Viewers of the approximately 3 million Republican presidential debates so far have come to expect certain things.

There’s the regular (though shrinking) cast of characters, a moderator struggling to knock the candidates off their talking points, and loads of American flags.

But there’s one thing you’d be hard pressed to find mentioned at a Republican debate.

George W. Bush. (Who?)

You’d think the last Republican president — you know, that two-termer who’s been out of the White House a scant three years — might come up with some frequency.

Not so. In fact, Bush is the invisible man of the GOP race, the all-but-forgotten Ghost of Administrations Past. In Harry Potter parlance, He Who Should Not be Named.

According to a Loop analysis of the Republican debates, George W. Bush’s name has come up a pitiful 56 times. That includes mentions by all the candidates in 16 major debates.

President Obama, on the other hand, got 560 name-drops.

But that’s not to say the candidates didn’t have a Republican president at the tip of their tongues. Ronald Reagan , who’s been dead for 71 / 2 years and whose White House tenure ended nearly a quarter-century ago, is a favorite topic — surprise, surprise — of the GOP debaters.

They invoked his name 221 times.

To put things in perspective, the year Reagan left office, Paula Abdul was a fresh-faced, chart-topping sensation instead of today’s washed-up former “American Idol” judge.

But in the debates, at least, he’s still in fashion.

Don’t feel too bad for Dubya. At least he got more attention than his father, who came up in the debates a mere two times.

Papers, please

Nouri al-Maliki ’s government in Iraq is flexing a bit more.

Seems U.S. government employees traveling to Iraq are being advised that they’re going to need “valid Iraqi visas” to enter the country.

“With the termination of the security agreement between” the Iraqi government and the U.S. military, the department announced Monday, “passports and valid Iraqi visas are required for all government personnel and contractors,” including TCNs, or third-country nationals.

The TCNs include a security force of about 5,000, and thousands more workers who cook, clean and provide medical care and other support services to the Americans there.

Embassy Air-Iraq, the approximately 46-aircraft air service operated by the State Department, “will only board passengers with valid and current passports and visas on flights from Amman or Kuwait City en route to Baghdad,” the notice said.

“This requirement also applies to any passengers on (U.S.) military flights” to international airports in Baghdad, Basra or Erbil, the department advised. Also, the “DOD Common Access Card,” the Pentagon’s ID card, “is no longer valid for entry into or travel within Iraq.”

Ah, the thanks of a grateful nation.

Expatriates? Ex-patriots?

A tax law passed in 2010 and taking effect next year is supposed to recoup taxes owed by citizens abroad who have offshore accounts.

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) requires U.S. taxpayers with money outside this country to report those assets to the Internal Revenue Service and pay taxes on the earnings. That’s not particularly new.

But it may have some unintended consequences — especially for those who haven’t been disclosing their accounts.

Seems the new law also requires foreign banks and other foreign financial institutions (FFIs) to turn over the records of their U.S.-citizen customers.

So under FATCA, the FFIs may alert the IRS about all that money fat cats are trying to hide. (Curious that Congress couldn’t come up with a T-word, like “transactions” or something, to make the acronym FATCAT.)

We’re hearing that, perhaps in response to the law, more U.S. citizens overseas are deciding to renounce their citizenship. That means the FFIs won’t need to report anything and people can keep their foreign accounts and not worry and be happy.

It’s not clear how many people have opted for this solution to avoid paying taxes. And it may be that many of these folks are dual citizens of Canada or England or Switzerland or other nice countries, so for some people the renunciations are no big deal.

For expatriates deemed not to be wackos and clearly acting without coercion, the loss of citizenship is likely to be approved.

The problem is that for U.S. citizens overseas, that could mean you would have to apply for a visa to get back into the States. And getting your citizenship back later may be tricky.

So it depends how much you think your citizenship is worth?

The bench is getting cold

Still hoping Obama nominates you for a federal judgeship? You’d better get those questionnaires and other forms filled out fast, like tout de suite.

That creaking sound you hear is the confirmation window closing in the Senate as the fourth year of the administration begins. The Republican-controlled Senate — don’t get excited, we’re talking about who’s really in charge, not raw numbers — is, especially after Obama’s recess-appointment gambit, going to be grumpier than ever when it comes to confirmations.

That means probably no judicial nominees get confirmed after the August break and precious few after Memorial Day. Those with the best chances of wearing those black robes are the 19 nominees already on the Senate floor. An additional 18 nominees awaiting hearings and votes at the Judiciary Committee might make it to the Senate floor by spring.

As the chart below shows, even if the Senate confirms all those folks, Obama will end up putting 161 judges on the 874-member federal judiciary. That’s 44 fewer than in Bill Clinton’s first-term total and 39 fewer than in George W. Bush’s. (Obama also is likely to end up with the greatest number of judicial vacancies at the end of his four years.)

It’s possible a few more nominees will get lucky, but if you want to be one of them, get moving.

With Emily Heil

Research maven Lucy Shackelford contributed to this column.
The blog:
intheloop. Twitter:@InTheLoopWP.