THE WISDOM OF A LIBERATED REPUBLICAN, CONT’D…. This week, congressional Republican leaders did their best to downplay the end of combat operations in Iraq, insisting President Obama was wrong and that President Bush deserves credit for recent progress. It was, even by GOP standards, a sad display.

Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.) — liberated in the wake of a primary defeat — continues to embrace his new-found freedom. Yesterday, that meant blasting his party’s leaders for politicizing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Inglis called criticism lobbed at President Obama by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) “offensive to me,” and encouraged members of his party to “unite” behind the president. […]

“What I’d say back to [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell and whoever is this is really not a time to play politics,” Inglis told South Carolina’s Spartanburg Herald-Journal. “It represents really the worst in politics, to politicize a war. America’s at war. And America’s best are serving right now in some very dangerous places.”

This is, oddly enough, similar to the message Republicans gave from 2003 to 2008, in response to Democratic criticism of Bush/Cheney. The rhetoric of the time was that wars are not campaign props to be exploited, and in a time of crisis, politicians shouldn’t be trying to divide the country.

Inglis just happens to be saying it now under a Democratic administration.

Given how far he’s strayed from his party lately, is there any chance the Democratic leadership may reach out to him for an 11th-hour party switch? Since Inglis is leaving Congress anyway, the practical implications would be minimal, but it could serve as an election-season reminder that the Republican Party may be moving too far in unhealthy directions.

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.