Jeb Bush to Lay out Foreign Policy: Will He Be Dad, Brother - or Himself?

By LaFranchi, Howard | The Christian Science Monitor, February 18, 2015 | Go to article overview

Jeb Bush to Lay out Foreign Policy: Will He Be Dad, Brother - or Himself?


LaFranchi, Howard, The Christian Science Monitor


When Jeb Bush steps to a Chicago podium Wednesday morning to deliver a speech on his foreign policy views, the question on many minds will be which other Bush the not-quite-yet-declared presidential candidate sounds more like.

Will Jeb Bush offer a hawkish, America's-way-or-the-highway vision of foreign policy, suggesting he'd follow in his brother George W. Bush's interventionist, neoconservative footsteps? Or will he offer hints - through references, for example, to America's leadership of broad coalitions to address global challenges - of a more cautious and internationalist approach, reminiscent of his father, George H.W. Bush?

Or then again, will he meld the two visions, which do, after all, represent the two most prominent camps of Republican foreign policy thinking? Or will he somehow manage to sound like neither the father nor the brother?

Such questions almost never arise when it comes to Mr. Bush's domestic policy vision, since the former Florida governor has a record and established, public views on issues ranging from education and fiscal policy to immigration.

Indeed, when Bush speaks of a "right to rise" and share in America's economic opportunities, no one asks whether that sounds more like the father's or the brother's domestic economic approach. But on foreign policy, he is much more of a clean slate - and so the question of which former Bush president he would more likely emulate can't help but come up.

"Every candidate has to pass the commander-in-chief threshold test, and every candidate faces certain mine fields in passing that test," says Peter Feaver, professor of political science and public policy at Duke University in Durham, N.C. "The particular mine field for Jeb Bush is the advantage and the burden of his family name."

For starters, Bush will have to watch not to "overreact to the media pressure, particularly on foreign policy, to answer the question, 'Are you your brother or are you your dad?' " Professor Feaver says.

Furthermore, the memory of pitched foreign policy battles in the George W. Bush White House between father Bush's pragmatic, internationalist wing (think then-Secretary of State Colin Powell) and the muscular neoconservatives behind the Iraq War (Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, then vice president and secretary of Defense) is sure to be on the minds of the foreign policy experts who will parse every word that Jeb Bush utters Wednesday. His talk is at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

One hint of Bush's preferred foreign policy course comes from the former officials he admires and those he is consulting with as he explores a run. Bush is said to particularly value the contributions of former Secretary of State James Baker and former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft - two pillars of the first President Bush's pragmatic and internationalist foreign policy approach. (Neither Bush I icon was particularly welcome at the Bush II White House.)

Word has leaked out that Bush is consulting with former Deputy Secretary of State and former World Bank president Robert Zoellick (the mild-mannered Mr. Zoellick left the George W. Bush administration in 2006 after failing to rise to No. 1 at either State or Treasury) and Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. …

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