Despite repeated attempts, his staff will not say if Bush would abide by the terms of an Iran deal not ratified by Congress that gave Iran a pathway to the bomb. This is not a hard question, so why have we not gotten a straight answer? Would he break the defense sequester caps? He has not said, and his campaign has declined to comment on the House defense budget released today. On any campaign, there will be advisers who say “Don’t box yourself in” or “Keep it general.” But now is no time for equivocation and playing it safe, especially on foreign policy. Campaign aides marinated in State Department-speak are experts at using many words to say very little, and, frankly, no one is more expert than Hillary Clinton.
Republicans, however, have a right to wonder why a candidate is being fuzzy and whether he will have the nerve to stick to his guns in office. The Republicans have a perfect standard to aspire to — Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who is informed, outspoken and concrete. Among the GOP field, we have seen this from former Texas governor Rick Perry on everything from Iran to the Islamic State to Ukraine. Despite his newness to the national stage, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has been increasingly outspoken on foreign policy issues; no one doubts what he would do about a United Nations-approved deal that bypassed the Senate and risked U.S. and Israeli security. For a frontrunner such as Bush, the temptation is to play it safe, play not to lose and keep definitive statements to a minimum. That is a mistake as a strategic matter, and it overlooks the role GOP hopefuls can have on congressional votes and in shaping the current debate.
In short, fiery is good for Bush, but it is not enough. He must take firm stands or risk the party looking for leadership elsewhere.