Quite clearly, something has come over Texas Gov. George W. Bush.
Everywhere he turns, he's suddenly talking about foreign policy. He's all over the morning shows. He's on ABC's "20/20." On Sunday he'll appear on NBC's "Meet the Press." This week campaigning in Iowa, the typically tightly disciplined Bush campaign several times veered into uncharted waters -- the impromptu news gaggle. It seems that every time a reporter comes within a breath of Bush, he wants to talk about foreign policy. "New internationalism," he calls his vision.
Yesterday, he signed copies of his new book, "A Charge to Keep," at the North Park Mall here and eagerly answered questions about the big picture view of the world.
Then after an event at the Boys and Girls Club yesterday, Bush sauntered past a group of reporters on his way to his scheduled news conference, stopped and talked for nearly 10 minutes about that vision of the world. Then he went to the news conference and talked some more.
This is the same Bush whose foreign policy utterances to date could fit nicely on a 3-by-5 notecard.
What is going on here? Well, for one thing, Bush is giving his first major foreign policy speech on Friday in Los Angeles.
Bush is staking out ground as an internationalist in the mode of Theodore Roosevelt, whose "speak softly and carry a big stick" motto Bush is trying emulate. Bush's foreign policy calls for beefing up the military and taking advantage of the nation's technological superiority to build a force that has the power to enforce world-wide peace without overextending itself in every skirmish around the world.
In speeches, interviews with reporters and conversations with voters, Bush took all questions, elaborating on the Middle East, Russia, China, a national missile defense system, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, among other topics.
Bush has emphasized that his presidency would be a categorical rejection of isolationists in both parties.
"America must seize the moment," he said last night before an enthusiastic crowd of 800 at a fund-raiser for Iowa Rep. Jim Leach, who has endorsed Bush. "It is a world of madmen; it is a world of terror."
Bush's seems to harbor little resentment -- at least publicly -- over the well-publicized foreign policy pop quiz that he failed a few weeks ago. He has worked a line into his stump speech about how as he headed off to campaign, his wife warns him to be himself and "not show off and try to name all those world leaders."
He responded confidently to a reporter's question about what was at stake in his upcoming foreign policy speech, given the perception of him that may have been created by the pop quiz.
In statement reminiscent of his father's penchant for nonsequitors, Bush said: "When you're the front runner, you get fun poked at you . . . I think the American people have questions about every person running for president in terms of foreign policy. And they should. No one is the president running for president of the United States this election. The American people should have questions. And part of this speech is to lay out my vision and how I'm going to lead. It's an important speech to give and I'm giving it."