Peter Beinart misidentifies Bush’s foreign policy problem:
He’s not a populist. Republican elites are, in Walter Russell Mead’s phrase, “Hamiltonians.” They want America to guarantee a stable world order where commerce can flourish. That’s Jeb in a nutshell. He doesn’t want to call out Islam. He wants to patch up America’s ties to its old friends in Riyadh and Cairo. “We have to rebuild our relationships with allies and key relationships in the Middle East, including the Persian Gulf states and of course Egypt. We will not be successful unless we invest in the much-needed coalitions and partnerships and develop the personal relationships that make it possible to garner worldwide support,” he told the crowd in Chicago. Try rousing a crowd of Iowa caucus-goers with that.
In contrast to GOP elites, the Republican rank and file are “Jacksonians.”
Beinart has once again done us a service in showing how unhelpful and frequently misleading Mead’s categories can be. They might occasionally be useful for distinguishing between different approaches to foreign policy, but it is a mistake to treat them as coherent factions in the way Beinart does here. “Jacksonian” is not a very useful label for all sorts of reasons (and neither, frankly, is “Hamiltonian”), but to the extent that it means anything it refers to a combative and visceral American nationalism. Bush’s remarks certainly included some of this when he talked about American power as a force for good (and suggesting that he wasn’t sure if Obama believed this) and later talked about “tightening the noose” around ISIS and “taking them out.”
Like Romney did in 2012, he emphasized the necessity of American “leadership” and the importance of American power to the rest of the world, all of which should be music to the ears of any nationalist. The fact that he didn’t indulge in culture-war Muslim-bashing a la Jindal isn’t going to put off any voters he was ever likely to win over, and by not doing so he was sure not to alarm “centrist” foreign policy professionals that have no use for culture war rhetoric. At the same time, his praise for the Egyptian dictator’s recent speech was a signal to hard-liners everywhere that he shares their admiration for the new strongman and his hostility to the Muslim Brotherhood. Even if rank-and-file Republicans can mostly be described as “Jacksonian,” that label definitely doesn’t apply to the pundits and professionals that will be the ones doing most of the relevant judging of Jeb Bush’s foreign policy views. Besides, as one of the relative moderates in the race, Bush has no need to appeal to Tea Party activists or hard-core anti-Islamists, and if he tried he would alienate many of the “somewhat” conservative and moderate Republican voters that he needs to attract.