You remember the late 20th-centry GOP, right? They were the rag-tag band of crazy dreamers who managed to take over Congress in 1994 and, with the help of a pliant but deft Democratic president, give us kinda-sorta balanced budgets within a few years. Then, when they got full control of the federal government, blew the doors off any semblance of spending, foreign policy, and regulatory constraint (yes, it's all true).

And, arguably worst of all, they took what even Democrats in the mid-'00s conceded was looking like a "permanent Republican majority" into a series of slam-dunk wins for the party of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama and all the goddamn stupidity that that implies.

The best strategy in electoral politics is to let the other party drive the country into a ditch every once in a while. That way, you can take back the House or the Senate or 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue without actually doing any serious work. And by fiddling while Rome burns and playing to useless side issues rather than putting forth a serious counter agenda.

With that in mind, here's three reasons why the Reps aren't serious about advancing any sort of real reform when they get in office. Keep in mind it's mere months before midterms when they just might take over one house of the gummint.

1. All this mosque madness. Sweet fancy Zardoz! Whatever else you can say about the Cordoba Initiative (not to be confused with the Chrysler Cordoba - and one wonders just what sort of Muslim triumphalism its seats of rich Corinthian leather were meant to symbolize), if this is where the leading lights of the GOP are flying like moths to a flame before the big election, you know they are ready to bullshit rather than cut spending. Gingrich, Palin, the Mighty Mitch McConnell, John Boehner: Don't you got something better to do?

2. Speaking of Boehner, what's the hell is going on with this 14th Amendment re-looking? The man who would be Speaker supports that. Yet the "anchor baby" argument against a long tradition (read: court-verified legal right) of birthright citizenship is crap on a stick. But more important, in nobody's universe other than the fevered, no-humidity nightmares of Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce and World's Toughest Sheriff Joe Arpaio can this issue be worth talking about. Word to the wise: When a Republican like Sen. Lindsay Graham is leading the charge on anything, slowly sneak out the back door when the forward movement begins.

3. Speaking of Boehner again, check out this transcript of his August 8 appearance on Meet The Press, where he doesn't really name a goddamned thing he would do to gut the spending that started on the GOP watch under Bush and then lifted off like an Apollo mission under Obama. The best he can do is to say not to spend whatever's leftover from the stimulus plan and not to put "the cart before the horse" when it comes to entitlement reform (because that, like, might piss off his constituents). And to raise in passing Rep. Paul Ryan's flawed but at least serious long-term budget reform plan that Boehner has made sure to distance himself from. On the same show, a more-plainspoken pol, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), put it this way:

You know that during the first six years of this decade, I spent most of my time fighting against runaway spending under Republicans.  I opposed No Child Left Behind, I opposed the Medicare prescription drug bill, I opposed the Wall Street bailout.

That's all great, until you reread the first part of that statement. Do we have any idea of what the GOP is going to do come fall? Other than talk about mosques, birthright citizenship, and what a sack of shit Obama is/was/will forever be?

It is a given that the Democrats have already stunk up the joint. What was good about Bill Clinton was that he was actually for things like free trade and welfare reform. He was genuinely pro-business (his income tax increases were paired with significant cuts in capital gains and other business rates). None of that can be said about today's Dems, especially Obama, who seems to have no firm ideas about anything than a BCS playoff system, which is about as central to America's future as whether or not a Muslim community center or an Islamic gay bar gets built on the sight of a destroyed Burlington Coat Factory outlet.

But what can be done - what should be done - about an ascendant national GOP that has had plenty of time to offer up alternatives on the things that matter most and instead farts around with the rankest sort of sham symbolic junk?

Hey, Ray Bradbury, I take it all back! We never should have left the moon. Is that window seat on the next shuttle to Alpha Base still available?