What Jeb Bush can learn from his older brother George – Telegraph.co.uk
Jeb was the other way around. He appeared nervous as he raced through the
lines of his text, at one point mixing up Iran and Iraq before catching
himself and later claiming the Islamic State had 200,000 fighters – around
ten times the number estimated by the CIA.
But the former governor of Florida looked much more sure of himself during the
policy discussion that followed. While he still seemed pumped with a nervy
energy, the younger Mr Bush spoke knowledgeably about European defence
spending and the legal mechanisms for lifting the trade embargo on Cuba.
No one who watched Jeb could fairly caricature him as being intellectually out
of his depth, a charge often levelled at his brother.
Jeb Bush (right) is trying to step out of the shadow of his brother’s
His appearance at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs did however highlight
two other potential stumbling blocks on the road he hopes will lead to the
The first is that for all his efforts to step out of George W’s shadow, the
doctrinaire Republican foreign policy he described sounded familiar. He did
not recant his past support for the Iraq War, as Hillary Clinton recently
did, and praised his brother’s decision to surge troops into Iraq in 2007 as
“one of the most heroic acts of courage politically that any president has
done”. He struck hawkish notes on Cuba and Iran and said it was “feckless”
for the US not to provide arms to the Ukrainian military.
A list of his foreign policy advisors includes many of the Bush-Cheney figures
who defended the use of torture by CIA agents and designed the failed
strategy to secure Iraq after the invasion.
So while many Americans may be frustrated with Barack Obama’s handling of
foreign affairs, Mr Bush will need to do much more to convince voters he
doesn’t represent a return to neoconservative adventurism abroad.
Jeb also proved yesterday that he can comfortably talk ideas before fellow
members of the establishment. But it was less obvious that he can shift
gears and do the sort of regular-guy campaigning his brother excelled at.
The younger Mr Bush hasn’t won an election since 2002 and his political joints
may have stiffened during more than a decade in boardrooms and policy
seminars. It was hard to imagine the sort of nervy performance he gave in
Chicago working on a crowded debate stage with sound bite-savvy fellow
Republicans or in the diners of Iowa and New Hampshire, where would-be
presidents have to prove their human credentials.
Jeb spoke yesterday to begin addressing the question of his brother’s legacy.
While there’s no doubt he needs to distance himself from George W on policy,
he may have something to learn from his fraternal president on politics.