For example, why would Republicans support sending more troops to Afghanistan, when that war was long over, or helping topple Moammar Gadhafi, who had become an ally in the war on terrorism? Some Republicans seem to support all military deployments just out of habit.
For years after the 9/11 terrorist attack on America, Democrats hysterically bemoaned any military action, especially in Iraq. They claimed to have many precious objections, but the truth was, they thought we deserved the attack -- or at best, both sides were at fault.
So when it came to Obama's pointlessly sending more troops to Afghanistan or foolishly intervening in Libya, some Republicans' first instinct was to demand muscular American military action, forgetting that we are the party that cares about American national security and does not fling troops around the globe just to look tough, as the Democrats do.
Republicans who supported sending more troops to Afghanistan and taking out Gadhafi were fighting the last war.
Similarly, sometimes it seems as if Republicans' only move on the economy is to cut taxes. With the highest corporate tax rate in the world, there's much to be said for cutting taxes. But, unlike when Reagan ran for president, it's going to take a lot more than tax cuts to rescue this country from its $16 trillion debt.
When Reagan took office, the top marginal tax rate in this country was a staggering 70 percent. Lowering that to 28 percent was an enormous shot in the arm to the economy.
Cutting the top tax rate today from 35 percent to 30 percent -- or even 20 percent -- cannot possibly have the same dramatic effect. Republicans, as the only responsible party, are going to have to do something that's never been tried before in Washington: Cut government spending.
To keep prattling about cutting taxes, rather than cutting our behemoth, useless government is fighting the last war.
Finally, some Republicans have been fighting the last war in our primaries.
For at least the last half-century -- probably since Abraham Lincoln ran -- there has always been liberal Republican pain in the ass in the GOP primary race. (You can tell who the liberal is by whom The New York Times calls a "pragmatic" or "moderate" Republican.)
In 1968, there were two liberals -- Richard Nixon and Nelson Rockefeller -- and one conservative, Ronald Reagan, who nearly won the nomination.
In 1976, it was Reagan again, vs. Gerald Ford ("moderate"). In 1980, it was Reagan a third time, vs. pro-choice, "voodoo economics" George H.W. Bush.