He was gracious and measured, stern but sober—and tough on Russia—as he addressed the greatest challenges facing the United States.
Standing in a hotel ballroom a few blocks from the spot where Donald Trump was threatening to “totally destroy” North Korea, Jeb Bush offered a glimpse of the presidency that could have been.
“At some point the president is going to have to go from this ad hoc diplomacy, or whatever the foreign policy is, to something that’s clear and coherent,” Bush, one of Trump’s vanquished 2016 opponents, told a hawkish hotel ballroom audience gathered Tuesday for the United Against Nuclear Iran conference. “Because at the end of the day, too much chaos, and being unreliable, creates real dangers.”
Bush, the former Florida governor, was once considered the overwhelming favorite to win the GOP presidential nomination. Instead, he was forced out well before the primary season was over, his efforts at a “joyful” campaign rooted in a muscular view of American leadership trampled by the nationalist Trump and his rowdy, populist-leaning campaign.
As Trump glossed over threats from Russia to focus on other adversaries, Bush referred to Moscow as a “curse for President Trump”--remarks that come as Trump's White House grapples with probes into Russian influence in the 2016 election and possible ties to his campaign.
And as Trump leaned into his longtime campaign message of “America First,” Bush warned of dangers when the U.S. leaves “a void,” embracing the more internationalist view the Republican Party has recently represented, until now.
“Our vacillation, our pulling back…there was a big void and Russia took full advantage of it,” he said, when asked by MSNBC host and former George W. Bush communications director Nicolle Wallace whether America is doing enough to make Russia play a more constructive role in Iran.
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