Republican politics have been off-kilter for several years now because a large segment of the conservative base does not look back fondly on the Bush presidency. The mainstream media’s various narratives about the Tea Party ignore a vastly more significant and powerful motivation than the various bigotries and conspiracy theories typically ascribed to them. The Tea Party feels the GOP under Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” gave up the store to big government…

I don’t believe the Republican party would punish Romney for a policy-heavy “Sister Souljah moment.” I’ve made this argument in front of numerous conservative audiences (and recently in the pages of National Review) with little to no objection. My hunch is that Bush himself would be happy to serve as a punching bag if it would help.

Romney shouldn’t attack Bush personally. Nor should he be strident in his criticisms of Bush policies. (There are substantive defenses of his record to be made.) But Romney is under no obligation to defend runaway spending by either party. Indeed, congressional Republicans admitted that, in the words of Representative Mike Pence, “we lost our way” during the Bush years. They subsequently won back the House in 2010.