Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) will deliver a speech on Wednesday that seeks to distance his foreign policy views from the previous two Bush presidents, saying, according to early excerpts, that while he admires his presidential family members, “I am my own man.”
“[M]y views are shaped by my own thinking and own experiences,” Bush will say as he lays out a vision that calls for increased military spending in order to project strength and encourage peace worldwide.
“Having a military that is equal to any threat is not only essential for the commander in chief … it also makes it less likely that we will need to put our men and women in uniform in harm’s way,” he will say. “Because I believe, fundamentally, that weakness invites war … and strength encourages peace.”
The remarks come just days after Bush brushed aside questions about his view of President George W. Bush’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and as the Florida governor and presumptive GOP frontrunner works to define himself in the early days of the 2016 campaign.
Yet Jeb Bush’s efforts to distance himself from his brother’s foreign policy may only be skin deep.
According to Reuters’ Steve Holland, Bush has tapped a “diverse” roster of former George W. Bush and George H. W. Bush officials to advise his burgeoning campaign on foreign policy, including key architects of the 2002 invasion of Iraq.
The list of advisers provided to Reuters by a campaign aide includes Paul Wolfowitz and Stephen Hadley, as well as former George W. Bush Homeland Security Secretaries Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, and Bush adviser Meghan O’Sullivan.
Wolfowitz, who served as Deputy Secretary of Defense in the George W. Bush administration, began advocating an attack on Iraq shortly after the Sep. 11 attacks, established “what amounted to a separate government” to push for war and invited journalists to secret meetings in order to lay out the foundation for his plans. Wolfowitz established the Office of Special Plans in the Pentagon that ignored the conclusions of the intelligence community and fed policy makers and the media discredited claims of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
Then-Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley famously disregarded warnings from the CIA and then-FBI director George Tenet and included references to Iraq’s pursuit of uranium in Bush’s speeches, a claim that proved to be false. Hadley later apologized for leaving the now-infamous phrase in Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address and was promoted to become the president’s National Security Adviser.
Meghan O’Sullivan was as a top adviser to L. Paul Bremer — the U.S. viceroy in charge of the Coalition Provisional Authority that is blamed for mismanaging the occupation of Iraq immediately following the American invasion — and is credited with developing the security agreements and early transfer of sovereignty negotiations between the United States and Iraq. She also served as special assistant to George W. Bush from 2004 to 2007.
In some ways, Jeb Bush’s reliance on former Iraq war architects is not surprising, as it reflect his previous support for his brother’s Iraqi policy — endorsements the former governor is now downplaying as he prepares to officially enter the race.
In 2003, for instance, Jeb Bush explained to Florida reporters that “in his heart, I know [George W. Bush] is doing what he thinks is right, and I concur with him.” Ten years later, he told an NBC reporter that “history will be kind to my brother [on Iraq] the further out you get from this and the more people compare his tenure to what’s going on now.” And in a joint CNN interview with George in 2010, Jeb said, “I have never disagreed with [George W. Bush]… ’til death do us part.”
In fact, Jeb Bush’s critique of Obama as “inconsistent and indecisive” — a president who rejects and devalues America’s military might — even echoes his brother’s 2000 campaign rhetoric against the Clinton administration.
“Little more than a decade ago, the Cold War thawed and, with the leadership of Presidents Reagan and Bush, that wall came down,” the former president Bush said as he accepted the 2000 GOP presidential nomination. “But instead of seizing this moment, the Clinton/Gore administration has squandered it. We have seen a steady erosion of American power and an unsteady exercise of American influence.”
George W. Bush promised to restore America’s military might, a campaign platform his brother Jeb — and his foreign policy advisers — are embracing some 15 years later.