In Rare Policy Remarks, George W. Bush Argues against Lifting Iran Sanctions

Former President George W. Bush spoke at a closed-door Republican Jewish coalition meeting, where he called into question the Iran nuclear deal but stopped short of directly criticizing Obama.

By Anika Smith Published on April 27, 2015

Former President George W. Bush made a rare appearance at a fundraiser over the weekend, where he was interviewed by his former press secretary, Ari Fleischer. The New York Times has the story:

Mr. Bush told the 700 donors attending a closed-door Republican Jewish Coalition spring meeting that he would not criticize President Obama, whose aim to degrade and ultimately destroy the Islamic State he applauded. But the former president nevertheless offered comments that many in the audience viewed as a tacit critique of his successor.

Mr. Bush voiced skepticism about the Obama administration’s pursuit of a nuclear deal with Iran. Although he had begun the diplomatic effort to press Iran to give up its nuclear program, Mr. Bush questioned whether it was wise to lift sanctions against Tehran when the Islamic government seemed to be caving in, and suggested that the United States risked losing leverage if it did so.

Unlike some other former presidents in recent memory, George W. Bush has maintained a low profile and refused to criticize the sitting president openly. He marched with the Obamas in Selma and raises money with Bill Clinton while trading social media jokes.

But when it comes to foreign policy, Mr. Bush has strong opinions. He still thinks the war in Iraq was justified and that the U.S. military pullout was a bad idea. According to the article, “While Mr. Bush told the group that he had changed course when warranted, he stressed that when leading America, “you gotta mean it” when talking tough, and that the nation’s allies and enemies needed to know where an American leader stood.”

It’s clear where George W. Bush stands on foreign policy. What he is less likely to tell the public is what he thinks about current leaders and politicians. Even his comments at this closed-door event were muted, and Bush offered an additional reason for this beyond his long-standing policy of wanting to stand above the fray as a former president:

He expressed a reluctance to enter the campaign fray, because it could be unhelpful to his brother and unseemly. “That’s why you won’t see me,” he said.

Compare this reticence to, say, Bill Clinton going after Obama in 2008.

And what if the 2016 presidential race comes down to Hillary vs. Jeb? George W. and Bill have promised to remain friends.

Time will tell.

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