Reports are that George W. Bush took the hint and is skipping the Republican National Convention in Florida this week. But if you look around, you can see that he will be there in a very big way.
The hurricane that's headed for New Orleans by way of Tampa is a tragic reminder of one of the Bush presidency's greatest failures, the disastrous handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Try as they might, that inescapable reminder of Bush is something that the Romney campaign and the Republican Party just can't seem to avoid.
As much as they're trying to have the country forget the Bush years, they just keep on reminding us. Just a few weeks ago, for instance, Romney's announcement of his vice presidential pick atop the USS Wisconsin brought back warm memories of the "Mission Accomplished" speech on the deck of the Abraham Lincoln .
But maybe we should give credit for truth in advertising. After all, Romney and Ryan have proposed nothing more than a promise to relive an even more extreme version of the George W. Bush administration. Their massive tax cuts for the rich are Bush's plus some. Their hard line against gay rights and reproductive rights are his plus a lot. Their constant kowtowing to the Religious Right are his as well, although they say that this time around they'll deliver even more social policy extremism. To prove it, they've replaced Bush's not-quite-accurate "compassionate conservative" catchphrase with the all-too-accurate "severely conservative."
The stormy reminder of Bush in Tampa threatens to interrupt what will be a week of celebrating the slashing of government agencies, demonizing public employees and those who receive public services, celebrating deregulation, extolling the wonders of tax cuts for the rich, redefining rape, and bowing to the Religious Right. It reminds us of what those things mean in practice: tax breaks for the rich on the backs of the middle class, rapidly widening economic inequality, a federal government that can't respond to major crises, all while paying back the oligarchs who will have bought his election.
George W. Bush may not be there in person to witness the collision of Hurricane Isaac with his party's convention. But we already know that Mitt Romney will do a "heck of a job" implementing Bush's policies.
Follow Michael B. Keegan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MBKeegan