WASHINGTON - Former Florida governor Jeb Bush is in the midst of a European trip where he hopes to bolster his foreign policy credentials in advance of his official presidential candidacy announcement on Monday. Bush’s foreign policy trip includes visits to three U.S. allies — Germany, Poland and Estonia.
During a speech in Germany, Bush urged the West to take a stronger stand against Russian aggression aimed at Ukraine under the leadership of Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he called “a ruthless pragmatist.”
“Russia must respect the sovereignty of all of its neighbors and who can doubt that Russia will do what it pleases if aggression goes unanswered,” he said. “Our alliance, our solidarity and our actions are essential if we want to preserve the fundamental principles of our international order.”
“I am my own man”
In the run up to his presidential campaign, Jeb Bush has been quick to pay tribute to his father and brother, both former presidents, but insists he will be his own man should he win the White House next year.
“I love my brother. I love my dad. I actually love my mother as well and hope that’s o.k. 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,” he told the Chicago Council on Global Affairs in February.
Analysts say the pressure on Bush to differentiate himself from his father and brother will continue. Longtime political analyst Tom DeFrank of National Journal was a recent guest on VOA’s “Issues in the News” program.
“He has a tightrope to walk. He has to figure out a way to distance himself from his brother who left office as a very unpopular president,” he said.
The Shadow of Iraq
Bush stumbled recently when asked if he would have handled the war in Iraq differently from his brother, former President George W. Bush. Jeb Bush eventually said that knowing what he knows now, he would not have ordered the invasion of Iraq.
Establishing his own political identity will be critical moving forward, said University of Virginia expert Larry Sabato.
“He wants to have it both ways as politicians always do. He wants to get the nomination because of the Bush name and at the same time he wants to declare that he is his own man," he said. "Well, you can’t have it both ways and inevitably he will be held accountable to some degree for George W. Bush’s very controversial presidency.”
Bush has been able to use his family name to raise tens of millions of dollars from Republican donors for his upcoming campaign. But Bush faces skepticism from some conservatives and the challenge of winning over younger voters who may be looking for a fresh face.
“He has a good record and a name and a lot of support and ability to fundraise,” said John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington. “Some will say that as an establishment candidate he has taken some positions on immigration, on education, which are maybe not so appealing to the more conservative base.”
Standing Out in a Crowded Field
Once he officially launches his presidential campaign, Bush faces the challenge of introducing himself to the public as his own man, according to Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.
“Obviously his last name is his greatest benefit in terms of raising money but it is also his greatest obstacle. What Jeb Bush needs to become is ‘Jeb’, not the third Bush," he said. "And that is going to be very hard for him because talk radio is sort of the lifeblood of the Republican Party and right now they have a target on the back of Jeb Bush because they want him out of there no matter what. And it is Jeb’s job to remind them that he was a conservative when he was the governor of Florida.”
Public opinion polls show Bush near the top of the 10-person Republican field at the moment along with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Bush’s announcement will make him the 11th official Republican candidate so far to enter the 2016 race.