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Delivering the first major foreign policy speech of his nascent presidential campaign, Jeb Bush on Wednesday outlined his view of America’s role in the world, espousing a philosophy of “liberty diplomacy” and emphasizing that “new circumstances require new approaches.”
And the former Florida governor worked to create some distance between his own philosophies and those of his father and brother, saying that he is his “own man” and acknowledging “mistakes” made during President George W. Bush’s management of the Iraq War.
Speaking at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Bush also decried Obama administration positions on Cuba, Iran and the upcoming visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the United States.
"Under this administration, we are inconsistent and indecisive. We have lost the trust and the confidence of our friends," he said. "We definitely no longer inspire fear in our enemies."
Describing his view of the terror group known as ISIS, Bush said that diplomacy is not an option and that the United States must have a global strategy to "take them out."
He called the Obama administration’s move to normalize relations with Cuba a “bad negotiation." And he singled out the White House’s decision not to meet with Netanyahu just weeks before an election in Israel, saying that he is “surprised that the administration is upset to hear from such a close ally."
The former Florida governor also came out firmly in support of the NSA’s metadata collection, calling it "a hugely important program to use these technologies to keep us safe."
Bush directly addressed concerns about his family legacy when it comes to war and national security, acknowledging that he has “been lucky to have a father and a brother who both have shaped America's foreign policy from the Oval Office.”
"I recognize that as a result, my views will often be held up in comparison to theirs' - sometimes in contrast to theirs,'" he added. "I love my father and my brother. I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions they had to make. But I am my own man - and my views are shaped by my own thinking and own experiences."
A "preliminary" list of Jeb Bush’s foreign policy advisors provided to NBC News by an aide features several prominent officials from both men’s presidential administrations, including former Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, former U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley.
Bush on Wednesday acknowledged that “there were mistakes made in Iraq for sure,” but he praised George W. Bush’s "heroic" decision to launch a troop surge to stabilize the country. And he blamed the Obama administration for withdrawing from the region and creating a “vacuum” there for terror groups.
Bush’s comments come as Republican hopefuls jockey for position on foreign policy issues against the backdrop of public skepticism about the president’s performance on the international stage – even as approval of Obama’s economic policies rises.
A new CNN/ORC poll out Tuesday showed that 57 percent of Americans disapprove of Obama’s handling of foreign affairs, and the same percentage disapprove of how the White House is addressing the threat posed by ISIS. And nearly six in 10 say that U.S. military action against ISIS is going badly.
One Republican aiming to highlight his foreign affairs expertise is Bush’s fellow Floridian Marco Rubio, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Rubio hinted last month that foreign policy might be a weakness for some of his rivals, suggesting to reporters that governors face a “challenge, at least initially, because they don't deal with foreign policy on a daily basis."
Rubio has done extensive foreign travel in his capacity as a senator since being elected to the office in 2010. He has visited over a dozen countries – including Afghanistan, Libya, Jordan, Israel and Pakistan – on a total of 10 trips.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee and has been one of the most outspoken Republicans advocating for aggressive U.S. foreign policy, also hopes to make his national security credentials a centerpiece of his campaign.
But while Bush, Rubio, Graham and most other Republican presidential hopefuls sound a similar tune when it comes to defense and intelligence policy, they are likely to face a significant challenging voice in Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who tends to favor less intervention abroad and more focus placed on the individual liberties of American citizens.