Jeb Bush called himself “my own man” in a landmark speech on foreign policy Wednesday, but a recently revealed list of advisers shows the candidate-to-be will rely largely on a team that’s already shared the West Wing with his father and brother.
Paul Wolfowitz tops the list, a man who has served George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. Wolfowitz, a prominent neoconservative, was architect to the junior Bush’s strategy to invade and occupy Iraq in 2003. Another Reagan-Bush-Bush advisor on the list, John Negroponte, is a career diplomat who represented George W. Bush both at the U.N. and in Baghdad.
Other advisors include Bush’s brother’s Homeland Security secretaries Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, his CIA directors Porter Goss and Michael Hayden, and former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley (a Bush family double-header).
Perhaps the most senior members of the team are Reagan’s Secretary of State George P. Shultz, 94, and George H.W. Bush’s Secretary of State James Baker, 84.
The Washington Post has provided a convenient Venn diagram of the new Bush team’s former assignments. The only Jeb Bush foreign policy advisor who has not served in a previous Republican White House is former Florida congressman Lincoln Díaz-Balart.
The supply of global affairs experts in Washington is, of course, limited, and very few experienced Republicans in the field lack a record of White House service.
In fact, attracting such an experienced team may even be an asset. One senior Republican foreign policy veteran, speaking anonymously to The Daily Caller News Foundation, says that of those in the running for the GOP nomination, Jeb Bush “is well-traveled and well-respected, and he has a broad foreign policy network.” Plus, it’s “a good sign for his campaign that so many Republican foreign policy veterans have endorsed him so early.”
But Bush’s quick recourse to West Wing policy veterans, while asserting that “my views are shaped by my own thinking and own experiences,” is bound to raise questions about where exactly his views are coming from.
Bush’s choice of advisors does provide some clues. Ideologically, for instance, the group leans toward the realist camp, which favors strategic and tactful deployment of power, rather than preemptive and assertive neoconservatives. While Wolfowitz has attracted the most attention as a George W. Bush alumnus, many other top neoconservatives who aided Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign are missing from his brother’s list, including Frederick Kagan, Dan Senor, and Eliot Cohen. Neither is there much room at Bush’s table for the anti-interventionist wing of foreign policy, represented by a few thinkers on the right like Andrew Bacevich and Daniel Larison.
A long-time GOP Congressional aide, who also asked TheDCNF to remain unnamed, observed that the list skews quite old, “with the bulk in the 70s” and “a number of folks pushing 80.” But it also includes George W. Bush staffers Meghan O’Sullivan and Kristen Silverberg, who are in their 40s.
The senior Republican who spoke to TheDCNF says the high average age of the group is an asset: “This is a crucial time for US national security, especially in Europe. Many Americans with memories of the Cold War recognize the threat posed by Russia.”
Younger policy analysts, by implication, might underestimate the dangers of Vladimir Putin’s recent power-grab in Ukraine. And amid the packed 2016 Republican presidential race, Bush’s team full of seasoned foreign-policy experts — leaning toward the realist ideological camp rather than neoconservatism — may help lend him much-needed credibility in a field full of strong contenders.
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