On Trip Abroad, Jeb Bush Works at Foreign Relations

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Likely GOP presidential candidate lauds his father’s role in unifying Germany when he was president.

Jeb Bush, on a trip abroad just days before formally starting his presidential campaign, lauded his father’s role in unifying Germany while avoiding mention of his more polarizing brother, former President George W. Bush, who remains unpopular in Germany for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and controversial intelligence-gathering techniques adopted after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Mr. Bush’s comments Tuesday to politicians and business leaders here, on the first leg of a five-day European tour, provided a reminder of the needle the former Florida governor is trying to thread as he casts himself as independent from the two presidents who share his name.

He hailed efforts by his father, former President George H.W. Bush, to heal deep historic wounds in Europe while delivering a defense of American military strength and a pointed rebuke of Russian President Vladimir Putin that were more reminiscent of his brother’s presidency.

In remarks to a standing-room-only crowd, Mr. Bush denounced Mr. Putin as a “ruthless pragmatist” who “will push until someone pushes back.”

He also called on the U.S. and its allies to isolate Russia’s “corrupt leadership” from the people they govern, saying, “Ultimately, Russia needs to be a European nation.”

Separately, Mr. Bush defended the U.S. against assertions that its intelligence services spy on foreign companies to give domestic firms a leg up, while acknowledging that revelations about the National Security Agency’s data-collection efforts had bruised relations between the U.S. and Germany. “The relationship needs to be fixed,” he said.

Mr. Bush verged on violating the traditional taboo against criticizing an American president while speaking on foreign soil when he suggested that overseas conflicts had emerged where the U.S. has reduced its military presence.

“As we pulled back from Iraq, a vacuum was filled,” he said. “We can’t hold back. The United States has to lead.”

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