When, after the massacres at Newtown and the Washington Navy Yard, Republicans refused to outlaw the AR-15 rifle or require background checks for gun purchasers, we were told the party had committed suicide by defying 90 percent of the nation.
When Republicans rejected amnesty and a path to citizenship for illegal aliens, we were told the GOP had just forfeited its future.
When House Republicans refused to fund Obamacare, the government was shut down and the Tea Party was blamed, word went forth: The GOP has destroyed its brand. Republicans face a wipeout in 2014. It will take a generation to remove this mark of Cain.
Eight weeks later, Obama's approval is below 40 percent. Most Americans find him untrustworthy. And the GOP is favored to hold the seats it has in the House while making gains in the Senate.
For this reversal of fortunes, Republicans can thank the rollout of Obamacare — the website that does not work, the revelation that, contrary to Obama's promise, millions are losing health care plans that they liked, and the reports of soaring premiums and sinking benefits.
Democrats, however, might take comfort in the old maxim: If you don't like the weather here, just wait a while. For, egged on by Bibi Netanyahu and the Israeli Lobby AIPAC, the neocons are anticipating the return of Congress to start work on new sanctions on Iran. Should they succeed, they just might abort the Geneva talks or even torpedo the six-month deal with Iran.
While shaking a fist in the face of the Ayatollah will rally the Republican base, it does not appear to be a formula for winning the nation. According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll from Tuesday, by 44-22 Americans approve of the deal NATO, Russia and China cut with Tehran to freeze its nuclear program. While two-thirds do not trust Iran when it says its program is not designed to build nuclear weapons, fully 65 percent believe "the United States should not become involved in any military action in the Middle East unless America is directly threatened." Only 21 percent disagree.
This is the nation that rose up last summer and told Obama it did not want to get involved in Syria's civil war, and told Congress to deny Obama the authority to order air strikes — red line or no red line.
Even if the Iran deal collapses, 80 percent of Americans would favor a return to the sanctions regime and negotiations. Only 20 percent would support military action against Iran.
In summary, while Americans do not trust Iran, they do not want war with Iran. They want to test Iran. On this issue, Obama is in sync with his countrymen.
Why, looking at these numbers, would Republicans return to Washington with a full-metal-jacket ,"axis-of-evil" attitude, with John McCain becoming again the face of the party?
Why would Republicans return to Washington and throw away the winning hand that is Obamacare? It is ravaging the president's reputation for competence and his credibility, and calling into question the core philosophy of the Democratic Party — that Big Government is America's salvation.
Why would Republicans return to the bellicosity that cost the party both Houses in 2006 and the White House in 2008?
That 20 percent of the nation which favors war with Iran, in the event of a deal collapse or breakdown in the talks, is already in the GOP corral. If Republicans seek to broaden their base, why abandon Obamacare, where a majority agrees with them, for an issue, renewed hostility to Iran, where a majority disagrees? Would it not be playing into Obama's hand to allow him to assume the role of statesman, who, with "all options on the table," is willing to negotiate with an enemy rather than take us to war with him? Did not Eisenhower, Nixon and Reagan all go this same route?
If Bibi, AIPAC, the neocons and their congressional allies should sabotage the negotiations or scuttle the existing or future deal with Iran, maneuvering us into a another war in the Middle East that America does not want, how do they think this will sit with the voters in 2016? If Iran is deceiving us and is hell-bent on breaking out of this deal and making a dash to a bomb, we will know about it months if not years before Iran ever tests a device, let alone builds a bomb, miniaturizes it and marries it to a delivery system. We would have more than enough notice to abort any test and neutralize Iran's nuclear program. And the nation would unite behind action, were it seen that Iran had lied to us to buy time to build and test a bomb.
But if the Republican Party leads Congress in imposing new sanctions, and the Iranians walk out, and the NATO-Russia-China coalition breaks up, and a chance for peace in the Persian Gulf seems to have been thrown away, the GOP will pay the price. And rightly so.
(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)