Speaking on Wednesday in Chicago, Jeb Bush tried to distinguish his own views on foreign policy from the approach of his father, former President George H.W. Bush, and his brother, former President George W. Bush. Most people who listened to the speech were skeptical, as you'll see in the links below. The former Florida governor wants to be seen as an independent and original statesman, but he just didn't offer enough in the way of substance to make his case convincingly.
What if he had, though? Another problem for Bush is that his brother's and his father's records don't leave much space between them for a genuinely new foreign policy that would be acceptable to the electorate in the G.O.P. primary. Jeb Bush can't embrace the quasi-isolationism of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and he of course criticized the comparatively cautious approach of the Obama administration. If Jeb Bush doesn't want to be seen as imitating George W. Bush's neoconservativism or the law-and-international-order attitude that their dad held toward Saddam Hussein's aggression, it's hard to see what's left for him.
What's in Wonkbook: 1) Bush's foreign policy speech 2) Opinions, including Kristof on unions 3) The Clintons' fundraising, and more
1. Top story: 'I am my own man,' Jeb Bush says
Jeb Bush promised to adopt a foreign policy independent of his brother's and father's, without giving details. "'My views will often be held up in comparison to theirs,' Jeb Bush said. 'But I am my own man.' He added that his approach to geopolitics would be shaped by 'my own thinking and my own experiences.' " Ed O'Keefe and Karen Tumulty in The Washington Post.
But he also released a list of his advisers on foreign policy, most of whom worked for his brother. "By including 19 advisers who served under President George W. Bush, or his father, President George H.W. Bush, Jeb risks criticism during the 2016 campaign that he will represent a continuation of his family's legacy on foreign policy. Among his advisers is Paul Wolfowitz, a former deputy U.S. defense secretary who was a lead architect of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and once famously asserted that Iraq would be able to finance its own post-war reconstruction." Warren Strobel for Reuters.
GRAHAM: To distinguish himself from his brother, Jeb Bush needs to offer a clear alternative. "His speech was a mix of obligatory platitudes about leadership, general statements of principles, and a stinging critique of the Obama administration—all the more stinging because it was delivered in Chicago, Obama's home. But it was notably short on specifics. ... For example, Bush's critique of Obama's quickly abandoned red lines on Syria hits the mark. But what would Bush have done? Would he have bombed Syria? Would he have asked for congressional approval? It's not clear." The Atlantic.
MILBANK: It also just wasn't a very good speech. "He combined his father’s awkward oratory with his brother’s mangled syntax and malapropisms. Like his brother, he said 'nucular' instead of 'nuclear,' and he hunched over the lectern with both hands on it — but instead of exuding folksiness, as his brother does, he oozed discomfort. A top priority, he explained, is 'reforming a broken immigration system and turning it into an economic — a catalytic converter for sustained economic growth.' Presumably he was reaching for 'catalyst' but instead came up with an automotive emissions-control device." The Washington Post.
CILLIZZA: Still, Bush accomplished an important political objective. "This was a trial balloon for how (and how much) Jeb will -- and will have to -- talk about the Bush name in the campaign to come. His people are smart and, therefore, were well aware that the lines about his family would dominate coverage and overshadow a speech decidedly light on specifics. That level of press coverage and scrutiny will function, at some level, as a sort of gauge for how much leeway (or not) Bush has to talk about his brother and father." The Washington Post.
PHILIP KLEIN: Republicans need to leave the past behind. "In a general election, nominating Bush would neutralize one of Hillary Clinton's biggest liabilities (the idea that she, too, is a figure from the past trying to ride her last name to power). Instead of having the clear contrast that would be possible if Republicans were to name a fresh candidate, the 2016 election would devolve into a proxy battle over whether Americans want to restore the Bush or Clinton presidencies. Whether the GOP likes it or not, that isn't a matchup that favors Republicans." The Washington Examiner.
