(Eric Gay/AP)

It appeared in last week’s second presidential debate. that Bush had finally broken through the bipartisan cone of silence on the mere mention of his name.

In contrast to the first debate, where his name came up only once, Bush’s name — thanks only to a town hall question — came up a full 12 times by our quick count.

But in the third debate, Bush, who was president from 2001 to 2009, faltered, getting his name mentioned only twice.

Obama stuck to the no-mention agreement Monday, even using “the previous administration” — instead of mentioning whose administration that might have been — in a discussion of China’s trade shenanigans.

But, well into the last debate, Obama broke the pledge, saying that Romney had “praised George Bush as a good economic steward and Dick Cheney as somebody who’s -- who shows great wisdom and judgment.”

That’s the very first time Cheney (he was vice president of the United States from 2001 to 2009) has ever been mentioned in the presidential debates.

Romney, apparently feeling free to break the no-mention agreement, then did so in a near-perfect way. Defending his “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” op-ed, Romney managed to both smack Obama for following Bush’s lead and then hit Bush for starting the bailout.

“It was President Bush that [sic] wrote the first checks,” he said at the end of end of the debate. “I disagree with that.”

Well, perhaps now, the 43rd president and his veep can return to relative obscurity.