Jeb Bush previewed his plans Monday to attack one of Hillary Clinton’s supposed strengths, criticizing her foreign policy record and blaming current global unrest in part on her term as secretary of State.
“She can’t do the Heisman on the first four years of the Obama foreign policy” and then disown the current unrest abroad, Bush said Monday while appearing on The Hugh Hewitt Show.
Since Bush began considering a run for president late last year, he has been virtually absent from the influential conservative talk-radio circuit. But this was his second appearance in as many months on Hewitt’s program, even coming in-person to Hewitt’s Southern California studio Monday. In recent months, Hewitt has emerged as the go-to pundit for the Republican Party establishment.
On the show, Bush sketched out his lines of attack against the presumptive Democratic nominee. “The pullback began then,” Bush said of Clinton’s tenure. “The reset with Russia, the discussions with Syria, the red line, all these things created the beginnings of what we’re now seeing.”
Bush repeatedly flapped his hawkish wings in the talk-radio appearance, saying he would have abandoned nuclear negotiations with Iran “a long time ago,” criticizing President Obama for showing “incredible disrespect” for Israel and for the administration’s handling of Russian President Vladimir Putin, “trash-talking the guy and doing nothing.”
He went on to channel his brother, former President George W. Bush, calling some of America’s foes in the Middle East “barbarians” and “evil doers.” And he defended the controversial domestic spying program, blaming Obama for failing “to persuade people that their civil liberties are being protected by the systems we have in place.”
In the 30-minute interview, Bush also opened up a bit about his Catholic faith and religious freedom laws, something he has been reticent to do, as documented this week in National Journal.
He embraced Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s recent signing of a controversial religious-freedom law calling it “the right thing” to do. The legislation has sparked intense backlash from Democrats and gay-rights groups, but Bush noted that President Clinton had signed a similar measure two decades ago.
“This is simply allowing people of faith space to be able to express their beliefs, to have, to be able to be people of conscience,” Bush said. “I just think, once the facts are established, people aren’t going to see this as discriminatory at all.”
In recent weeks, some of Bush’s biggest skeptics in the faith community had specifically mentioned wanting to hear from Bush on the issue of religious liberties. His comments Monday put him publicly in line with the conservative evangelical right that he is quietly wooing ahead of his expected presidential run.
Unsolicited, Bush also brought up the fact that Tuesday marks the 10-year anniversary of the death of Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman whom Bush helped keep alive against the wishes of her husband through a legal and legislative battle that captured the nation’s attention. Her ultimate death, Bush said, “was one of the most difficult times in my life, to be honest with you.”
Bush went on to speak about the extent to which his Catholic faith informs his policy-making. “I’m going to get my economic policy from Milton Friedman and others like that, not from the Pope,” he said. “And as it relates to social doctrine, I do think where my faith comes into play is most as it relates to the most vulnerable in our society.”
Toward the end of the interview, Bush declined to address questions about whether Hillary Clinton should turn over the server that held her private emails (Bush maintained a private email account himself as governor), saying only that, “I put my money on Trey Gowdy,” the Republican leading the House’s investigative committee.
“That guy is a superstar,” Bush said. “He respects the rule of law. He’ll be a gentleman about it, but he’s not going to give up on this notion that she needs to come clean with what she knows about that information and other things, for sure.”
As for acknowledging that he’s actually running for president, Bush took a pass.
“Not today,” he told Hewitt.
Tim Alberta contributed to this article.