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Jeb Bush, Mulling Run for President, Vows He's His 'Own Man’

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush answers questions after speaking at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Feb. 18, 2015, in Chicago.

Former Florida governor and expected Republican presidential contender Jeb Bush delivered a strong criticism of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy during a speech in Chicago Wednesday.

Bush also said that while there will be comparisons with his famous father and brother, both former presidents, he is his “own man” when it comes to his views on foreign affairs.

Officially, Jeb Bush is still only exploring a run for president next year. But he sounded like a candidate as he delivered a foreign policy speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs that began with a withering critique of Obama’s handling of foreign policy.

“Under this administration we are inconsistent and indecisive. We have lost the trust and confidence of our friends. We definitely no longer inspire fear in our enemies,” said he.

Bush added that under the Obama administration, the U.S. has become less influential in world affairs even though as a candidate Obama promised more international engagement. He was specifically critical of Obama’s approach on Cuba, Ukraine and Iran.

Bush said his core approach to foreign policy included a commitment to a strong domestic economy, strengthening alliances abroad and rebuilding the U.S. military to counter foreign threats.

“I believe that, fundamentally, weakness invites war. Strength encourages peace,” said he.

Bush name both asset, baggage

Bush also noted that many will be tempted to compare him to his more famous father and brother - former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

“I love my brother. I love my dad. Actually, I love my mother as well and hope that is okay. And I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions that they had to make. But I am my own man and my views are shaped by my own thinking and my own experiences,” said he.

Bush’s brother, former president George W. Bush, left office in 2009 deeply unpopular in large part because of public unhappiness over the Iraq War. New public opinion polls by Quinnipiac University show more than a third of voters in key states like Iowa, Colorado and Virginia would be inclined not to support Jeb Bush because of his family name.

Jeb Bush has set up an exploratory committee that allows him to raise money and hire staff for a possible run in next year’s Republican Party primaries and caucuses.

So far the Bush name and his connections are helping him line up support among Republicans, says Quinnipiac Pollster Peter Brown.

“It is believed he will have a fundraising edge on most if not the entire Republican field. And being the brother and son of presidents means that he gets to inherit a political and fundraising network that has worked pretty well in the past,” said Brown.

Bush is expected to decide on whether to run for president sometime in the next few months. He is likely to have plenty of company with more than a dozen well-known Republicans also considering a bid for the White House.

On the Democratic side, all eyes are on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton but she, too, may not announce her intentions for several more months.

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    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.