Republicans can’t seem to let go of the narrative that Democrats are naïve pacifist coddlers. But voters are quite aware of Obama’s comfort with drones, surveillance, special operations and airstrikes when it comes to killing terrorists, and Hillary Clinton won’t be any different.
To the extent that the emergence of ISIS gives Republicans an opening that they lacked in the last election following the Obama-authorized strike to kill Osama bin Laden, their ability to exploit it does not rest on their ability to repeat hawkish catchphrases and flog obsolete Democratic caricatures. It rests on the Republicans’ ability to craft a more sophisticated national security strategy than what they’ve offered in the past.
Everyone knows Republicans are hawks (Sen. Paul notwithstanding). Voters want to know if Republicans are smarter hawks than they were 10 years ago.
Jeb Bush’s address fell short of that goal. While he didn’t box himself in regarding “boots,” he only gave platitudes such as “the president’s word needs to be backed up by the greatest military force in the world” and “tighten the noose and then take them out.” He summed up his broader foreign policy philosophy as “liberty diplomacy,” the flimsy simplicity of which was quickly undermined when he knocked Obama for not treating the new Egyptian dictator as “on our team.”