After being hammered for a number of days by conservatives on foreign policy mushiness, Jeb Bush writes:

The administration believes Iran will become a responsible partner for peace once it signs up to a deal that largely leaves in place its nuclear infrastructure. In a region that is in a near-constant state of conflict — with Iran as a primary instigator — this approach is foolish. It is clear that nothing — not public opinion, not opposition from his own party in Congress, and not even the facts — will deter President Obama from a potentially risky agreement that may well allow Iran to intimidate the entire Middle East, menace Israel, and, most of all,  threaten America. . . . We are watching helplessly as Yemen – once considered by the Obama administration to be a reliable partner in the war against al-Qaeda and other terror networks — falls into anarchy. And Iraq continues to fall further under Iran’s orbit — a surrender of American influence and an insult to the troops and commanders who sacrificed mightily to stabilize that country.
Even when presented with evidence of treachery committed by the Iranians, the Obama administration turns the other way. Iran was caught cheating on previous agreements related to its nuclear program; Obama officials dismissed the matter, calling it a “mistake” by a low-level employee. Such is the state of the administration’s inability to conduct basic diplomacy: It always believes Iran’s excuses, but never its threats. Those threats keep coming. Iran’s leaders condemn America and its allies routinely. Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, did so just last Saturday: “Death to America,” he said.

Bush also deplores the president’s treatment of our ally Israel. He does not mention the attacks on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a racist or Obama’s insistence that Netanyahu does not want a two-state solution, but he chastises Obama for giving Netanyahu “halfhearted congratulations” and “threaten[ing] to downgrade the U.S.-Israel relationship and permit a series of anti-Israel resolutions to pass the United Nations Security Council without firm American opposition.” He rightly recognizes this is “a pattern of diplomatic scolding of Israel.” What he does not say is that he will refuse to abide by any deal that fails to cut off Iran’s pathway to the bomb and which Congress has not approved. So he is good on the analysis but fuzzy on what he would do differently.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has been aggressive and clear, having started weeks and months ago, with bitter criticism of the president on Israel and Iran. On Hugh Hewitt’s radio program, he criticized the president’s negotiating posture in detail and left no doubt what he would do:

MR: Well first of all, we need to remember what’s not being covered by these negotiations, which are just as important as their nuclear ambition, and that’s the intercontinental ballistic missiles that they’re developing. And it’s very reasonable that before the end of this decade, Iran could possess a long range rocket that could reach the United States, the Continental U.S. They’re rapidly, that’s not even being covered by these negotiations. They’re not even the subject of sanctions. And I think that alone is a reason to be imposing sanctions on Iran, not to mention their state sponsorship of terrorism. That being said, any agreement that allows Iran to retain enrichment capability, leaves in place the infrastructure they will need in five, ten, eight, whenever they decide to ramp up enrichment and produce a weapon, if the only thing standing between them and a nuclear weapon becomes, and the ability to deliver it through a long range rocket becomes the ability to enrich at a higher level, that’s the easiest switch to flip. And you saw the North Koreans follow a model such as this. So I just think the deal is premised on an agreement on something that is totally unacceptable, and quite frankly, abandons almost a decade of sanctions built on the idea originally that they would not be allowed to enrich. And by the way, the Saudis, the Turks, the Egyptians, even the Jordanians have made very clear that whatever Iran is allowed to do under this agreement, they will expect the same. So if Iran is allowed to enrich up to 5%, 20% for research, the Saudis are going to insist on the same capability. And you suddenly are going to have region awash with nuclear infrastructure.
HH: . . . If that deal is in fact signed by President Obama that allows them to retain enrichment, and if you run for president, and if you win, would you revoke that deal?
MR: Yes. . . . Absolutely, and I already have. And the point, because it’s not, first of all, it’s not an enforceable deal as we made clear in the Cotton letter. It won’t survive this president in terms of you know, a future president will have to decide whether to live by it or not. It’s not enforceable. It doesn’t have the force of law. Now if he brings it to the Congress and can get it passed, that’s a different story. He’s indicated that he prefers to take it to the United Nations instead of the U.S. Congress. The second point I would make is that I think it’ll be difficult to reassemble the international sanctions if this falls apart, but nonetheless, we should be willing to lead unilaterally. And I think others will ultimately see it. And the third is I anticipate the Iranians will take advantage of any loopholes they can find in the deal, and I think they’ll flat out try to violate portions of it. You know, Iran has other challenges ahead. They’re going to have a succession fight fairly soon when the Supreme Leader passes from the scene. And it’s very possible that the new leader of Iran, after the current leader vanishes, could be someone even more radical, as hard as that is to imagine. And that’s something to keep an eye on as well.

He went on to argue, “I would prefer for [Bashar al-]Assad never have to govern Syria. I would prefer for Iran to be governed by normal people and not a radical jihadist cleric. But that’s the world we have, and we have to confront it. Now here’s the question. If we don’t lead the world in confronting it, who will lead the world in confronting it, because the truth is, no one can. The United Nations can’t do it, the Russian obviously are in many ways supportive of some of the things that are happening. China has no interest in it. There is no substitute for American leadership on the global stage. And you can ignore our foreign adversaries, but they won’t ignore us. And eventually, you’re going to have to deal with them. So more often than not, the choice before us is do we deal with them now, earlier, when they are easier, not easy, but easier to confront, or do we wait for this problem to grow bigger, costlier, more expensive, and more difficult to confront?”

And Rubio is specific in his indictment of Obama on Israel: “Number one, he can’t say he has a businesslike relationship or that it isn’t personal when his entire political machine, virtually, some of the top people in his political operation were in Israel, on the ground, trying to defeat Netanyahu, which is unprecedented. You know, he didn’t send anyone in any other country to try to influence the outcome of those elections. And from Jeremy Bird down to others that were deeply and intricately involved in his campaigns in the past, he sent them down there to start the equivalent of a super PAC to try to oust Netanyahu.” He also defended Netanyahu’s observation that we would not have a peace deal soon. “I would say what many Israelis say, which is yeah, that’s the ideal outcome. It’s also the least likely. And here’s why, because you don’t have the conditions today for that to happen. … They teach their children to hate Jews, that it’s a glorious thing to kill Jews. These are the sorts of things that make it impossible at this moment to have an agreement. And in fact, if you’re standing from the Israeli perspective, what you see is the possibility that that second state that some are calling for would be nothing more than a launching pad for further attacks against Israel in the future.”

Rubio was able to talk off the cuff with great passion and detail. The granular understanding of the issues, coupled with passionate and definitive statements of his intended action, presented a portrait of knowledgeable and forceful leadership. He has a comfort level and excellent staff who help him sound presidential. Bush’s effort was a good start, but he has a ways to go. For now, a State Department-mentality of excessive caution and vagueness is hurting Bush.