Jeb Bush, who is lagging behind other prospective GOP 2016 presidential candidates in recent polls, attempted to regain momentum lost among conservative Jews stemming from his naming former Secretary of State James Baker as one of his advisors. Jeb cited his brother President George W. Bush as a trusted advisor regarding the state of Israel.
Speaking at a private event on Tuesday hosted by Paul Singer, a billionaire hedge fund manager who strongly supports Israel, Bush was asked whether he relied on Baker’s guidance on foreign policy. In response, he supposedly intoned, “What you need to know is that who I listen to when I need advice on the Middle East is George W. Bush,” adding, “If you want to know who I listen to for advice, it’s him.”
Baker’s hostility to Jews has been manifest for decades; he reportedly once said, “Fuck the Jews, they didn’t vote for us anyway.” He pushed for Israel to be punished after it obliterated Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981. When he was advising President Reagan, he once barred Benjamin Netanyahu from the State Department, and he wrote the Iraq Study Group’s paper that recommended the U.S. tilt toward Syria and away from Israel. In March, Baker went before the anti-Israel group J Street and vilified Netanyahu before an appreciative audience.
On Thursday, Bush’s spokesman Tim Miller pointed out, “Governor Bush has said before that his brother is the greatest ally to Israel in presidential history, he admires his stalwart support for our ally, and that is in line with his commitment to standing with Israel in the face of great threats to their security and our own.”
Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute asserted, “For all of the negatives in how George W. Bush is remembered in foreign policy, people who are supportive of Israel remember him as supportive of Israel. For Bush, he has to find a way to deflect the festering question of his relationship with James Baker.”
Last month, George W. Bush appeared at a meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, where he was warmly received. His brother has been trying to distance himself from Baker recently; on April 23, he told a closed-door meeting hosted by the Manhattan Republican Party that Baker should not have spoken at the J Street conference and that he disagreed with some of the conclusions Baker had offered.