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'I am my own man,' says Jeb Bush

19 february 2015, 14:08
0
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush speaks to guests at a luncheon hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.  ©AFP
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush speaks to guests at a luncheon hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. ©AFP

 Republican Jeb Bush insisted Wednesday that he is his "own man," further indication he is distinguishing himself from his presidential father and brother as he mulls a 2016 White House bid, AFP reports.

In a broad-ranging foreign policy speech in which he called for resurgent American leadership from the Middle East to Asia to confronting Russian aggression, the former Florida governor acknowledged his brother George W. Bush committed "mistakes" in the Iraq War.

But the younger Bush, 62, largely pinned blame for unrest and the rise of the Islamic State group on President Barack Obama, accusing him of creating a political and security vacuum in the region by withdrawing troops from Iraq and downplaying the threat of Islamist extremism.

"Under his administration we are inconsistent and indecisive," Bush warned.

"We have lost the trust and confidence of our friends. We definitely no longer inspire fear in our enemies."

Bush, who has taken several steps consistent with a presidential campaign rollout, is widely considered the Republican leader in a crowded GOP field. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton is seen as the Democratic frontrunner.

While he laid out a platform for international US engagement, Bush recognized that his famous name could be an issue when it came to his political future.

"I have been fortunate to have a father and brother who helped shape America's foreign policy from the Oval Office. My views will be held in comparison to theirs," Bush told the Chicago Council on Foreign Affairs.

"I admire their service to the nation, but I am my own man."

Bush said there were "mistakes" in Washington's prosecution of the Iraq War from 2003 to 2011, notably "using information that turned out not to be accurate" and failing to create a secure post-Saddam Hussein environment.

Commanders in chief, he said, must make adjustments as conditions evolve. "Every president inherits a changing world and changing circumstances," he said.

Bush called for a hard line against Islamic State extremists, saying it was imperative to go on the offensive against the group that commands wide swathes of Iraq and Syria.

"ISIS did not exist three or four years ago," he said, using an acronym for the jihadists.

"The strategy needs to be restrain them, tighten the noose and take them out."

On Iran, he said people have lost confidence in Obama's ability to negotiate an appropriate solution to the nuclear standoff.

Bush said he is eager to hear Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to the US Congress scheduled for March 3.

He expressed surprise at the controversy generated by the planned address, coming at the height of world powers' negotiations with Iran and weeks ahead of Israeli elections.

Bush stressed the need to combat terror threats with "responsible intelligence-gathering" including the National Security Agency's controversial bulk data collection program.

In stressing his foreign policy credentials, Bush cited his travels to Asia "four times a year," his five Israel visits and his stint as branch manager of a US bank in Caracas, Venezuela.


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