When Ari Fleischer first moved to Texas in 1999 to work for George W. Bush, residents of the Lone Star State did not quite know what to make of him. 

In fact, they didn’t know what to make of his name.

When he got to Austin and said, “Hi, my name is Ari.”

The response he got, in the land of J.R. Ewing, was: “Is that R period E period?”

Eventually, the man who would become president tried to remove all doubt. “Dub” Bush re-dubbed him “R.E. Bob.”

You have to almost admire a fellow who can enter Middlebury College in Vermont as a liberal Democrat and leave the state and one of the nation’s top liberal arts college as … a conservative.

Now, he’s no longer the White House press secretary. He’s not even a major financial industry figure, even if he was the keynote speaker at the conference Tuesday. And you may have lingering questions about his role in “outing” the wife of a former U.S. ambassador as a covert agent of the CIA.

But he had an honest opinion about where this country is headed in its current state of paralysis between Democrats and Republicans in the nation’s capital. We’re in an “era of bad will,” he said.

And, he was honest about the plight of his Republican party. In an era of increasing diversity, it hasn’t figured out how to become the party that cares about all parts of the electorate, including blacks and Hispanics. And youth.

Not old people who are about to die, he noted.

“Mitt Romney was the best candidate in a field of weak candidates,’’ he said, who came across as an “out of touch wealthy Republican.”

The party also lost races to dead duck candidates with “foolish candidates” of its won who made “unimaginable” comments on rape.

He’s now a media consultant for the NFL, Bowl Championship Series, and other sports organizations.

Maybe the organization he really needs to consult with is the Republican Party itself.

Instead of mind-deadening “debates” among the next round of candidates and excruciatingly complex variants of primaries in states across the country, he can come up with a playoff system that really works.

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