If he has any idea who he is, Jeb Bush might have felt a twinge of empathy for David Miliband when Miliband lost out to his younger brother for the leadership of the Labour Party.
Jeb experienced something similar in the late 1990s when his brother George - older in years but younger in political maturity - overtook him in the race to become the second Bush in the White House. George then went on to do his level best to ensure that he was the last. It is frequently said that if Jeb didn't share a last name with his brother, he'd be president by now, or on his way.
This isn't just a pity for Jeb, but for all of us: of the two, Jeb is far more impressive, thoughtful and capable. Now that he is no longer Governor of Florida, he floats in a kind of young-elder-statesman limbo. But he still cares, and one of the things he cares about is the degeneration of his party. In a recent interview he did something almost no major GOP figure is prepared to do: castigate his own side for its ideological rigidity. He spoke almost contemptuously about the party that is constantly claiming the mantle of Reagan but doesn't do compromise:
"Ronald Reagan would have … a hard time if you define the Republican Party—and I don’t—as having an orthodoxy that doesn’t allow for disagreement, doesn’t allow for finding some common ground," Bush said, adding that he views the partisan sclerosis as "temporary. Back to my dad’s time and Ronald Reagan’s time—they got a lot of stuff done with a lot of bipartisan support," he said. Today Reagan "would be criticized for doing the things that he did."
He's hardly a liberal, mind you (although he would be counted as one by his colleagues on immigration and social issues) and he has harsh words for Obama. But rather than indulging in poisonous Gingrich-style attacks on the president's character, he mounts a powerful critique of his strategic failings:
President Obama's big failing, says Bush, was his refusal to embrace the Simpson-Bowles commission he set up to find a way to reduce budget deficits. It was a failure of leadership, says Bush, who argues that had the president fought for the plan and lost, he would not have suffered politically. "Presidents matter, and this president lost his chance to be a transcendent figure." Leadership, he argues, would have been the president's own political reward. "Had he tried with sincerity and tried hard, he could make a compelling case ‘Conservatives are against me, they're not for advancing the broader interests of this country.’ "
More on the interview here.