Today in the Weekly Standard, Jeffrey Bell from the Ethics and Public Policy Center (an outfit set up to promote "the Judeo-Christian moral tradition" over secular humanism in public policy) puts forward the Republican game plan for throwing Dubya under the bus while still managing to claim that Bush's policies could be effective if someone with the backbone to see them through (like McCain!) is elected. Scott Johnson of Powerline has already endorsed it and no doubt other extreme Right apparatchiks will follow.
It begins (emphasis mine):
The failure of the Bush presidency is the dominant fact of American politics today. It has driven every facet of Democratic political strategy since early 2006, when Democrats settled on the campaign themes that brought them their takeover of the House and Senate in November 2006. Nothing--not even the success of the American troop surge in Iraq--has altered or will alter the centrality of George W. Bush and his failed presidency to Democratic planning in the remainder of 2008.If you think that's going to take mental twisting amounting to deliberately induced schizophrenia, you're right. The GOP, like a crude oil supertanker, has a wide turning circle and getting everything travelling in a new direction is always a messy business.
Until very recently, it was in the Republicans' interest to find ways of sidestepping or finessing this central political fact. Congressional Republicans sensed that open acknowledgment of the failure of the Bush presidency could cause a collapse in floor discipline, perhaps leading to a series of veto overrides and even forced surrender in Iraq. Candidates for the Republican presidential nomination had to deal with the fact that in our polarized politics, Republican primary voters are still predominantly pro-Bush. From the beginning of this cycle, GOP campaign strategists were aware that presidential candidates openly contemptuous of the Bush administration would go nowhere in the primaries (Ron Paul, Tom Tancredo) or prove to be nonstarters (Chuck Hagel).
John McCain's clinching of the Republican nomination changes many if not most of these GOP calculations. If Republicans are to accomplish the unusual feat of winning a third consecutive presidential election in the context of an unpopular administration of their own party, they will have to develop a narrative that takes into account the failed presidency in their midst while at the same time making a plausible case for a new Republican presidency and continued Republican strength in -Congress. This in turn requires an understanding of Bush's failure that is not self-discrediting for Republicans.
But, in short, Bell wants Republicans to believe - both at the same time - that while Bush has been a wonderful President and Commander in Chief he has also been a failure for: not hating Teh Gay enough; not giving enough away to the richest 5% and corporations; making of Iraq both a quagmire and a surging success and for allowing Patrick Fitzgerald to use his investigation of the Plame outing to pursue "only people who were hawkish on Iraq and never people who were dovish on Iraq" thus "criminalizing or semi-criminalizing effective defenders of the Iraq invasion" and driving them from the administration.Nary a mention of the possibility that it's the hard-Right's policies and operators who are flawed, rather than Bush's enabling of them.
Go read the whole thing for the entire muddled split-personality effect of seeing the folks in jackboots try to lockstep in two opposite directions at once. Delicious.