Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Jeb Bush and the Baker Panic

There is absolutely no reason to think that Bush is inclined toward realist views.

Jonathan Tobin wants Jeb Bush to denounce James Baker:

Simply put, Bush can’t let Baker’s appearance at the J Street event go unremarked upon. He must either explicitly distance himself from Baker’s appearance and from J Street’s support for Obama’s threats against Israel or ask Baker to formally disassociate himself from his presidential effort.

The funny thing about all of this is that no one except for neoconservatives attaches any great significance to Baker’s connection with Jeb Bush’s quasi-campaign. I imagine that Baker was included on the roster of Bush’s foreign policy advisers because he is a longtime family friend and former appointee of his father, and because Bush wanted to include a range of advisers in order to get as many people as he could to commit to his presidential bid. Not including Baker on the list of advisers would have been interpreted as an insult to the elder Bush and as a snub to someone who has been a political booster of the Bushes for decades. It is very unlikely that Bush’s foreign policy views have much of anything in common with those of Baker, and there is absolutely no reason to think that Bush is inclined toward realist views.

This could be an interesting test for Bush. He could show that he isn’t one to be railroaded into casting aside a friend and ally because hard-line ideologues tell him that he “must.” Or he could take the easy and disreputable way out and do what the ideologues say that he has to do. Honestly, I don’t think Bush has to say anything one way or the other about Baker or J Street. All the evidence tells us he is a conventionally hawkish “pro-Israel” Republican, so we should assume that he dislikes J Street and their positions on policies regarding Israel and Palestine. He has already made plain that he endorses all of the usual fear-mongering about Iran, the cheerleading for Netanyahu, and the ridiculous “no light” approach to the U.S.-Israel relationship. Based on the speech he gave in Chicago earlier this year, there is no reason to think that he is in close agreement with Baker on any major issue. Bush would have to be easily bullied to pay any attention to these demands.

It is notable that neoconservatives are this suspicious of Bush when they have no cause to be. While everyone outside their bubble fears with far better reason that Jeb Bush’s foreign policy will closely follow his brother’s, neoconservatives are worried that he may prove to be a crypto-realist. It’s an odd predicament for Bush. He has given them no reason to doubt that agrees with them on policy, but even the slightest hint of an affinity for realism (represented by one adviser out of twenty) is enough to send them into fits.