Former Florida Gov. Bush declined to say Friday if he would sign the controversial Senate Republican letter to the Iranian government warning about the Obama Administration’s emerging nuclear agreement.
Addressing reporters following a meeting with about 30 business leaders on his first political visit to the state in 15 years, Bush, an all-but-certain presidential candidate, said he wouldn’t be in a position to sign because, “I am not a Senator.”
“I think that they signed it out of frustration that there has been no dialogue, no conversation. There’s been a stifling of debate about the properness of this negotiation,” he told reporters. “Ultimately the best way that the Senate can express its will is through Sen. Corker’s bill, and that is what I hope will happen as soon as possible.”
That bill by Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the head of the foreign relations committee, would require the White House to seek congressional approval for whatever agreement is reached with Iran—something the White House has said is not necessary.
Earlier this week, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas drafted a letter warning Iran about the Senate and a subsequent President’s ability to undo any Obama makes with Iran without Senate ratification. The letter was signed by 47 Republican Senators, and has become a foreign policy flashpoint, with the White House calling it “dangerous” and an intrusion on the president’s executive authority. Even some Republicans questioning whether it should have been addressed to Iran’s leadership.
In his comments to reporters, Bush maintained that Democrats interfered with his brother’s foreign policy efforts, criticizing Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Syria as the George W. Bush administration was working to reduce Syrian influence in Lebanon. “I do think that we need to get back to a bipartisan consensus on foreign policy,” Jeb Bush said, referencing last year’s controversy over the congressional review of “enhanced interrogation techniques” under his brother’s administration. “The idea that the Senate Intelligence committee would have a Democratic report and a Republican report and then the former directors would have another report—the symbol that sends around the world is not one we want,” Bush said.
In his remarks to the roughly 30 business leaders, Bush criticized Obama for failing to maintain a U.S. military presence in Iraq after 2010, repeating his assertion that the U.S. withdrawal allowed for the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS). “Now we need to reengage with some small force level to continue to train the Iraqi army,” and to ensure that Sunni and Shia militias are united against the militant group.
Asked by reporters whether Obama’s deployment of thousands of U.S. troops to do just than was sufficient or whether he would call for even more American forces to be sent to Iraq, Bush said, “I don’t know.”
“I totally haven’t been briefed enough for that,” he added.
Bush, who is spending much of the trip in private meetings, interviews with local media and fundraising events for New Hampshire political figures, took a swing at Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is in the state doing the same and referred to himself as a potential front-runner.
“I am not a candidate,” Bush said, referencing his exploratory phase. “Maybe he is, but I don’t know, but you can’t be a front-runner until you start running.”