05/26/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

So Many Waterloos, So Little Time

Napoleon is no doubt rolling under the dome of Les Invalides as the term "Waterloo" gets a post-modern workout in the wake of health care reform.

Republicans have resuscitated the term during the health-care reform debate, telling us more about themselves and how they perceive Barack Obama than about the president himself. Conservative Republican Senator Jim Demint (R-S.C.) started it last summer, advising his colleagues, "If we're able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him." Demint's Facebook page was, upon passage of the legislation, overwhelmed with links to a video of ABBA's 1975 pop hit Waterloo, in which the singers, bemoaning a romantic defeat, say, "I feel like I win when I lose."

The GOP's historical-reference shortage was underscored before the ink dried on the bill, when Bill Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, proclaimed that because President Obama and the Democrats were successful, "Obama's Waterloo will be November 6, 2012." Don't place your bets on Kristol, a man with a less than stellar ratio of predictive certitude to accuracy. He's the guy who, in 2006, told Fox News, "Barack Obama is not going to beat Hillary Clinton in a single Democratic primary."

Following Kristol, Republican commentator David Frum, who distinguishes himself from Demint and Kristol by virtue of being reality-based, agreed that health-care reform is Waterloo, but it's his own party's: "For the cause they purport to represent, it's Waterloo all right: ours."

Now Frum's rogue Waterloo-ing seems to have become his own Waterloo. He was fired Thursday by the conservative American Enterprise Institute, apparently due to his heretical attribution of that term.

At the end of the day, it's helpful to focus on a different kind of Waterloo: the one in The Kinks' 1967 masterpiece Waterloo Sunset, which depicts the bittersweet musings of a man gazing over the Thames River at the rush of commuters coming from the Waterloo Railway Station,

chilly, chilly is the evening time...

But I don't feel afraid
As long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset
I am in paradise.