Give Jeb Bush credit. The family brand may have some tarnish on it and will handicap him in certain areas, but it still has value when it comes to national security issues. At least, it still does within the GOP, which is Jeb’s primary focus, pun fully intended. In a wide-ranging interview with Salena Zito of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Jeb leverages that to distinguish himself from the current US policy by demanding clarity on the war on terror:
He said U.S. leaders should identify the threat for what it is — Islamic terrorism — noting that groups such as ISIS are spreading destruction beyond Iraq and Syria.
“It’s not some isolated thing. It is a threat on Western civilization, and take them at their word — they want to destroy Western civilization,” he told the Tribune-Review in an interview before his speech to the Ohio Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting.
Under Obama, Bush said, America’s strategy is “to isolate and not be fully engaged, because of the fatigue Americans legitimately feel about long-term engagements, in the Middle East particularly.”
Jeb also took aim at the Obama administration’s track record with traditional allies in the Middle East:
“One of the first things we have to do is to get back into the game and develop coalitions to take these terrorist groups out,” he said.
Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Persian Gulf countries “are hugely important” as U.S. allies, Bush said, “with Egypt being perhaps the most important relationship that we have fractured.”
The United States should make clear that “we are going to be their partner for the long haul and not going to cut-and-run,” he said.
Republicans will certainly appreciate the boost that this will give one of their larger complaints about Barack Obama’s handling of the war on terror. Ironically, Obama followed George W. Bush’s lead on his rhetorical approach; Jeb’s brother spent considerable time emphasizing the extreme nature of the Islamists in relation to the world’s one-billion-plus Muslim population, and reached out to other Sunni Muslim nations to marginalize them. However, George Bush didn’t erase Islamic extremism entirely from his vocabulary, nor did he try to minimize terrorism itself with ridiculously PC phrases like “man-caused disasters” and “overseas contingency operations” as replacements for terrorist attacks and reprisals.
The problem for Jeb in the GOP field is that he’s not unique in this criticism, either. Every Republican candidate, announced or presumed, has already ripped Obama for refusing to name the enemy in the war on terror, and for that matter refusing to name the targeted victims in regard to ISIS: Christians. Bush doesn’t mention that in Salena’s interview (although he alluded to it in a Christian Post interview over the weekend), but his fellow Floridian and competitor Marco Rubio has been talking about the genocide on Christians in the Middle East for months.
Bush’s effort harmonizes with his fellow GOP candidates, but won’t exactly stand out in a crowded field, either. Neither will the generalized positions that Bush stakes out in the interview on tax and entitlement reforms and deficit control. It’s still early, though, and Jeb has time to develop his themes and policy platforms. As other governors come into the field, though, even the reform proposals may pale in comparison to the accomplishments of others in executive office, notably Bobby Jindal’s grassroots reform of education and Scott Walker’s PEU reforms that balanced the budget without layoffs or tax hikes.
Speaking of Rubio, the state of Florida has become the first turf war of the GOP primary. Bloomberg looks at how that’s shaping up:
Eric Ostermeier also notes that regardless of which candidate prevails in the Florida pre-season, they’re likely to be the most impactful Sunshine State presidential candidate in history:
With one candidate launching his presidential campaign on Monday (U.S. Senator Marco Rubio) and another weeks into his exploratory phase (former Governor Jeb Bush), the Sunshine State is poised to cast its biggest ever footprint of home-grown candidates in a presidential election.
To be sure, there are no guarantees that either Rubio or Bush will emerge as the GOP nominee next year – particularly as the growing field of Republican contenders swells to double-digits and candidates fight over an ever-smaller piece of the primary electorate.
That said, the bar is low – very low – for one of Florida’s two high-profile candidates to boast the most successful presidential campaign in Sunshine State history this cycle.
The last attempt was made by former Senator Bob Graham for the Republican nomination in 2003, which … went absolutely nowhere. It’s a little surprising to see this, given how important Florida is now for both parties in Electoral College calculations. Perhaps 2016 will be the Sunshine State’s moment in the primary spotlight.