Jeb Bush: I'm my own man on foreign policy

Earlier today, former Florida governor Jeb Bush attempted to address one of the biggest hurdles for his presidential aspirations — his last name. Even after six years and some improvement in how Americans see his older brother’s presidency, the Bush brand will carry a burden on Jeb in two ways. First, people still widely blame George W. Bush for both the economic collapse and the scope of the war on terror, and second, the Bush legacy seems firmly rooted in the past to voters rather than the present or future.

Jeb has to prove that neither applies to him, and he chose his starting point for that argument at a telling venue — the Chicago Council on Global Affairs:

Bush, according to speech excerpts released by his political organization, will say he has been lucky to have a father and a brother who have shaped U.S. foreign policy and that he recognizes “my views will often be held up in comparison to theirs – sometimes in contrast to theirs.”

“I love my father and my brother. I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions they had to make. But I am my own man, and my views are shaped by my own thinking and own experiences,” he will say.

Team Bush followed that up with a list of advisers intended to emphasize the diversity of his outlook:

The list includes people representing a wide spectrum of ideological views in the Republican Party, from the pragmatic to the hawkish. It includes James Baker, known for his pragmatism in key roles during the Reagan and George H.W. Bush presidencies, and former World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, a hawk as deputy defense secretary who was an architect of George W. Bush’s Iraq policy.

Among others are two former secretaries of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, former national security adviser Stephen Hadley and a deputy national security adviser, Meghan O’Sullivan, as well as two former CIA directors, Porter Goss and Michael Hayden.

The Washington Post’s Philip Bump shows in one diagram why this may still be a tough sell:



This is one reason why attempting to sell Bush as part of the future will be difficult to do, more so than with Hillary Clinton. Voters see that too, as Allahpundit noted in his post about the CNN poll earlier today. And it’s not just that people remember the Clinton era more fondly, although that’s certainly part of it. It’s that Hillary Clinton has been more a part of the present than Jeb Bush has, especially in foreign policy. Bush has been out of the political limelight since leaving office in 2006, whereas Hillary spent 2006-2012 at the highest levels of politics, first running for the presidency and then as Secretary of State.

However, that’s going to be a problem for Hillary, too. In order to win a general election, she will have to prove that she’s her own woman, and not a third term of Barack Obama, especially on foreign policy. Dana Milbank points out a very big problem in that argument, as well as in her argument that she represents a new kind of diversity:

As Hillary Clinton begins to staff her nascent presidential campaign, a paradox has emerged. When she ran in 2008, she played down her potential to make history as the first woman to be president, but her campaign was run by a woman and dominated at the top levels by women. This time, Clinton is properly emphasizing her path-breaking role, but she’s relying on the old-boy network — in large part by taking over President Obama’s heavily male campaign apparatus.

Her campaign chairman: John Podesta. Her campaign manager: Robby Mook. Her chief strategist: Joel Benenson. Her pollsters: Benenson, John Anzalone and David Binder. Her top media guy: Jim Margolis. John, Robby, Joel, John, David and Jim join former Obama hands such as Jim, Jeremy and Mitch, who have already been boosting Clinton’s candidacy in the super PAC world.

This is quite a departure from Clinton’s run eight years ago, when a Huffington Post study found that eight of her 14 senior staffers and 12 of her 20 highest-paid staffers were women (including campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle, who was later replaced by Maggie Williams, and chief media strategist Mandy Grunwald). By contrast, only three of Obama’s top 12 staffers were women, and in less important roles.

This surely wasn’t Clinton’s intent, but her decision to re-brand Obama’s frat house as her own puts out a message quite at odds with her candidacy: that women can’t run a presidential campaign. “Will Hillary ’16 Be a ‘White Dude Fest’?” the Daily Beast asked last month.

That’s not the only issue in determining whether Hillary can claim to be her own woman. The Wall Street Journal took a look at the Clinton Foundation donor list, and sees some conflicts of interest emerging:

The Clinton Foundation has dropped its self-imposed ban on collecting funds from foreign governments and is winning contributions at an accelerating rate, raising ethical questions asHillary Clinton ramps up her expected bid for the presidency.

Recent donors include the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Australia, Germany and a Canadian government agency promoting the Keystone XL pipeline. …

At least four foreign countries gave to the foundation in 2013—Norway, Italy, Australia and the Netherlands—a fact that has garnered little attention. The number of governments contributing in 2014 appears to have doubled from the previous year. Since its founding, the foundation has raised at least $48 million from overseas governments, according to a Journal tally.

United Arab Emirates, a first-time donor, gave between $1 million and $5 million in 2014, and the German government—which also hadn’t previously given—contributed between $100,000 and $250,000.

A previous donor, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has given between $10 million and $25 million since the foundation was created in 1999. Part of that came in 2014, although the database doesn’t specify how much.

That looks like a lot more than a coincidence. Even without the issues of trying to claim experience as Secretary of State while running away from the foreign policy her term produced, this looks suspiciously like selling influence.

Jeb Bush’s big problem — and the Republican Party’s, if he wins the nomination — is that he’s part of the political past. Hillary Clinton’s got that problem too, but her biggest burden is just how much she owns of the present.

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