Tis the season. Donald Trump just announced his candidacy for president. Despite America’s pleas, Trump insists on being Trump. I suppose we should not be surprised by this.
Of course, the Donald’s announcement is a sideshow, especially when compared to Jeb Bush’s announcement yesterday. Bush’s speech was years in the making, and for the most part he delivered. He talked about passing both immigration and education reform, and even went so far to label himself a “reforming governor.” He spoke about his economic goals with unusual specificity—for those curious, he’s aiming for 4 percent economic growth per year. But it was hard not to notice that Bush went light on foreign policy specifics. He briefly mentioned Israel and Cuba, but did not make a single other reference to the Middle East. He lamented the “swift, mindless drawdown of the military” without explaining how he would use it after restoring it to full strength.
I had high hopes that we’d get a bit more foreign policy detail from Bush, especially since his announcement came on the heels of his 5-day trip to Europe. The trip was hailed a success since Jeb managed to avoid saying anything particularly dumb or cringe-inducing, which is what passes for success if you’re a presidential hopeful these days (read this Atlantic piece for a brief yet entertaining history of GOP travels to Europe). Truth be told, it is worrying that we’ve needed to set the bar of expectations so low in the first place—Trump notwithstanding. But as the 2016 primary season rolls on, the American people need to start demanding more from their candidates, especially on the foreign policy front.
The sad reality is that the only politicians who have so far presented coherent foreign policy visions are all considered long shots (ex: Bernie Sanders, Rand Paul, Lindsey Graham). They have nothing to lose by telling people directly what they think about America’s role in the world. On the flip side we have perceived front-runners like Jeb and Hillary, who have so much to lose that they don’t say much of anything. Left to their own devices, they will continue not saying anything till Election Day. Primaries are an important part of the democratic process, and nominees should be held to a higher standard—which in 2016 means having some semblance of a foreign policy vision.