, says Douthat, "because it just involved calling conservatives back to their principles, without necessarily acknowledging the places where ideology might need to adapt itself to new realities."
It's tough to teach an old elephant new tricks and the Republican Party has been descending into the elephant's graveyard of denial ever since Barack Obama was sworn in. That's when the GOP leadership reached its fateful decision there was more to be gained by opposing President Obama every step of the way than by helping him climb out of the hole Republicans themselves had dug for the country in the first place.
"Americans don't want to give the White House back to the Republicans because they remember the Bush era all too well," said Douthat.
Unwilling to face this cold reality squarely, or to admit they were ever wrong, Republicans have instead been running away from themselves and from us ever since. And that is why they are losing.