Jeb Bush will deliver a foreign policy address Tuesday night, accusing the Obama administration -- and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- of acting in “blind haste” to leave Iraq and allowing the Islamic State to gain hold.
The speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library comes as the Republican establishment favorite candidate struggles to reclaim standing and oxygen taken by businessman Donald Trump, who leads in many polls and has become the leading storyline in the 2016 Republican presidential primary race.
In the 9 p.m. EST speech, Bush will say that the Obama administration made a “fatal error” by prematurely withdrawing troops from Iraq and that the Islamic State grew as the U.S. “disengaged from the Middle East and ignored the threat.
“And where was Secretary of State Clinton in all of this?” Bush will say, according to excerpts released by his campaign. “Like the president himself, she had opposed the surge…then joined in claiming credit for its success … then stood by as that hard-won victory by American and allied forces was thrown away.
“In all her record-setting travels, she stopped by Iraq exactly once,” he will say.
And he will question “who can seriously argue that America and our friends are safer today than in 2009, when the President and Secretary Clinton – the storied "team of rivals" – took office? So eager to be the history-makers, they failed to be the peacemakers.”
He will also argue that “radical Islam is a threat we are entirely capable of overcoming, and I will be unyielding in that cause should I be elected President of the United States.
He will pledge that if elected he would “begin rebuilding” the U.S. military, saying a “winning strategy against the Islamic State, or against any threat to ourselves and our friends, depends ultimately on the military strength that underwrites American influence.”
Bush has had his own struggles on the campaign trail with the Iraq war, the most controversial element of his brother’s presidency. As he insists he will be his “own man,” he spent a week earlier this year unable to to answer a seemingly obvious question about whether or not he would invade Iraq, even if he knew then what is now clear, that Saddam Hussein did not actually have weapons of mass destruction as once believed.