The quote is attributed to that chameleon of political expediency, Talleyrand. The words came back to me while listening to Sean Hannity this afternoon on the radio. Like so much of the extreme right today, he was in total denial and spin mode, refusing to abandon his 'principles' (learning nothing), and already gearing up for the 2014 and 2016 elections to seek revenge (forgetting nothing.)
He went into a long soliloquy at one point, confessing he really didn't see this coming. He was also thinking that if he was in the Democrats shoes, he wouldn't be too happy about this election, not after the campaign they ran with all of the lies and complete lack of substance on their side. He was impressed with the way Mitt Romney "had grown" during the course of the campaign. He spoke sadly of the voters making the 'easy choice' by voting for Santa Claus, as Rush Limbaugh had mused earlier, turning to Big Government for those entitlements.
Hannity stated that he would stay true to his Catholic faith and his conservative principles, and work to turn the country around after the inevitable disasters that are about to ensue. He made a special point that he's NOT registered as a Republican - he's registered as a Conservative.
Later he got into a shouting match with the Coultergeist, who said Pat Buchanan warned us years ago what would happen if the party didn't do something about those Latinos... She was also ranting that the party needs to stop insisting on purity in its candidates and put up people who can win.
Not that he disagreed with her so much as that he simply can't stand to let anyone else get too much time on the air when they're not busy agreeing with him.
It was amazing to hear them disparaging Akins and Mourdock as idiots, conveniently forgetting how much support the party gave them both. It would have been a very different story if they'd won however, and they didn't actually condemn them for their views so much as for being stupid enough to actually say them out loud.
I didn't listen to too much more. Hannity's already reworked the show's intro about "The Stop Obama Express"; it's obvious he will continue to be a blight on the airwaves. What I did hear was instructive enough however.
Rick Perlstein has seen these mental gymnastics on the conservative side before as they attempt to explain away their defeats and their failures.
This part of my talk, I imagine, is long after the point a constitutive operation of conservative intellectual work has clicked on in your minds: the part where you argue that malefactor A or B or C, or transgression X or Y or Z, is not "really" conservative. In conservative intellectual discourse there is no such thing as a bad conservative. Conservatism never fails. It is only failed. One guy will get up, at a conference like this, and say conservatism, in its proper conception, is 33 1/3 percent this, 33 1/3 percent that, 33 1/3 percent the other thing. Another rises to declaim that the proper admixture is 50-25-25.emphasis added
It is, among other things, a strategy of psychological innocence. If the first guy turns out to be someone you would not care to be associated with, you have an easy, Platonic, out: with his crazy 33-33-33 formula--well, maybe he's a Republican. Or a neocon, or a paleo. He's certainly not a conservative. The structure holds whether it's William Kristol calling out Pat Buchanan, or Pat Buchanan calling out William Kristol.
As the Internet's smartest liberal blogger, Digby, puts it, tongue only partially in cheek: "'Conservative' is a magic word that applies to those who are in other conservatives' good graces. Until they aren't. At which point they are liberals."
They learn nothing, they forget nothing.
Listening to John Boehner's call to the President to reach out and work with the Republicans today, my immediate reaction was to jokingly remember Admiral Ackbar's sudden realization "It's a trap!" Given the campaign the Republicans just ran, given the deliberate sabotage of the President's initiatives they've engaged in from Day One of his presidency, given the extreme rhetoric they've embraced and the apocalyptic fears they've promoted, only a fool would take them at their word.
If they're offering cooperation and conciliation now, it's only to pursue their agenda by other means while doing damage control. They should be handled the same way rattlesnakes are milked for their venom - with gentle firmness, strict attention to control, and absolutely no trust at all in their good intentions.
They learn nothing, they forget nothing.
Until the day they provide convincing proof otherwise, that should always be kept in mind - especially before embarking on any "grand bargains". That's Beltway Speak for a deal with the Devil. Conservatism never fails. It is only failed - and the true believers will soldier on to the bitter end.