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Author Delivers Gloomy Forecast for GOP

There’s nothing like a good Bush-bashing session over lunch, at least if you’re Sidney Blumenthal or a like-minded Democrat.

Last week the progressive advocacy group Third Way hosted Blumenthal, senior adviser to presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and former adviser to President Bill Clinton, for a lunchtime discussion to promote his new book, in which he pronounces utter doom for the Republican Party.

“The Strange Death of Republican America: Chronicles of a Collapsing Party” is a collection of previously published essays and columns in The Guardian newspaper and Salon.com, chronicling what Blumenthal views as failures of Republicans beginning in the Nixon White House and culminating with President Bush.

The former writer for The New Yorker, The New Republic and The Washington Post said during the lunch that he had hoped he would not have to cover a Bush again after George H.W. Bush lost to Bill Clinton in 1992. But that hope was dashed eight years later when he was “condemned” to follow George W. Bush.

He said he soon learned that the new Bush differed profoundly from his Republican predecessors, including his father.

The younger Bush began the makeover of the Republican Party by aligning with neo-conservatives and members of the religious right, whom his own father and President Ronald Reagan had spurned, according to Blumenthal.

The situation was made worse by Vice President Cheney and Karl Rove, former deputy chief of staff to Bush, Blumenthal said. Cheney’s years as chief of staff under President Gerald Ford taught him how to get things done in the White House and control the flow of information, Blumenthal argued.

Cheney was successful “because, actually, experience matters,” Blumenthal said in what appeared to be backhanded dig at Hillary Clinton’s rival, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

“All this has put the political party in dire straits,” Blumenthal said of the GOP.

To illustrate the collapse, Blumenthal quoted Rep. Tom Davis (Va.), who recently wrote: “the Republican brand is in the trash can” in a 20-page memo assessing the state of his party.

Speaking “off-message” based on personal opinions, rather than on behalf of the Clinton campaign, Blumenthal offered some thoughts on the election prospects of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.).

“John McCain is the Republican nominee because the conservative hold on the Republican Party shattered,” Blumenthal said.

The political strategist said there is a profound difference between McCain and Bush, giving McCain great maneuverability in his campaign.

And in what could be perceived as another subtle reference to the Obama campaign, Blumenthal cautioned Democrats from portraying McCain as a continuation of the Republican incumbent, arguing the public will see McCain differently.

Regardless of the election’s outcome, Blumenthal added, there is a critical period ahead. Bush still has the potential to do damage before he leaves office, the Democratic adviser said.

“We’re in a kind of twilight zone,” Blumenthal told the lunch audience. And “the final chapter is yet to be written.”

“The Strange Death of Republican America: Chronicles of a Collapsing Party” was published last month. Blumenthal has also released a paperback version of his earlier book, “The Rise of the Counter-Establishment: The Conservative Ascent to Political Power.”

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