Jeb Bush spoke to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs earlier today. He delivered his speech haltingly at times, occasionally fumbled his lines (saying Iraq when he meant Iran early on), and mostly stuck to safe talking point criticisms of the administration. The more specific he was in the speech, the worse Bush’s arguments were. He made a point of chiding the administration for not pursuing an unrealistic zero-enrichment goal in the negotiations with Iran, and he said he was “eager” to hear Netanyahu’s speech before Congress. He faulted Obama for not being sufficiently supportive of the post-coup dictatorship in Egypt. Later during the Q&A session he seemed to endorse arming Ukraine, and once again denounced the opening to Cuba.
None of those positions really surprised me, but it is telling that the most specific positions he took align him closely with his party’s hard-liners. At least now we can finally dismiss the speculation that he might be some sort of closet realist because he has sometimes consulted with some of his father’s old advisers. Beyond those few specific points, however, the speech involved a lot of generic rhetoric about the importance of “leadership” and the need for growth. Robert Golan-Vilella noticed this:
Jeb done now. Not the worst foreign-policy speech I’ve ever seen, but it was probably one of the emptiest.
— Rob Golan-Vilella (@RGolanVilella) February 18, 2015
Jeb Bush is indeed his “own man,” as he said in the section of the speech that touched on the previous Bush presidencies, but that is not at all reassuring for those of us that want a sane and restrained foreign policy. All in all, it was a fairly weak speech that showed Bush to be somewhat hesitant and unsure as he rattled off the expected talking points. It also confirmed my assumptions about his generally hawkish and aggressive foreign policy views. Bush said nothing to make me change my assessment of his foreign policy views, but then I never expected that he would.