2. Top opinions
KRISTOF: Unions helped to uphold the middle class, despite their bad reputation. "The abuses are real. But, as unions wane in American life, it’s also increasingly clear that they were doing a lot of good in sustaining middle class life — especially the private-sector unions that are now dwindling. Most studies suggest that about one-fifth of the increase in economic inequality in America among men in recent decades is the result of the decline in unions." The New York Times.
LANE: The federal government retracts its warning on cholesterol, admitting a mistake that lasted for decades. "There’s a lesson here for all of us, especially those who urge that this or that public policy be dictated by 'the science.' To be sure, that lesson is not that all science is as poor a guide to policy as the cholesterol research that led to such misallocation of scarce resources. Evolution, certainly, is established beyond a reasonable doubt, as is the link between tobacco and cancer... Still, some science is bound to disappoint, or mislead, at significant social and financial cost, before it gets corrected." The Washington Post.
Just what does Germany want from Greece? "Germany's blockheaded rigor requires the new Greek government to nakedly break all its election promises. That's fine with Germany's finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, who seems to think Greece's voters need to be punished for their lack of judgment. If they and their popular new government are humiliated, a far-right party even less palatable to the rest of the EU stands ready to give it a try. Meanwhile, the risk persists that an avoidable financial collapse in Greece will put other euro members under renewed strain. The EU's refusal to come to terms with Greece -- to accept concessions short of unconditional surrender -- doesn't serve its interests. There's no need for this impasse to end in disaster. If it does, Germany and its supporters will be more to blame than Greece," writes the editorial board of Bloomberg View.
Don't try to add a ban on currency manipulation to a trade deal. "While it’s politically expedient to describe global currency markets as rigged against the United States, it’s more accurate to describe them as a manifestation of interdependence. Economic experts disagree as to the 'correct' valuations of major currencies; the precise intent behind any particular currency intervention is also hard to establish. ... Injecting currency manipulation rules into the trade-promotion bill at this late date could cause a rebellion by TPP negotiating partners, possibly scuttling the entire project, along with all the benefits, geopolitical and economic, of knitting major Pacific Rim economies together under the aegis of U.S.-style free trade," argues the editorial board of The Washington Post.
Improving higher education means holding colleges accountable, write Jon Cowan and Jim Kessler of Third Way. "When students default, colleges should have to cover some portion — maybe 5 percent of the yearly principal and interest — to share some of the burden; right now, the taxpayers are on the hook for 100 percent. Colleges that genuinely focus on educating low-income students should not be punished for doing so, but high-turnover schools that consistently enroll students while failing to graduate them should be pushed out of business." The New York Times.
3. In case you missed it
The Clinton Foundation has raised close to $2 billion since it was established. "The organization has given contributors entree, outside the traditional political arena, to a possible president. Foreign donors and countries that are likely to have interests before a potential Clinton administration — and yet are ineligible to give to U.S. political campaigns — have affirmed their support for the family’s work through the charitable giving. ... Nearly half of the major donors who are backing Ready for Hillary, a group promoting her 2016 presidential bid, as well as nearly half of the bundlers from her 2008 campaign, have given at least $10,000 to the foundation, either on their own or through foundations or companies they run." Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger and Steven Rich in The Washington Post.
Two groups that couldn't be farther apart politically announce a partnership on criminal justice. "Usually bitter adversaries, Koch Industries and the Center for American Progress have found at least one thing they can agree on: The nation’s criminal justice system is broken. ... The coalition plans a multimillion-dollar campaign on behalf of emerging proposals to reduce prison populations, overhaul sentencing, reduce recidivism and take on similar initiatives. Other groups from both the left and right — the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans for Tax Reform, the Tea Party-oriented FreedomWorks — are also part of the coalition, reflecting its unusually bipartisan approach." Carl Hulse in The New York Times.
DUY: Minutes from the Federal Reserve's January meeting show the central bank is preparing to raise rates. "The Fed is plainly focused on raising rates. As a group, they sense the time is coming to begin policy normalization. But they don't yet know when exactly that time will be. They don't yet have everything they need to begin, and they don't know when they will have everything (which is why they need to end calendar-dependent language). We know not yet. June? Maybe, maybe not." Economist's View.