Jeb Bush Distances Himself: ‘I Am My Own Man’

Chicago, IL

While former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush focused partly on immigration during a Chicago speech on Wednesday, overall, it was a wide-ranging, albeit lightweight speech, designed to distance himself from his family’s political heritage. How effective it was may be another matter. ABC News and the Associated Press report:

In a wide-ranging speech outlining his vision of America’s place in the world, part of the Republican’s run-up toward a likely campaign for president in 2016, Bush laid the rise of the Islamic State group at the feet of President Barack Obama. He also made his most overt criticisms to date of his brother’s administration, telling the audience of several hundred people, “I am my own man.”

Certainly the phrase “a U.S.-led coalition” has to remind people of one of the very things he was trying to distance himself from politically: his brother, former Republican President George W. Bush.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said Wednesday there can be no diplomacy with Islamic State militants, but only a U.S.-led coalition of Middle Eastern countries committed to “tightening the noose and taking them out.”

That isn’t to say it’s necessarily a bad strategy. It just doesn’t support Jeb’s rhetoric, or offer an argument to appeal to a somewhat war-weary nation.

As Jeb said he isn’t his brother, he also seemed to say he won’t make the same mistakes. Whether that convinces voters remains to be seen. ABC News continues:

“There were mistakes made in Iraq, for sure,” during President George W. Bush’s administration, Bush said during a question-and-answer session that followed his 20-minute speech. He said intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s possession of weapons of mass destruction was not accurate and the U.S. initially failed to create an environment of security in the country after removing the Iraqi leader from power.

But Bush praised his older brother’s decision to “surge” troops into Iraq in 2007, which added roughly 20,000 troops to the American forces in the country in an effort to improve security. He called it “one of the most heroic acts of courage politically” of any president, given the weak support for that strategy in Congress.

The meat of Jeb’s speech concerned foreign policy, especially the fight against terrorism. It’s fair to suggest Jeb is going to say more and do it better than he did today if he wants to emerge as a genuinely competitive candidate above the wealthy GOP donor class. They may have deep pockets, but they aren’t a deep bench when it comes time to line up and vote. ABC News continues:

Bush promised a resurgent America if a handful of key changes are made by the next president — including new approaches to education, entitlement programs and the U.S.-based energy economy.

“The United States has this potential of being young and dynamic again,” he said.

Bush also weighed in on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming speech to Congress, saying he was “surprised the administration is upset to hear from a close and valuable ally.”

Looking forward, the likely candidate called for more spending to bulk up the military’s power, a bipartisan approach to foreign affairs, and the authority for the president to reach more trade deals.