Quotes of the day

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush on Wednesday promised to chart his own course on foreign policy — though one that would rely on the advice of a cadre of well-known figures who represent most strains of mainstream GOP philosophy regarding national security and international relations.

He also embraced the legacies of his father, George H. W. Bush, and his brother George W. Bush, saying in a speech here that he has been “fortunate” to have family members “who both have shaped America’s foreign policy from the Oval Office.”

“I recognize that as a result, my views will often be held up in comparison to theirs,” Jeb Bush added. “But I am my own man.”

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Likely presidential candidate Jeb Bush delivered a nervous, uncertain speech on national security Thursday, full of errors and confusion

Speaking of the extremist group based in Nigeria that has killed thousands of civilians, Bush referred to Boko Haram as “Beau-coup Haram.” Bush also referred to Iraq when he meant to refer to Iran…

Referring to the leader of the so-called Islamic State, Bush referred to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as “the guy that’s the supreme leader or whatever his new title is—head of the caliphate.”

Bush was also short on describing how he might combat the threat of ISIS. “Taking them out” in partnership with regional allies was about as specific as he got.

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Bush stayed vague on some of the most pressing foreign policy issues of the day, and proposed few actual policy changes. He flubbed the number of ISIS fighters, saying in his speech that it was more than 200,000. (A Bush spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that he “misspoke” and “meant more than 20,000”). The CIA estimated in September that the real number of ISIS fighters is between 20,000 and 31,500. On ISIS in general, Bush had no real policy proposals, saying simply that the U.S. needs to “take them out.”

“It’s violent extreme Islamic terrorism,” Bush said “The more we try to ignore that reality the less likely it is that we’ll develop appropriate strategy to garner the support of the Muslim world, to like I said, tighten the noose and take them out.”

He didn’t seem totally firm on aspects of Russia policy, at one point praising Obama for a “forward lean” in the Baltics, then saying he wasn’t sure if it had been implemented but was “assuming that it has been implemented.” Bush criticized the Obama administration for not yet providing defensive weapons to the Ukrainians, calling the hesitation “feckless,” and also expressed skepticism of the “reset” with Russia — a point on which, as a presidential candidate, he could attack Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state during the attempted reset.

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JEB BUSH: We must be prepared for a long-term commitment to fight this battle. These attacks require a response on many levels but most of all we should focus on preventing them. That requires responsible intelligence gathering and analysis, including the NSA metadata program which contributes to awareness of potential terror cells and interdiction efforts on a global scale.

For the life of me, I don’t understand the debate has gotten off track, where we’re not understanding and protecting — we do protect our civil liberties. But this is a hugely important program to use these technologies to keep us safe. It requires close coordination with allies and a rigorous homeland effort, including border security. The threats of the 21st century will not be the same as the threats of the 20th and it is critical that we adapt to this challenge.

Finally, I believe our foreign policy must be rooted in a critical principle, let’s call it liberty diplomacy. America in its founding declared that the power in our country rested with the individual and not the other way around. And that individuals’ liberty was natural and self evident. We enshrined the idea of free speech, of free press, of free markets, and the inalienable right of religious freedom. America’s experience affirms the power of human liberty, not just because America has thrived, but because the world has thrived from it as well.

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Lurking not far behind these questions is the memory of George W. Bush. Why, as Jeb Bush noted, does Iran now hold so much sway in Damascus, Sanaa, Baghdad, and Beirut? One major reason is that the war in Iraq created a power vacuum that empowered Tehran. How effectively did George W. Bush do to slow down Iranian proliferation? Not very.

All of that would be much easier to shake off if it was clearer how he differed—and if his circle of advisers wasn’t so similar to George W. Bush’s. (Much of that overlap is surely attributable to the small size of foreign-policy circles; Obama’s administration drew heavily on Clinton aides, especially early on, but he’s conducted a very different policy.) Without taking more concrete stands, however, that’s hard to discern.

For example, Bush’s critique of Obama’s quickly abandoned red lines on Syria hits the mark. But what would Bush have done? Would he have bombed Syria? Would he have asked for congressional approval? It’s not clear. He blasted the White House for not imposing greater penalties on Russia for invading Ukraine. His only prescription was to arm the government there, calling the failure to do so “feckless.”

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“If you thought George Bush’s foreign policy made the world less safe, then you’re going to really hate Jeb Bush’s approach,” said Mo Elleithee, communications director of the Democratic National Committee. “Even with the benefit of hindsight, he’s one of the few people left who still stands by the decision to rush into a war in Iraq based on false information, even when it took resources away from the hunt for al Qaeda in Afghanistan. And he’s made it pretty clear that if he had his way, we’d still be in Iraq and staying there indefinitely.”

Democrats believe George W. Bush created a mess abroad and voters will not buy attacks on President Barack Obama by his brother.

“The bulk of what we know of Jeb’s foreign policy experience is his steadfast refusal to criticize his brother when his brother was in office,” said Ben Ray of the progressive PAC American Bridge. “On Friday, I think you saw him take an unsustainable position. That is not how presidential politics works.”

