As Jeb Bush prepares to deliver a major foreign policy speech to an audience at the Chicago Council of Global Affairs on Feb. 18, many are trying to answer the question of whether his approach will reflect his brother's or his father's.
"One early indication suggests he is leaning toward his father's more pragmatic and restrained philosophy. The former Florida governor is considering naming Meghan O'Sullivan as his top foreign-policy aide; several people familiar with the deliberations describe her as the front-runner for the post," reports The Wall Street Journal
According to sources who spoke with the Journal, Bush has expressed privately his fondness for two veterans of his father's administration – former Secretary of State James Baker and former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft – both of whom favored more restraint in the use of force.
However, Bush has not backed away from defending his brother, George W. Bush, and has increased his criticisms of President Barack Obama's management of foreign affairs.
Others, however, see the hiring of O'Sullivan as a sign a Jeb Bush foreign policy would bear a stronger resemblance to his brother.
Daniel Larison of The American Conservative
argues that the hiring of O'Sullivan is "practically an endorsement" of George W. Bush's Iraq policy.
"No one should be fooled when someone claims that Jeb Bush is following in his father's footsteps on foreign policy. George W. Bush indulged in some rhetoric about 'humility' and realism as a candidate, too, and he relied on his father's reputation on foreign policy to make up for the fact that he knew nothing about it.
"It turned out that there was no substance to Bush's rhetoric, and the country endured the effects of one of the most incompetent administrations on foreign policy in our modern history. We have the benefit of that experience, so there is no excuse for falling for the same con twice," he argues.
To date, "potential candidate" Bush has tackled foreign policy on just a few occasions.
One of the first times he gave any clue on his preferred foreign policy approach was at a Republican Jewish Coalition event last spring, in which Bush warned of the dangers of adopting a policy of "neo-isolationism," according to a Time magazine report
His reference was more of an attack on Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a potential primary foe and an advocate of less engagement.
At the event, Bush also pushed back on characterizations of a more robust foreign policy as "warmongering," former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer told Time.
Another glimpse into the Bush foreign policy was seen during an interview with Washington Post
columnist Jennifer Rubin in which the potential candidate expressed his view that the traditional role the United States has played "no longer applies."
He added that while many would like to divide the nation into those who "want to go to war everywhere and these people over here are isolationist," they are misguided.
"I above all will find common ground," he told Rubin last September.
The "common ground" approach was one which some say exemplified O'Sullivan's role in George W. Bush's administration.
"Meghan is a pragmatist and a problem-solver," John Bellinger, the former legal adviser for the National Security Council and the State Department during the second Bush administration, told The Wall Street Journal.
Bush may have landed one of the bigger fishes – Henry Kissinger.
The New York Observer reported
that a Bush campaign source indicated Kissinger, Richard Nixon's secretary of state, was preparing to throw his support behind Bush's candidacy. Kissinger and Bush both will be attending a reception in New York City on Thursday.
"It's unclear whether Mr. Kissinger has altered his view of [New Jersey Gov. Chris] Christie or if the master of Realpolitik simply views Mr. Bush as having the best chance at victory. At 91, Mr. Kissinger likely views this election as essential to his sunsetting legacy," reported The Observer. Kissinger did not respond to the paper's efforts to contact him.
While the direction in which he would take the nation is unclear, there is no question he will face comparisons to George W. Bush.
"Ultimately, how Bush deals with his brother's legacy will probably determine whether he gets the nomination. It's a tall order, but not nearly as daunting as how he would deal with it in a general election," writes conservative Jonah Goldberg in a USA Today column
Goldberg says Bush will have to craft a reasonable response to attempts to link him to his brother, particularly on the Iraq War.
"Of course, it'd be an unfair attack. But fairness doesn't matter. What matters is how Bush would respond — and whether Republicans should even give him the opportunity to respond," he adds.
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