Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush proclaimed Wednesday that "I am my own man," in an effort by the all-but-certain 2016 Republican presidential contender to distance himself from the legacies of his father and brother.
During an address at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs that marked his first major foreign policy speech as a would-be candidate, the son and brother of presidents delivered a broadside against President Barack Obama's leadership on the global stage.
"Under this administration, we are inconsistent and indecisive," Bush said, according to prepared remarks released by his political action committee, Right to Rise PAC. "We have lost the trust and the confidence of our friends. We definitely no longer inspire fear in our enemies."
His last name being both one of his strongest assets and greatest liabilities, Bush alluded to a turbulent history, especially in the foreign policy realm, as he seeks to craft his own White House campaign.
"I love my father and my brother," he said. "But I am my own man—and my views are shaped by my own thinking and own experiences."
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Bush has spent time over the last year consulting with foreign policy experts as he prepared to mount a White House bid, but was not expected to explicitly break with either family member's foreign policy. In broad terms, Bush also levied criticism against Obama for his handling of his "red line" with regards to Syria's use of chemical weapons, Russia's escalation's in eastern Ukraine, Boko Haram's insurgency in Nigeria, and the personal distrust between the President and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"They draw red lines… then erase them," Bush said in prepared remarks. "With grandiosity, they announce resets and disengage. Hashtag campaigns replace actual diplomacy and engagement. Personal diplomacy and maturity is replaced by leaks and personal disparagement."
A former governor, Bush's foreign policy has largely been undefined, though emails from his time in office reveal he supported his brother, President George W. Bush, in the invasion of Iraq.
Asked by reporters on Friday about his foreign policy in the context of his family's long history, Bush said "I won't talk about the past."
"I'll talk about the future," Bush said, according to Bloomberg. "If I'm in the process of considering the possibility of running, it's not about re-litigating anything in the past. It's about trying to create a set of ideas and principles that will help us move forward."
Speaking to reporters earlier in the week about how he would address the threat of the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), Bush said, "I think we need to develop a world strategy to take 'em out."
See the full excerpts below:
My goal today is to explore how America can regain its leadership in the world.
And why that leadership is more necessary than ever.
American leadership projected consistently and grounded in principle has been a benefit to the world.
I have doubts whether this administration believes American power is such a force.
Under this administration, we are inconsistent and indecisive.
We have lost the trust and the confidence of our friends.
We definitely no longer inspire fear in our enemies.
The great irony of the Obama Presidency is this: Someone who came to office promising greater engagement with the world has left America less influential in the world.
The United States has an undiminished ability to shape events and build alliances of free people.
We can project power and enforce peaceful stability in far-off areas of the globe.
To do so, I believe we need to root our foreign policy in a set of priorities and principles.
I also have been lucky to have a father and a brother who both have shaped America’s foreign policy from the Oval Office.
I recognize that as a result, my views will often be held up in comparison to theirs’ – sometimes in contrast to theirs’.
I love my father and my brother. I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions they had to make.
But I am my own man – and my views are shaped by my own thinking and own experiences.
Each president learns from those who came before – their principles… their adjustments.
One thing we know is this: Every president inherits a changing world… and changing circumstances.
The transformation of our economy will also send a powerful message about the American system:
Free people, free markets, free ideas … implemented faithfully… will set a powerful example of what’s possible to the rest of the world.
Our words and our actions must match – so that the entire world knows we say what we mean and mean what we say.
The Administration talks, but the words face.
They draw red lines … then erase them.
With grandiosity, they announce resets and disengage.
Hashtag campaigns replace actual diplomacy and engagement.
Personal diplomacy and maturity is replaced by leaks and personal disparagement:
The President’s word needs to be backed by the greatest military power in the world… The president should call on leaders of both parties to fix the budget and address the shortfalls in our defense spending.
He should show leadership – and commitment to solving the problem.
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.
Because I believe, fundamentally, that weakness invites war… and strength encourages peace.
The threats of the 21st century will not be the same as the threats of the 20th… and it is critical that we adapt to meet this challenge.
America does not have the luxury of withdrawing from the world – our security, our prosperity and our values demand that we remain engaged and involved in often distant places.
We have no reason to apologize for our leadership and our interest in serving the cause of global security, global peace and human freedom.