The Cable

Jeb Bush and His Family’s Foreign Policy Officially Enter the 2016 Presidential Race

Jeb Bush insists he's his own man. But as he enters the 2016 presidential race, his family's shadows loom large.

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Prior to Monday’s announcement that he was officially entering the 2016 race for the GOP presidential nomination, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush released the campaign logo below.

It sticks with the minimalist themes other Republican contenders like Texas Governor Rick Perry and Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) have adopted. It also leaves out one word that continues to haunt Bush as he officially hits the campaign trail.

Bush.

Jeb, who is currently the GOP frontrunner, has used similar logos in the past. They reflect a difficult reality for the candidate, especially in terms of foreign policy: The shadows of his father, George H.W., and older brother, George W., are long, dark, and provide fertile attack grounds for opponents who argue Bush can’t escape them.

Neither his father or his brother attended the announcement at Miami Dade College. He did acknowledge them, saying, he met “his first president on the day he was born, and his second on the day he was brought home from the hospital.”

Bush only made cursory mentions of foreign policy, warning about an inferior American military, promising to stand with Israel, and blasting Obama’s détente with Cuba.

“With their phone-it-in foreign policy, the Obama-Clinton-Kerry team is leaving a legacy of crises uncontained, violence unopposed, enemies unnamed, friends undefended, and alliances unraveling,” Bush said.

Specific foreign-affairs issues left out of the announcement have been daily fodder on the campaign trail. The crowded 17-candidate Republican field has developed two primary lines of attack on President Barack Obama’s administration, including the Democratic frontrunner, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The first is that Obama allowed the Islamic State to spread unchecked across large parts of Syria and Iraq. The second is that the president hasn’t been tough enough on Russian President Vladimir Putin, who continues to meddle in Eastern Ukraine.

All GOP candidates have struggled with the former. The war was ultimately based on faulty intelligence, but many are loathe to admit the actions of a former Republican president were a mistake. But because Bush has a blood connection to the man responsible for it, he is especially vulnerable to attack from his GOP rivals, as well as Democrats.

This is reflected by Bush’s waffling on Iraq prior to Monday’s formal announcement. Four times during one week in May, he changed his position on the war, ultimately saying he would not have invaded Iraq knowing what is known today.

His Iraq flip-flops have overshadowed his family’s mixed legacy with Russia. Jeb is trying to strike his own path, using a recent trip to Europe to say he’d get tougher on Moscow. But the Bushes already have a rich history with the former Cold War rival.

While former President George H.W. Bush celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall, Moscow descended into economic and political chaos under Russia’s former leader, Boris Yeltsin. This leadership void paved the way for Putin’s rise to power.

Jeb’s older brother also has a mixed history when it comes to dealing with the Russian bear. The 43rd president once said Putin was “trustworthy,” and that he looked into the Russian strongman’s eyes and “was able to get a sense of his soul.” But he was unable to envision Putin’s 2008 invasion of Georgia, an American ally.

Jeb, who is on pace to raise $100 million to pay for his campaign, also has to distance himself from some of his older brother’s immigration policies. George W. built stretches of fence along the U.S. border with Mexico in an effort to keep out illegal immigrants from Latin America, a move widely unpopular with American Latinos. He was also unable to get immigration reform that included a path to citizenship through Congress.

Jeb’s efforts to reach out to the Latino community were evident in Miami Monday. He opened with music in Spanish and English. His wife, Columba, was born in Mexico, and they both speak Spanish, a skill he used briefly during his announcement. He also promised immigration reform, but offered no details.

“In any language, my message will be an optimistic one because I am certain that we can make the decades just ahead in America the greatest time ever to be alive in this world,” Bush said.

Photo credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

David Francis was a senior reporter for Foreign Policy, where he covered international finance. @davidcfrancis

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