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Jeb Bush and the Continuing Baker Panic

The latest in a long line of attempts to banish realists from Republican foreign policy debate.
Meeting with the Iraq Study Group. Cabinet Room.

Last week I noted that Jeb Bush was being called on to repudiate former Secretary of State James Baker on account of the latter’s appearance at J Street’s annual conference. Bush sort of complied with the demand today:

Jeb Bush distanced himself Tuesday from James Baker, who is advising him on foreign policy, after the former secretary of state directed criticism at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Of course, no one seriously thought that Bush shared the views that Baker expressed in his speech, so it’s absurd that Bush even felt the need to restate the obvious that is he a conventional “pro-Israel” hawk. What’s more ridiculous is that neoconservatives still aren’t satisfied because his criticism of Baker and J Street are not intense and zealous enough. Jennifer Rubin faults him for his lack of passion:

We see other candidates take a much more forceful and direct stance against the president’s anti-Israel antics and vowing not to be bound by a bad Iran deal that Congress has not approved. Bush’s statements remain generic, and his demeanor does not convey passion.

It must be exhausting to try enforcing ideological litmus tests when all of the likely candidates are in basic agreement with one another. There are no real policy differences regarding Israel among the likely 2016 candidates for enforcers to criticize, but that doesn’t stop them from trying to find a way to make the candidates jump through additional hoops. Instead of being satisfied that all of the candidates hold virtually identical views, the enforcers have to look for differences between them by worrying about how intensely and passionately they toe the party line. Is the candidate visibly moved when he recites his talking points? If not, he may not be entirely reliable and should be kept under watch. Does he have or has he ever had conversations with anyone that might be suspected of realism or a balanced view of the conflict with the Palestinians? If so, he should flee from that person at once or be found guilty of the taint of realism.

Robert Golan-Vilella has been following the story and marvels at how bizarre it is:


This is just the latest in a long line of attempts to banish realists from Republican foreign policy debate. That undoubtedly makes the debate inside the GOP much less thoughtful and harms the quality of policymaking in Republican administrations, but it is successful in discouraging politicians and policymakers from deviating from the lines set down by the party’s ideological enforcers.



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