American presidents have greater leeway on foreign policy than on domestic issues. Just see how President Obama is forging ahead to an agreement with Iran opposed by large majorities in Congress and among voters.
A president’s personal predilections and core assumptions can have much more of an effect on his foreign policy than on domestic issues. You can draw a straight line from Obama’s 2008 judgment that Iraq was a “stupid” war to the decisions that have led to the mess we see there today.
So it’s useful for voters to get as much insight as possible during campaigns about a potential president’s thinking on foreign policy. Unfortunately, they didn’t get much from the “announcement” speeches this past week of two candidates with prominent political pedigrees, Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton.
Only 253 of the 2,234 words in Bush’s speech text touched on foreign policy. He provided criticisms of “the Obama-Kerry-Clinton team” in cryptic shorthand on which he may expand as the campaign goes on.
Obama and his team, Bush said, are so eager to be history makers that they haven’t been peacemakers. Their legacy is “crises uncontained, violence unopposed, enemies unnamed, friends undefended and alliances unraveling.”
Bush promises to “rebuild our armed forces,” “our vital friendships” and “American-led alliances.” He criticized administration policies toward Israel and Cuba, of particular interest in South Florida but also to Republican voters nationally. The only other foreign nation mentioned was Mexico, as the native country of his wife.