Former Florida governor Jeb Bush declared Wednesday that he is his own man when it comes to formulating his views on foreign policy. And he skewered President Obama for “inconsistent and indecisive leadership” abroad in his first major foreign policy pronouncements since entering the 2016 GOP presidential fray.
In prepared remarks for a speech this morning at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Bush wasted little time in distancing himself from the record of his father and brother, former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.
“I love my father and my brother. I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions they had to make,” Bush said. “But I am my own man – and my views are shaped by my own thinking and own experiences.”
As he begins to assemble a campaign organization and massive fundraising network, Jeb Bush must walk a fine line between trading on the notoriety of his famous political family and asserting his independence from the views and record of his father and brother.
This is critical as he addresses the ongoing crisis in the Middle East – particularly in in Iraq, a country where his father fought a war and a country his brother invaded and occupied following the 9/11 attacks.
Many critics today blame the policies of George W. Bush for the chaos and terrorism besetting Iraq and neighboring countries, and many GOP leaders long ago began distancing themselves from the former president.
Voters and rival campaigns are watching closely to see how heavily he leans on veterans of the two past Bush administrations for support, The Washington Post reported today. In his prepared remarks, Jeb Bush says he has been lucky to have a father and a brother “who both have shaped America’s foreign policy from the Oval Office.”
“As a result, my views will often be held up in comparison to theirs – sometimes in contrast to theirs,” he said. Bush added, “Each president learns from those who came before – their principles, their adjustments. One thing we know is this: Every president inherits a changing world and changing circumstances.
Strong American leadership overseas, he said – “projected consistently and grounded in principle – has been a benefit to the world.” But in turning his attention to President Obama’s stewardship these past six years, he said, “I have doubts whether this administration believes American power is such a force.”
”Under this administration, we are inconsistent and indecisive. We have lost the trust and the confidence of our friends. We definitely no longer inspire fear in our enemies. ”He also said, “The great irony of the Obama presidency is this: Someone who came to office promising greater engagement with the world has left America less influential in the world.”
highly critical of the president’s handling of crises in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and other global hot spots, Bush offered few specific prescriptions for improvements besides bolstering defense spending and projecting greater economic strength abroad.
“The president’s word needs to be backed by the greatest military power in the world,” he said. “The president should call on leaders of both parties to fix the budget and address the shortfalls in our defense spending. Obama has in fact proposed lifting spending caps to substantially boost defense spending in the coming fiscal year.
Bush also said having a military equal to any threat “is not only essential for the commander in chief, it also makes it less likely that we will need to put our men and women in uniform in harm’s way.”
Moreover, he said, “The transformation of our economy will also send a powerful message about the American system: Free people, free markets, free ideas … implemented faithfully… will set a powerful example of what’s possible to the rest of the world.
“Our words and our actions must match – so that the entire world knows we say what we mean and mean what we say,” he said.
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