Jeb's stepped in it, now: He would not recklessly destroy U.S. foreign policy within hours of taking office

Unlike Rubio or Walker, Bush says he wouldn't scrap the Iran deal on Day One. How's that sanity gonna play?

Published July 20, 2015 12:00PM (EDT)

  (Reuters/Rick Wilking)
(Reuters/Rick Wilking)

The United States and its negotiating partners successfully reaching a deal to limit Iran's nuclear program for the next decade is considered, in Republican politics, to be the worst thing the Obama administration has done since expanding access to medical coverage to millions of Americans through market means. Nope, they don't like this one. And it's been the litmus test for some time now that if candidates want to be in the graces of the party's hawks, they have to pledge to immediately withdraw from the accord, preferably on the first day of their hypothetical presidencies.

And what would happen then? It's unlikely that the United States could convince its European allies, let alone Russia and China, to reimpose the web of sanctions that helped bring Iran to the negotiating table in the first place. And it's certainly the case that Iran's hard-liners would no long give its diplomats the space to ever, for even a second, consider negotiating with the United States on anything for the indefinite future. If the objective of the U.S. government, then, is still to prevent Iran by any means from obtaining a nuclear weapon, the only choice left will be to bomb their nuclear research facilities every few years or just go ahead with regime change. The United States would do so with even less allied support than made up the "coalition of the willing" that invaded Iraq in 2003.

The idea of withdrawing from the agreement mere minutes or hours after taking the oath of office, without any diplomatic infrastructure in place from the new administration, just for the sake of it, is obviously an insane thing to consider doing. But Marco Rubio and Scott Walker -- two serious contenders! -- have nevertheless pledged to do exactly that.

What about the fellow member of their first-tier triumvirate, Jeb Bush? Would he stick it to them Ayer-tollers over there on Day One, too? He would... not??

“At 12:01 on January, whatever it is, 19th [2017], I will not probably have a confirmed secretary of state; I will not have confirmed national security team in place; I will not have consulted with our allies. I will not have had the intelligence briefings to have made a decision,” Bush said. “If you’re running for president, I think it’s important to be mature and thoughtful about this.”

Very reasonable. He's screwed.

Hawks set a very high bar for candidates in their dedication to the cause. A stray word here or there, and you're done. Many hawks had been open to Bush several months ago until word got around that he occasionally spoke about foreign policy with old Bush family friend and seasoned statesman James Baker, who supports diplomatic engagement with Iran. That alone was enough for billionaire political donors like Sheldon Adelson and neoconservative commentators like Jennifer Rubin, who fairly rapidly determined that they liked the cut of Marco Rubio's jib.

Also problematic was when a reporter asked Bush if he supported regime change in Iran, and he responded "I’ll have to give that some thought. That’s a good question." He would have to devote some time to think about whether he wanted to overthrow the Islamic Republic of Iran -- something that might not be a great thing to say he supports on the fly, giving his familiar relationship to a famously rash regime-overthrowing president? Can't be trusted.

And now he's saying that he might want to wait *some* time after his inaugural luncheon to initiate his course of action regarding Iran? Not Ready for Prime Time.

He is going to get it for this, which will be funny. He has always loved war and he still does. He hasn't had a single decent thing to say about this Iran agreement. But he's not committing to scrapping the United States' hard-earned diplomatic agreements and relationships with European allies before his luggage is even fully unpacked, so he probably secretly loves the terrorists.

By Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

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