I have written favorably about Jeb Bush. Like many conservatives I thought he would have been an excellent presidential candidate and well positioned to unify the different strands within the GOP. But he chose not to make that sacrifice. He’s certainly entitled to some relative privacy and to make some money in the private sector.

But it’s rich to hear him lecture those who did get into the race. On Fox News he pronounced: “I used to be a conservative and I watch these debates and I’m wondering, I don’t think I’ve changed, but it’s a little troubling sometimes when people are appealing to people’s fears and emotion rather than trying to get them to look over the horizon for a broader perspective and that’s kind of where we are. I think it changes when we get to the general election. I hope.”

Well, he certainly could have run. He could even have endorsed someone and then offered counsel. But it’s a bit nervy to say to the party, ”You don’t need me. You’ve got all these other guys” — and then take indiscriminate pot shots at the guys who did run. (He’s not warning a specific candidate about a particular comment, but knocking the whole bunch.) And if he is going to smear them, he could at least provide some details. How are they appealing to our fears?

Lots of people appealed to Bush and other GOP conservative stars to get into the race. They had every right to decline to run. But if the GOP loses in 2012, many Republicans are not going to see their absence as admirable. “Where were you?” the distraught conservatives will wonder, if they must endure four more years of Barack Obama. Given that, Bush and others might not want to go after the GOP field. It is now an irksome reminder that some of the best GOP talent couldn’t be bothered to run.