So, understandably, Jeb Bush’s statement has led to a flurry of follow-up stories. CNN went with the headline, “Jeb: George W. Bush is a top foreign policy adviser” even though they note in the actual story that, “Two sources who the Bush staff put in touch with CNN said they understood Bush’s comments to be specifically regarding Israel.”
Costa and Gold politely explain why they think this could be a problem for Jeb Bush:
Embracing George W. Bush as a foreign-policy confidant is a risky and unexpected move for the former Florida governor as he readies for a likely presidential bid. While the former president’s approval ratings have improved since he left office in 2009, his foreign-policy legacy — particularly the long war in Iraq — remains deeply unpopular.
With respect to my colleagues, I agree that this statement could be a problem for Jeb Bush, but not for the reasons that they say. No, the problem George W. Bush poses for Jeb is that the current GOP donor base could think that Bush 43 was soft on Israel.
That’s crazy talk, I know. After all, Bush was known for being a stalwart friend of Israel while in office. He backed Israel to the hilt during that country’s 2006 operations against Hezbollah. Costa and Gold quote Danielle Pletka saying, “people who are supportive of Israel remember him as supportive of Israel.”
And yet… Bush did not always see eye-to-eye with Israel. He characterized himself as the first president to state that he supported a Palestinian state (though see Glenn Kessler’s fact-check). Bush actually convened a peace conference between Israeli leaders and the Palestinians. He refrained from bombing Syria in 2007 to stop that country’s nascent nuclear program, forcing Israel to go it alone in that attack. Bush later refused to support an Israeli airstrike on Iran in the spring of 2008.
Bush was clearly a strong supporter of Israel, and yet that support was not completely unqualified.
Where past Republican leaders had their disagreements with Israel, today’s Republicans have made support for the Jewish state an inviolable litmus test for anyone aspiring to national office.“If you’re a Republican and you hedge on your support on Israel, it’s viewed as having a flawed foreign policy,” said Ron Bonjean, a party strategist who has worked for Republican leaders in Congress. “It’s a requirement for Republicans these days to be very strong on Israel if they’re going to be taken seriously by primary voters.” Any deviation on that, he said, leads to inevitable questions: “If you’re not supporting Israel, then who are you supporting? Are you supporting Iran?”
When Republican politicians want to make their first pilgrimage to the Holy Land, there’s but one person to call: Larry Mizel. That’s why he’s arranging Scott Walker’s first-ever trip to Israel next week….Walker is wary of being outflanked on Israel issues by other hawkish primary rivals. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, appears to have an inside track for the backing of Paul Singer, a hedge fund billionaire and RJC member from New York — and possibly with Adelson himself. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, another foreign policy hawk likely to enter the presidential race, has also carved out a lane on national security and defense matters….With Jeb Bush and others raising unprecedented sums of money through super PACs that could push the primary fight well into April 2016, Walker is hoping that Jewish Republican donors who are skeptical about Bush can help him keep up.