Shadow Government

Gov. Jeb Bush Checks the Boxes

In his first big at-bat, Jeb Bush delivered.


Our gallant leader, Peter Feaver, located far from the center of foreign policy action here in Chicago, failed to notice that Jeb Bush actually heeded his advice more closely than he knew. Peter prescribed six ways for a presidential candidate to pass the “Commander-in-Chief Threshold Test.” He credited Gov. Bush with #5 (assembling a kitchen cabinet) and #6 (delivering a big speech on foreign policy).

Gov. Bush certainly did both of those in his appearance at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs (where I work), but he also accomplished Peter’s task #1 (answer questions about foreign policy). In fact, that was the most impressive part of the event. Gov. Bush was more relaxed in the Q&A and showed admirable breadth. That did not mean he had memorized the name of every prominent world figure, but he had clearly thought about a wide range of foreign policy topics. After his opening speech, he first took a wide-ranging series of questions from Glenn Tilton, the executive vice chairman of the Chicago Council board. Then he took queries from the audience. Those queries included a comeback challenge on his earlier criticism of the president’s Cuba opening, a question about potential Iranian moves to acquire nuclear weapons, and even a non-foreign policy question about poverty in Chicago, which he handled gracefully. My colleague Richard Longworth has a fuller writeup of the whole event.

Gov. Bush did not present a five-point plan to deal with each foreign policy issue that came up, but that would not really have been appropriate for the setting. Instead, he tried to clarify the principles that would guide him. Such principles alone do not suffice to solve the problems facing the country, but as recent years have shown, a lack of clarity about principles can befuddle allies and undermine any chance of effective policy. For Gov. Bush, the Chicago appearance seemed a promising start.

Scott Olson / Getty Images

Phil Levy is the chief economist at Flexport and a former senior economist for trade on the Council of Economic Advisers in the George W. Bush administration. Twitter: @philipilevy

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