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.”
Photos: Meet America's Top 10 Political Families The Bush family dynasty begins with Prescott S. Bush, who represented Connecticut in the Senate from 1952 to 1963. His son George H. W. Bush served as Vice President, Director of the CIA, and President from 1989 to 1993. His son George W. Bush was governor of Texas and, from 2001 to 2009, President of the United States. George W's brother Jeb served as governor of Florida and is thought to be a possible contender for the White House in 2016. Getty Images Then Vice President George H. W. Bush sits with his sons George W. and Jeb while vacationing in Kennebunkport, Maine, in August 1983. Cynthia Johnson—Getty Images Joseph P. Kennedy was a multi-millionaire, U.S. ambassador to Britain and the patriarch of a political dynasty that included his sons pictured above, Robert Kennedy (left), U.S. Attorney General, U.S. Senator and candidate for President assassinated while campaigning in 1968, and John F. Kennedy (right), President of the U.S. from 1961 until he was assassinated in office in 1963. Rolls Press/Popperfoto/Getty Images Pictured here on Easter Sunday 1963: John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy with their two children, John Jr. (left), who would become a publisher and die in a plane crash in 1999, and Caroline (right), an attorney, writer, and U.S. Ambassador to Japan. The Kennedy clan also includes Ted Kennedy, who served in the U.S. Senate until his death in 2009, Robert Kennedy Jr., a prominent environmental activist, Joseph P. Kennedy III, who was elected to Congress in 2012, and many other prominent Americans. MPI/Getty Images The Clintons started their political dynasty in Arkansas in 1976, when Bill was elected Attorney General. He went on to win the governors seat and, in 1992, the Presidency. After leaving the White House, Hillary served as a Senator from New York and Secretary of State. She's widely expected to make her own White House bid in 2016. Brooks Kraft—Corbis Born in 1980, Bill and Hillary's daughter Chelsea is married to investment banker Marc Mezvinsky, the son of two former members of Congress. On September 27, 2014, they added another member to the Clinton dynasty: their daughter, Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky FilmMagic/Getty Images As a libertarian-minded Republican in congress for decades, Rep. Ron Paul (right) became the defacto leader of the libertarian movement in the U.S. His son Rand Paul (left) is now trying to take on that mantle as a Senator from Kentucky and likely presidential hopeful. Ed Reinke—AP U.S. Sen. Rand Paul talks to his father Rep. Ron Paul during a news conference June 22, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Alex Wong—Getty Images Dick Cheney (right) has served as a congressman, White House aide, Secretary of Defense and unusually powerful Vice President, but he's not the only political force in the family. His daughter Liz Cheney (left) is a conservative commentator and activist who ran unsuccessfully for Senate in 2014. AP (2) Cheney's daughters Liz (left) and Mary (right), pictured here at home in Wyoming in 1978, had a highly public row later in life, when Mary, who is gay, called out Liz for refusing to support same-sex marriage. David Hume Kennerly—Getty Images Both George Romney and his son Mitt rose to national political prominence but neither held the top job. The elder Romney, who served as Governor of Michigan, ran unsuccessfully for the GOP nomination in 1968. Mitt Romney served as Governor of Massachusetts and secured the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. He was defeated in the general election. Getty Images; Corbis George Romney announced his intention to run for governor of Michigan, with his son Mitt and his wife Lenore by his side, on February 10, 1962. RDA/Getty Images Descended from Mormon pioneers, the Udall family have held high political positions from states across the American West. To cite one of many examples, Stewart Udall served as Secretary of the Department of Interior under President Lyndon Johnson. Today, his son Tom Udall (right) represents New Mexico in the U.S. Senate, and his nephew Mark Udall (left) represents Colorado in the same body. CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images (2) The large Udall clan also includes local officials, congressmen and state legislators. AP The Taft family includes prominent Americans extending back to the colonial era. William Howard Taft (left) was President from 1909 to 1913 and later appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. His son Robert A. Taft (right) wielded extraordinary power and influence as a member of the U.S. Senate, where he served until his death in 1953. Getty Images (2) Theodore Roosevelt first become president after the assassination of President McKinley in 1901 and served until 1909. Franklin Roosevelt was a great admirer of his fifth cousin Theodore, and became President himself, serving from 1933 to 1945, the longest consecutive administration in America’s history. Getty Images (2) America’s original political dynasty, the Adams family had a hand in some of the most consequential events in the country’s history. John Adams was a member of the Continental Congress, a signatory to the Declaration of Independence, and served as America’s first President from 1797 to 1801. John Quincy Adams became the first son of a President to become President, serving from 1825 to 1829. National Archives/Getty Images (2)
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.
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