Over the weekend, Bill Maher presented a worthwhile new rule about the Republican Party and its reluctance to acknowledge the most recent GOP president.
"Republicans don't have to accept evolution, economics, climatology, or human sexuality, but I just watched a week of their national convention, and I need them to admit the historical existence of George W. Bush," Maher explained. "If your party can run the nation for eight years and then have a national convention and not invite Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Karl Rove, or Tom DeLay, you're not a political movement, you're the witness protection program."
To borrow a Homer Simpson line, it's funny because it's true. Bush is the only former president from either party in 40 years to stay away his first national convention after leaving office, and for the most part, Republicans pretended he doesn't exist.
But before the political world completely shifts its attention from Tampa to Charlotte, it's worth pausing to appreciate the fact that Bush and Cheney may be carefully hiding from public view, and the GOP may seem largely ashamed of them, but their influence hasn't faded at all.
Who did we hear from at the party's convention? Prime time slots went to Bush's Secretary of State, Bush's brother, and Romney's running mate -- who voted for Bush's tax cuts, Bush's wars, Bush's Medicare expansion, Bush's Patriot Act, Bush's No Child Left Behind law, and Bush's Wall Street bailout.
Politico ran a piece last week on who would likely join a Romney/Ryan cabinet, and according to campaign insiders, the vast majority of the choices would be Bush/Cheney veterans. Indeed, we don't even have to wait until after the election -- Karl Rove is pulling party strings behind the scenes, Dan Senor and John Bolton are top campaign officials, and loyal Bushies are helping run the campaign.
What's more, Matt Yglesias looked for meaningful policy differences between Romney's agenda and Bush's, and couldn't find anything. Even Republican National Committee spokespersons concede a Romney administration would effectively be the same thing as a Bush administration, "just updated."
We may not see Bush, and the party may now perceive Bush as the name that must not be spoken, but that doesn't mean he's gone.