At a luxury resort in Sea Island, Ga., earlier this month, a question was put to nearly all of the Republican party’s potential presidential candidates: Would you honor a nuclear agreement with Iran that is not ratified by Congress? The answer was unanimous: No.
According to one attendee at the American Enterprise Institute’s World Forum, the exclusive annual gathering that brings together the party’s top donors, journalists, and lawmakers, that response came not only from the mouth of former Florida governor Jeb Bush but also from Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, New Jersey governor Chris Christie, former Texas governor Rick Perry, Texas senator Ted Cruz, Florida senator Marco Rubio, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, Indiana governor Mike Pence, and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum.
All of the potential presidential contenders participated in question-and-answer sessions with various public figures: AEI president Arthur Brooks interviewed Jeb Bush, for example, while New York Times columnist David Brooks interviewed Scott Walker and Wall Street Journal editorial-page editor Paul Gigot interviewed Chris Christie.
On the Monday that followed the Sea Island retreat, Arkansas senator Tom Cotton published his open letter to the leaders of Iran.
Kentucky senator Rand Paul, who did not attend the AEI retreat, signed the letter, as did Rubio and Cruz, and several of the other potential 2016 contenders expressed support for it, including Jindal, Walker, and Perry, who also released a video statement on the matter. Bush has kept the most distance from Cotton’s missive, saying merely that the signatories are “reacting to reports of a bad deal that will likely enable Iran to become a nuclear state over time” and that “they would not have been put in this position had the Administration consulted regularly with them rather than ignoring their input.”
The Sea Island attendee says the weekend, where the events and remarks are kept closely under wraps, was a “good moment for the Cotton wing of the party.”
According to Bloomberg, attendees included Newscorp chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch, TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, former Amway CEO Dick DeVos, and a handful of hawkish Democrats: New Jersey senator Cory Booker, Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, and Maryland congressman John Delaney.