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At a reporter scrum after speech in Florida last week, Jeb was adamant: “I won’t talk about the past. I’ll talk about the future,” adding that “it’s not about re-litigating anything.” Curious then that the foreign policy team that Jeb announced today is not just very much George W. Bush’s, but includes two of the most controversial figures from invasion of Iraq, former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and former National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. Short of including Dick Cheney, this is the strongest possible indication that Bush is embracing his brother’s foreign policy. What’s up with that?…

Robin Williams had a bit in one of his last stand-up performances in which a man who had been in a coma for the previous decade was getting filled in on what he missed. Told that George H.W. Bush’s son had been president, the newly awoken character says “The one from Florida? He seemed kind of cool.” Informed that it was the one from Texas instead, the man incredulously demands “Junior?” The crowd roared their approval. Dumb Dubya and Smart Jeb, haw, haw haw. And in the tonier precincts of American politics and media it has long been fashionable to lament that “the wrong Bush” got elected in 2000 because Jeb would have never invaded Iraq. Jeb’s embrace of the core of his brother’s team will pour some considerable cold water on that view. Watch for a turning in the mainstream press’ treatment of Jeb hereafter. And were Jeb to be the nominee, it sets up a fight with Hillary Clinton over which interventionist foreign policy is less popular, George W. Bush’s or Barack Obama’s.

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Bush’s team hit the phones and emails with what some have called a “shock and awe” campaign that could raise between $50 million and $100 million by the end of the first quarter of the year.

“All that matters in this first quarter is fundraising,” said Reed. “Nobody else has done what he has done.”

Indeed, by the end of the quarter, Bush’s team believes, many would-be competitors will have joined Romney on the sidelines, unwilling or unable to compete with the Bush juggernaut, while the candidate can be freed up to address the many serious questions about why another Bush is the best solution to the nation’s problems…

The donors understood, as Bush does, that he needs their sizable help to offset his shaky support from some of the party’s conservative activist base, miffed over his positions on immigration and the Common Core educational standards. The money he collected would pay for time later in the campaign that he could devote to grassroots campaigning.

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Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush could be poised to raise more than $4 million in the Windy City on Wednesday as he prepares to run for president, according to people helping to organize two fundraising events there.

“It will be a blockbuster day in Illinois,” said one, who said Bush’s total haul “should be north of $4 million.”…

The haul he is expected to scoop up in Chicago comes after he raised an estimated $4 million at the Manhattan apartment of private equity titan Henry Kravis last week and picked up more than $1 million in two events in Washington Tuesday. Next weekend, he is on track to raise as much as $5 million at an event held at the waterfront estate of Coral Gables billionaire Miguel “Mike” Fernandez, according to a report in Politico. That would mean at least a $14 million take in a 10-day period.

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Three multimillionaire supporters of Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign – health care CEO Mike Fernandez, fast-food CEO Andrew Puzder and private equity manager Spencer Zwick – said it was imperative that the GOP nominee for president in 2016 be a clear and unapologetic supporter of broad-based changes to the country’s immigration system that would allow the estimated 11 million immigrants in the country illegally to come out of the shadows.

“Across at least the larger donor base, there’s a very strong feeling that if you’re going to win this election, you’re going to have to change your position on immigration reform if you’re opposed to it,” Puzder said during a conference call organized by the bipartisan Partnership for a New American Economy. “I think donors want to support people who are going to win.”…

When asked which potential candidates were most strongly identifying themselves with the immigration reform movement, Bush was cited twice.

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First, the negative “gut” reaction: Here we go again… Yet another Bush firing up the family juggernaut, circling the wagons, and rounding up the big money. That he’s taking advice from some of the very same advisers who gave us the last Bush president (who gave us the current GOP years in the wilderness, as well as the current GOP identity crisis) only goes to show that — despite his protestations — Jeb Bush ain’t his “own man.” (They say he’s different from brother Dubya, but let’s be honest: Will Ferrell would play them both on SNL.)…

This also feels like a desperate lurch backward, not forward. After running recycled candidates like McCain and Romney, Republicans finally have a chance to turn the page and nominate one of the younger, post Bush-era Republicans. This would squarely contrast with Hillary, who is older and obviously tied to a bygone era (several, actually). But how can the little guy compete against the big, bad Bush machine?

… And now, the more positive, pragmatic argument: This is a guy who actually gets shit done. The fact that he is moving so quick as to alarm us implies this is, perhaps, a good campaign. If Republicans really want to beat Hillary, maybe they better go with the kind of guy who is capable of making these early, aggressive moves. Don’t forget, the only Republicans to win nationwide in the last 25 years all share one thing, and that is the Bush surname.

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This is the story of the tea party, which came to life around Obama’s inauguration. In part, it reflected the predictable reaction of one party’s base to the election of a candidate from the other party. But it was also, crucially, a response to the Bush presidency – to the idea that in accepting “compassionate conservatism” in the name of victory in 2000, the GOP had corrupted itself; the idea that the Bush administration had expanded government irresponsibly and given conservatism a bad name, and created the conditions that hastened Obama’s rise. This is the real story of the tea party: It’s not just an effort to fight Obama. It’s a mission to keep the Republican Party from selling out again…

It also augurs poorly for Jeb’s strategy of running a general election-minded primary campaign. The beauty of his brother’s “compassionate conservatism” was that it had buy-in from the base. They accepted W as one of their own and gave him a free pass to posture toward the middle even as he ran in the primaries…

Then there’s electability, W’s trump card as he built his mighty machine in ’99. His steady, commanding lead over Al Gore in those early days lent urgency to his pitch to potential donors: This train is heading straight to the White House, so you’d better get on board now. Jeb, though, has trailed Hillary Clinton in every poll in which they’ve been matched, with an average deficit of 9 points. That’s no better than Chris Christie fares and only a slight improvement from Rand Paul’s standing…

Fundamentally, George W. Bush was a candidate of the GOP base, and that status was essential to his impressive electoral achievement. Jeb is not a candidate of the GOP base and there’s reason to suspect he never will be. If that keeps him from winning, he’ll have his older brother to thank for it. 

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Via the Corner.

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Via RCP.