NEW ORLEANS -- Former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.), in a well-received speech to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference tonight, offered somewhat contradictory statements about the GOP's reign in the early 2000s.

First, Watts said: "We as Republicans can’t wash our hands of what happened over the last six or eight years. … The World War II generation are rolling over in their graves. We have squandered all their principles and hard work."

And then, this: "Some might think George W. Bush had his shortcomings, but let me tell you something: history’s going to be kind to George W. Bush."

One could argue that Watts's first reference was to the Congress and not Bush. But when we look back at governmental eras, they are generally tied to the president in charge. If Republicans make the argument that spending got out of control under total GOP control, can they separate that from Bush's presidency?

In other words, can Republicans have it both ways? It could be a tough argument.