I've heard various Republicans talk about how they lost the election in large part because they forgot they were supposed to be the party of limited government and once they were in power -- especially once their party controlled both the legislative and executive branches -- they went on a wild spending spree.
It's nice to see that degree of self-criticism, but I think most Republicans are still avoiding coming to terms with just how large a factor the Iraq war was in their ignominious defeat. Newt Gingrich yesterday, for example, said that if Bush had fired Rumsfeld two weeks before, the Republicans would still control the Congress.
I don't think so.
Bush might even have been right to suggest that it would have been seen as a purely political, election-oriented move -- as if dumping him the day after getting trounced in an election wasn't seen as political -- and that it would have backfired electorally.
I'm persuaded, however, that while spending like drunken sailors -- er, sorry, that cliche is a gross insult to drunken sailors, who are at least spending their own money -- was a factor in losing the peoples' confidence, it wasn't nearly as big a factor as the war. Until the Republicans come to terms with that and start rethinking foreign policy, they're going to have a hard time regaining confidence.
The trouble is, all too many Republicans really, really like war and the aggressive foreign policy that leads to war. So long as that's true -- remembering that the Democrats are no great shakes on the issue from a libertarian, realist or constitutionalist point of view -- they don't deserve support.