I CAN’T WAIT FOR THE GOP TO LOVE OBAMA IN 2026…. In light of the news that Democrats love to see former President Bill Clinton out on the campaign trail, while former President George W. Bush keeps a much lower profile, it’s almost amusing to see Republicans decide maybe the Big Dog wasn’t so bad after all.

Many Republicans with a deep animus for President Obama find their hearts aflutter with the memory of a former leader. He was a compassionate conservative, a guy who cared about free trade, a man who reached across the aisle.

He is the husband of the secretary of state.

Senator Orrin G. Hatch recently said that former President Bill Clinton “will go down in history as a better president” than the sitting one. Sean Hannity of Fox News, who has verbally abused Mr. Clinton for years, recently referred to him as “good old Bill.” Republicans in Congress have begun speaking of him with respect, even pining.

“I enjoy Bill Clinton,” Representative Paul D. Ryan, a six-term Republican from Wisconsin, said in an interview, echoing several colleagues. “The first two years of his term were one thing, but the rest of his presidency was tempered with moderation, and the nation benefited.”

Of course, the “rest of his presidency” included the GOP crusade to literally impeach Clinton around the time of the ’98 midterms.

The NYT‘s Jennifer Steinhauer added that much of the Republican nostalgia for Bill Clinton is “a brew of selective memory, convenient disregard for the bitter partisan battles that marked his tenure and longing for a time when major bipartisan legislation, like the North American Free Trade Agreement, was possible.”

Well, yes, I suppose so. But “major bipartisan legislation” would still be possible if the GOP didn’t treat President Obama as some kind of Hitler/Devil combo.

Regardless, it’s that “selective memory” I find especially amusing. Folks under the age of, say, 30, may not remember the political environment of the Clinton era especially well, but to say that Republican attitudes were toxic would be putting it mildly. The GOP — and its conservative allies — didn’t just oppose Clinton, they loathed him with an intensity unseen in a long while. Most of the Republican Party woke up every day in the ’90s with a fairly specific thought: “What can I do to destroy the president today?”

The notion in 1999 that a decade later, Republicans would like and actually praise Bill Clinton in public and on the record was so absurd, it would have been laughable.

Which is why I’m kind of looking forward to 2026, when Republican decide that ol’ Barack may not have been such a bad president after all. The media landscape is different from Clinton’s first two years, and no one ever accused the Big Dog of being a secret Muslim from another country, but there parallels are clearly there — the GOP insisted that Clinton was a communist criminal who hated America and was intent on destroying our way of life. The hysterics might sound familiar.

We look back at the Republican rhetoric of the ’90s and shake our heads in amazement. For all the hyperventilating the GOP did during the Clinton era, they were wrong; their hysterics were ridiculous; their predictions were misguided; and their wild-eyed critiques of the president, we can safely say with the benefit of hindsight, were completely at odds with reality.

And if I had to bet, we’ll see the same trend play out with this Democratic president.

Jon Chait noted the other day, “Conservative beliefs about Clinton and Obama roughly mirror their beliefs about various liberal social reforms. At the time of its enactment, Medicare was dangerous socialized medicine that would mark the first step toward the end of freedom in America. Today it’s a cherished program that Republicans vow to save from Democratic cuts. Right-wingers vilified John F. Kennedy; now they revere him. One day, Obama will play the same role in the Republican imagination that Clinton does today.”

If the Clinton model holds true, I’d look for the realization to kick in around 16 years from now. And many of us will snicker, thinking, “Wow, remember how apoplectic those guys were about Obama? Don’t they appear foolish now?”

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.