Jeb Bush and Foreign Policy
Scott McConnell wonders what kind of foreign policy Jeb Bush will end up endorsing. Specifically, he is interested to find out which member of his family he will be most like on issues relating to Israel:
A President Jeb Bush would face a different set of questions about “the special relationship”. Would he respond like his father or like his brother?
Based on what we know of his views, I don’t think it’s a stretch to conclude that he frequently holds views very similar to those of his brother and his brother’s most vocal supporters. That goes for policies relating to Israel and for foreign policy more generally. To some extent, that is a reflection of the difference between his generation and that of his father. It is also a reflection of the changes that have taken place in the GOP in the twenty-two years since the elder Bush lost his re-election bid. The party has become much more uniformly “pro-Israel” than it was when Bush’s father was in office, and reflexive support for Israel has become an even more important litmus test for aspiring Republican candidates than it used to be. Jeb Bush has been nothing if not a conventional Republican on foreign policy insofar as he has had anything to say about it, so there is no reason to think that he would differ greatly from his brother on this.
There has been some speculation that he is closer to his father on foreign policy, but as far as I can tell there is not much evidence to back this up. It seems to me that the “Jeb Bush is secretly a realist” speculation is based on the perception of Bush as the smarter, more competent brother, and therefore as someone who wouldn’t be so easily won over by crackpot hard-line views, but I’m afraid that this is probably just wishful thinking. Deriding “neo-isolationism” is de rigueur for any hawkish Republican, so that doesn’t tell us very much by itself, but I submit that someone who speaks at Sheldon Adelson gatherings and wins plaudits from George W. Bush’s former press secretary is not going to identify himself with the Republican realist tradition, either. I wouldn’t assume that Bush and Rubio hold identical views on these issues, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he frequently agrees with the arguments that his protege has been making in the last four years. The country was already badly misled once by crediting a younger Bush with following in the foreign policy tradition of his father. If Jeb Bush does run for president and tries the same trick of seeming to endorse realist views, we should know better than to believe him.