Jeb Bush performed a delicate balancing act yesterday with a speech in Chicago in which he showed a good fluency with overseas issues. He also unveiled a list of 21 foreign-policy advisers, many of them veterans of the administrations of his father and brother. But at the same time, he told his Chicago audience “I am my own man.”
But that will not satisfy conservatives who are convinced Bush is “insufficiently rigorous” on issues ranging from immigration to the Common Core. Take ForAmerica, a group headed by conservative activist Brent Bozell. Its new video relentlessly pounds Bush for bestowing a public-service “Liberty Medal” on Hillary Clinton at a 2012 ceremony hosted by the National Constitution Center.
The video darkly notes that the event occurred one day short of the first anniversary of Benghazi, an attack that is etched in the memory banks of every anti-Hillary conservative activist out there. Senator Rand Paul has said that Clinton’s failure to act decisively before and during the attack “disqualifies her” from future national office.
Here is National Journal’s summary of the video:
“I want to say thank you, both to Secretary Clinton and to President Clinton,” Bush says in the video, speaking from a podium. “Thank you for your service to our country. We are united by love of country and public service.”
The screen, fading to black against ominous music, then scrolls the following text: “Hillary was responsible for the security of the American embassy in Benghazi. . . . She denied repeated requests for security. . . . The attacks occurred on her watch. . . . But on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the Benghazi attacks. . . . Jeb Bush gave her an award for public service.”
“You can imagine what use Hillary Clinton will make of that tape and that award,” ForAmerica’s Bozell told me recenlty. “Bush would have no credibility attacking her on foreign policy after having given here an award on the eve of the Benghazi massacre.”
Team Jeb is not commenting on the Bozell video, making the argument that their foreign-policy rollout is far more important in the eyes of donors and voters. But Bush will have to be prepared for criticism from his Republican rivals who will argue that he not only doesn’t have the desire to take the fight to Hillary but has even undercut his own ability to do so.