In a March 25th Op-Ed for National Review, former Florida Governor, and presumed 2016 Republican presidential candidate, Jeb Bush took aim at Barack Obama’s foreign policy. In particular, Bush criticized the President for pursuing a nuclear agreement with Iran, and he disparaged the President’s chilly relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Bush belittled Obama’s foreign policy as weak and uncertain. Bush added that, in his view, the Obama administration “indulges our enemies and attacks our friends”. Bush’s most trenchant remarks concerned President Obama’s relationship with Israel. Jeb Bush castigated the President, writing:
This is no way to treat an ally. Conducting the foreign policy of a great nation requires maturity and a strategic sense of America’s long-term interests. This is no time for schoolyard antics.
In singling out President Obama for criticism, Bush failed to mention the antics of the 47 Republican Senators who attempted to subvert diplomacy by signing an open letter to the Iranian government. He didn’t bring up the Cotton letter telling Iran’s leaders that any agreement made could be undone by Republican Senators, or by the next President.
Bush also made no mention that former Secretary of State, James Baker, who served in his father’s administration, supports a nuclear agreement between Iran and the United States. Baker is an informal foreign policy adviser to Jeb Bush’s campaign, but Baker remains critical of Netanyahu’s leadership. In trying to depict President Obama as a petulant child, Jeb Bush overlooks the fact that responsible voices in both parties recognize that Netanyahu is toxic for peace in the Middle East, and that a U.S. diplomatic agreement with Iran is worth pursuing.
Jeb Bush is trying to portray Barack Obama’s rational foreign policy as ineffective and childish. While that attempt may succeed with the conservative Republican base, most reasonable analysts see Obama’s approach as cautious, but productive. Schoolyard antics might be a better description of the Republicans approach to foreign policy. Not only the 47 Republican Senators who signed the “Cotton letter”, but also the last GOP President, Jeb’s brother.
Through the course of George W. Bush’s presidency, Jeb never referred to his brother’s foreign policy foibles as schoolyard antics. When Dubya stood on an aircraft carrier, donning a flight suit, to deliver a grandstanding speech, in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner, Jeb offered no critique of the stunt. Jeb was also silent in 2006, when his brother tried to goad Iraqi fighters into attacking American troops, with the schoolyard taunt “bring ’em on”.
Jeb Bush knows that bashing Obama’s foreign policy is a way to score cheap political points with conservative Republicans who will be primary voters in 2016. However, Mr. Bush, like every other presidential contender on the Republican side, fails to present a rational foreign policy alternative.
The Republicans offer nothing but warmongering rhetoric towards Iran and knee-jerk support for Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel. They criticize thoughtful foreign policy decisions as schoolyard antics while offering no constructive alternative. Mr. Bush is right about one thing. This is no time for schoolyard antics. Bush and his fellow Republicans ought to stop engaging in them.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.