Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks to voters during a rally for Republican candidates in Castle Rock, Colo., on October 29, 2014.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks to voters during a rally for Republican candidates in Castle Rock, Colo., on October 29, 2014. Brennan Linsley/AP

GOP Senators Are Lukewarm on Jeb Bush as Commander in Chief

As Jeb Bush explores a presidential run in 2016, GOP leaders on national security aren't jumping to endorse him. By Molly O’Toole

The 2016 presidential race began to heat up this week with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush announcing he has decided to “actively explore the possibility of running for president of the United States,” but many of his fellow Republicans in Congress were noticeably lukewarm on his bid for the White House.   

Across the Republican political spectrum on national security -- from the hawkish trio of John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte to the more moderate Rob Portman of Ohio and Tea Party conservative Ted Cruz -- a number of senators acknowledged Bush’s shallow experience on defense issues.

Asked what she thinks of a Bush campaign from a national security perspective, Ayotte answered, “I don’t know. I haven’t heard what his views are on national security yet … maybe he’s stated that, but I haven’t been following him on foreign policy.”

“The bottom line is Ronald Reagan was a governor, too, so there’s a long precedence of governors coming to the White House and being able to make that transition,” she said. “So I don’t think that that, per say, is a disqualifier, but I would want to know what his vision is -- particularly on the pressing issues we have around the world right now.”

A recent survey of national security workers and troops ranked Bush just behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney among potential picks for 2016, but Bush is better known for his tenure as governor, education work and famous family than as a prominent figure on foreign policy.

President Obama’s announcement Wednesday that he would be restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba after more than 50 years gave Bush an early opportunity to demonstrate his foreign policy prowess, given his deep roots in Florida, home to many of the 2 million Cubans and Cuban-Americans in the United States. Bush supports the long-standing embargo on the island country some 90 miles away from Florida. (In the 2004 presidential election, Bush’s brother won nearly 80 percent of Florida’s Cuban voters, a majority of whom identify as Republican.) But the politics of the issue have shifted, with recent polls showing most Cuban-Americans, especially younger ones, now support relaxing sanctions.

The bottom line is Ronald Reagan was a governor, too, so there’s a long precedence of governors coming to the White House and being able to make that transition.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.

“The Obama administration’s decision to restore diplomatic ties with Cuba is the latest foreign policy misstep by this president, and another dramatic overreach of his executive authority,” Bush said. “The beneficiaries of President Obama’s ill-advised move will be the heinous Castro brothers who have oppressed the Cuban people for decades.”

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who has put down rumors of his own run, said the family ties could help make up for the foreign policy gap on Bush’s resume.

“He’s got a good background on issues domestic and international -- he’s got a pretty famous father who I’m sure early in his life taught him a lot about international issues,” Portman said, referring to former President George H.W. Bush, who served as a diplomat in China and also head of the CIA. “I think he’s had a lot of exposure to it over the years.”

McCain, the Republican presidential nominee in 2008, complimented Bush. “I think he was a good governor and he has impressive credentials,” he said. As for how Bush could leverage his state executive experience to the White House, McCain said, “Well, probably the same way his brother did. His brother was governor of Texas, he’s a former governor -- he’ll surround himself by good people. Ronald Reagan was a governor, and was very successful because he surrounded himself with good people. The problem with this administration is that it’s a very small number of people that are making these decisions which have been so disastrous.”

“I’ll let the American people judge, but I’m supporting Lindsey Graham, who has a very deep background in national security,” he said. “But I’m not telling the people they’re qualified or disqualified by that issue.”

Graham, who is exploring a bid of his own, had some advice for Bush: “Don’t take the bait. Be who you are.”

“I think there are a lot of people in the donor class that are looking for multiple voices, including on defense,” he said. “Competition is a good thing.”

Cruz is also testing the waters for 2016. “Oh, Jeb Bush is a good man,” Cruz said. “I am a fan of Jeb Bush’s. I think he was a good governor in Florida.”

Hinting at criticism that Bush is too moderate, and at his own desire to run for president, Cruz said: “I think that Republicans should nominate whoever is standing up and leading … whoever’s standing up and leading saying we must restore America’s leadership in the world.

“And I’ll say this, anyone who is thinking of running for president, be they a governor, be they a senator, I would encourage them to stand up and lead. I would be thrilled if a year from now we had a half dozen Republicans all of whom were as Reagan put it, ‘Painting in bold colors not pale pastels.’”

NEXT STORY: The Cuba Deal: Why Now?

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.