This week, because it’s a “foreign policy week,” with President Obama giving a major speech on the subject on Wednesday, Christie Watch has been taking a look at the foreign policy ideas from various 2016 president contenders, including Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie. Today, we survey the views, such as they are, of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
Given the united front against the Tea Party by the Republican establishment, Karl Rove’s Crossroads and the US Chamber of Commerce, the GOP winner in 2016 is likely to be an establishment-leaning candidate or, at least, one who’s willing to promise to behave. That probably rules out Rand Paul, the iconoclastic, libertarian-isolationist whose foreign policy views have alienated the GOP’s elite. The front-runners, otherwise—once we rule out the fringe, religious-right candidates such as Mike Huckabee—leave us with Christie, Jeb Bush, a handful of other GOP governors (Scott Walker, Mike Pence, John Kasich), Representative Paul Ryan and a couple of radical-right senators, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
None of them have fully developed views on foreign policy, though in his own way each one has tried to cast himself in opposition to Paul and his merry band of libertarians. Yesterday, in our post about Christie, we noted how the New Jersey governor has tacked this way and that between support for interventionism and the “freedom agenda” and a more domestic-oriented, build-at-home approach to projecting power abroad.
Bush, who says he’ll make a decision later this year about whether to run, has joined Christie and other center-right Republicans in criticizing President Obama for alleged “passivity.” In a private speech in March to Sheldon Adelson and the Republican Jewish Coalition—an event dubbed part of the “Sheldon Primary,” in which Bush and other politicians sought the favor of Adelson and his unlimited billions, covered at the time by Christie Watch—Bush slammed Obama on Russia and Ukraine, according to Ari Fleischer, the former George W. Bush spokesman and bigwig in the RJC. “He was very rough on the president in terms of his handling of foreign policy, referring to the dangers of ‘American passivity,’” said Fleischer. (At the same event, Bush also hit GOP “neo-isolationism,” without mentioning Paul.)
Back in 2012, after the Mitt Romney debacle, a number of conservative and GOP commentators pointed out that the catastrophic mismanagement of foreign policy by George W. Bush would long haunt the Republican party. Writing for Foreign Policy in 2012, John Norris said:
The next Republican nominee will need distance both from George W. Bush’s foreign policy and from Mitt Romney’s campaign. Even Jeb Bush—particularly Jeb Bush—would have to look like he was taking a very different approach to foreign policy than his brother.