LOS ANGELES, Dec. 21, 2015 — Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has received plenty of criticism from conservatives who see him as a GOP establishment shill. When he spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition 2015 Presidential Candidates Forum, he was among friends.
His brother, former President George W. Bush, has been cursed, reviled and burned in effigy by the angry left and even some on the right. Most RJC attendees love the man for his honesty, integrity, decency, kindness, unwavering support of Israel and principled positions on everything from taxes to foreign policy. While “Dubya,” also known affectionately as “the Dub,” speaks from the heart, Jeb Bush speaks more from the head. They have different styles, but Jeb Bush his his own man and proud of his warm relationship with the RJC. He was presented to the attendees by Sam Fox, the former ambassador to Belgium under George W. Bush.
As an amusing aside, Vice President Dick Cheney told the RJC in 2007 that President George W. Bush gave nicknames to people he liked. Ambassador Sam Fox was known as “Foxy.”
Jeb Bush is not known as the nicknaming type. He is more serious and less gregarious than his brother, and he began his remarks as serious as can be.
He started by praying for those we lost in San Bernardino and extended Happy Hanukkah wishes to Jews. He mentioned Ezra Schwartz, a Jewish resident of Boston who was murdered by Islamists.
On foreign policy, he said we must not speak with grandiosity unless it is backed up. He specifically mentioned the failed Russian reset.
There should be a no-fly zone in Syria.
“Russia should be a little more worried about what we do.”
We should create safe zones. “We need more special forces. We need to arm the Kurds.”
President Obama and Hillary Clinton abandoned Iraq. That created ISIS.
We must reinstitute sanctions on Iran and “restore the ruptured relationship with Israel.”
On day one of a Jeb Bush presidency, he would move the United States embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. This was loudly cheered.
There will be no pressure on Israel until the Palestinians recognize Israel’s right to exist with secure borders. There is no moral equivalence between the two parties.
Bush would work with the attorney general to stop the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement.
“Who but the United States will stand for the discriminated, the oppressed?”
“The political correctness on our universities need to be shattered,” noting that anti-Semitic acts are not being punished.
He joked that whoever thinks the GOP has too many candidates should check out Israeli politics.
He then successfully mixed his natural humility with a fighter’s spirit that won him two terms as governor of Florida.
We need “servant leadership, a person with a heart, a person with a brain and a person with a backbone.”
“I will take it to Hillary Clinton, and I will whup her.”
He would absolutely reinstate the (late Israeli Prime Minister) Ariel Sharon letter that Obama refused to sign. He said Obama had a “warped view” of the Israeli conflict with the Palestinians.
Asked where he would pursue regime change, he said it has to be based on United States security interests, not the brutality of the regime. You have to know how to get in with overwhelming force, and how to get out.
With regards to Latin America, Bush showed a clear command of the major players in the region. He mentioned the importance of the Venezuelan presidential election.
Asked what he looks for in a secretary of state, he wants a person of skill. That is lacking now. Obama’s National Security Council is run by campaign operatives and political hacks.
“If you don’t have the humility to know what you don’t know, you’re going to be a horrible president. We’ve got one now.”
His top adviser on Israel would be his brother George W. Bush, not former Secretary of State James A. Baker III. This was a very important message to those in the crowd who remember Jim Baker encouraging President George Herbert Walker Bush to take anti-Israel stands. The crowd did not engage in guilt by association, taking Jeb Bush at his word.
He was asked about how he would handle the budget, and he cited how a rescissions bill could factor as a de facto line item veto. While this may be too technocratic for some, this RJC audience was fine with specifics on important issues. Bush offered politics, policy, process and procedure.
He ended his time with his friends by being told to extend warm regards from the RJC to the entire beloved Bush family. Jeb Bush has been sharply criticized by part of the conservative electorate, but he clearly seemed at ease speaking to Republican Jewish voters who know him, like him and trust him.