The Romney campaign’s approach to the Bush question can be summed up as follows: George who?

Top Republicans who served in Congress during the Bush administration, however, must resort to other means of deflecting blame.

In a review of Philip Klein’s new book Conservative Survival in the Romney Era, Conor Friedersdorf writes:

Paul Ryan, Tom DeLay, and Rick Santorum are all quoted explaining why they cast votes for Bush-era legislation they found wrongheaded even at the time. The anecdotes are useful reminders of the pressure a president and the establishment of his party can bring to bear, and the frequency with which partisan loyalty is put before principle and the public.

Klein’s book sounds like it’s worth a read, and I don’t have the exact quotes in front of me, but my BS detector is beeping like crazy. Of course they’re going to say they thought such legislation was wrongheaded at the time. What else are they going to say? And how can we falsify self-serving accounts of their state of mind?

I’ll leave Rep. Ryan out of this for now; I personally saw him in closed-door Republican Conference meetings as a House freshman, and he voiced the same concerns about overspending that he does today. But the notion of DeLay and Santorum feeling the pressure of the Republican establishment: They were the Republican establishment!

Santorum was raked over these coals during the primary, so let’s focus on the disgraced DeLay. Tom DeLay, who pushed the boundary of House ethics in order to ensure passage of the Medicare prescription drug bill. Tom DeLay, who said Sen. John McCain  took “the easy way out” and violated conservative principles because he voted against Medicare Part D. Tom DeLay, who said of the mid-2000s federal budget, “we’ve pared it down pretty good.”

Sure. This same Tom DeLay thought all this was wrongheaded at the time.

It’s worth pointing out that the GOP lost control in Congress in 2006 largely because of the slow-motion debacle that was the Iraq War. Yet these same characters seem incapable of even entertaining the possibility that that was wrongheaded at the time.

When you’ve got this many layers of deception, resisting the enticements of the plastic Mitt Romney should be the least of conservatives’ worries.