“Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida said his father, George Bush, and Ronald Reagan would find themselves out of step with today’s Republican Party because of its strict adherence to ideology and the intensity of modern partisan warfare.
“Ronald Reagan would have, based on his record of finding accommodation, finding some degree of common ground, similar to my dad, they would have had a hard time if you define the Republican Party — and I don’t — as having an orthodoxy that doesn’t allow for disagreement,” Mr. Bush said at a question-and-answer session with reporters and editors held Monday morning in Manhattan by Bloomberg View.
“Back to my dad’s time or Ronald Reagan’s time,” he said, “they got a lot of stuff done with a lot of bipartisan support that right now would be difficult to imagine happening.”
I think that’s notable for several reasons. It helps to explain why Bush, like Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie and other more pragmatic Republicans, declined to run for president this cycle even though, as Jeb said last week, “This was probably my time.” They were unwilling to claim to believe the nonsense that is required to win the nomination in this day and age, and abandoned the field to the far-more-malleable and opportunistic Mitt Romney.
Jeb’s more honest appraisal of his party is a welcome if belated effort to pull it back from the brink and force it to become more responsible. As the former Florida governor noted last week:
“Here’s what I know to be true. Next year or the year after there’s going to have to be a grand bargain. We are on an unsustainable course. It is not possible to continue to do what we are going — what we’re doing today. It’s just not possible. And I think most people that have looked at our structural deficit problems would admit it. If they were put on a lie detector or, you know, under oath or something like that, they would admit it.”
Asked about comments to Congress that he would be willing to take a hypothetical $10 in budget cuts for every $1 in higher revenue, Bush said his willingness to take that deal shows that he is no longer seeking office as a Republican.
“It was living proof I’m not running for anything I think more than anything else,” Bush said.
I’ve said it before repeatedly: This nation needs a sane, rational and conservative Republican Party, and those adjectives — “sane, rational and conservative”– should not be and need not be contradictory, as they have become in recent years.
I agree with Jeb about the necessity of a grand bargain on the nation’s financial future. But I very much worry that Republican leadership and the Republican media machine have succeeded so well in drilling the “no new taxes” mantra into the head of their base that they no longer have any room in which to manuever and negotiate.
Given his statements in recent days, I suspect that Jeb Bush has had similar thoughts.
– Jay Bookman