SAFIRE IN DENIAL…. I was just catching up on yesterday’s Meet the Press and was struck by just how far gone William Safire is. Tim Russert asked his journalist roundtable, for example, to name the biggest story of 2006. Safire wasn’t alone in mentioning the war in Iraq, but his response was, shall we say, unique.

“The Iraq story is obviously the big story of the year. And I look at the Trumanesque quality in the White House now. You have a president who is facing all this bad news coming out of Iraq and the casualties and the brink of civil war. And he’s hanging in there and he’s not admitting defeat, he’s not embracing defeatism. And he’s coming up with another approach, and who knows, he may turn it around.”

It prompted Kate O’Beirne, of all people, to counter Safire, saying, “In 2004, being steadfast like that served him well. The contrast was John Kerry is a flip-flopper and George Bush is steadfast. But by 2006, that was no longer an asset. What they considered steadfast, I think, looked stubborn and out of touch.”

When O’Beirne has to intervene with a dose of reality, you know Safire has reached a breathtaking state of denial.

On a related note, Russert reminded Safire (and all of us) that the former Times columnist predicted in 2005 that by the end of 2006, we’d see evidence of victory in Iraq, a troop withdrawal would have begun, and a civil war would fail to develop. Asked to respond, Safire said he remains “optimistic,” and added, “One of these days I’m going to be right.”

Maybe someone could explain to me why Safire keeps getting invited back to Sunday morning public affairs shows. Even among the conservative punditocracy, Meet the Press has to be able to do better than this.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.