Matthew Continetti, writing at the Washington Free Beacon, explains why Jeb Bush has a problem in his foreign policy adviser James Baker. Baker recently spoke at a conference for the left-wing group J Street. Here's an excerpt from Continetti's column:
From what I read in the papers, Bush is an effective manager and advocate. The New York Timesreported a few weeks back that he “used his connections freely” while his father was vice president and president, and a beat-sweetener in Wednesday’s Tampa Bay Times reminded Florida voters that in the 1980s Bush pushed his father to help airlift Ethiopian Jews to Israel. Yet this same wheeler-and-dealer was remarkably passive in the run-up to the J Street conference. He didn’t act until after the fact, writing an op-ed on the U.S.-Israel alliance for National Review Online, telling Brian Kilmeade in a radio interview that Baker shouldn’t have gone, and attacking President Obama’s “Alice in Wonderland” foreign policy.
It was a panicked and reactive performance that could have been avoided if Bush hadn’t released a list of foreign policy advisers before settling on a foreign policy, or had demanded that Baker cancel his speech and throw the J Street conference into disarray. That would have been unlikely, considering who Bush is and what Baker means to his family. And Bush does seem to be in this tough situation because of his family, but it’s not his brother who’s the problem. On issues of national security the party remains committed to W.’s post-9/11 vision: strong on defense, internationalist, hawkish, and unabashedly pro-Israel.
It’s Baker and the other Cold War realists associated with the senior Bush who are old, tired, haggard, removed, out of it. They’re the products of a bipolar world in which the Soviet Empire was an ever-mindful presence. Members of the waning WASP elite and beholden to the zombie theory of linkage, which says the source of instability in the Greater Middle East is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Baker and company treat Israel not as an asset for the United States but a liability. For Bush to repudiate Baker or the other friends of H.W. would be a rebuke of long-lasting relationships; it would also be just the sort of act that would establish Bush’s identity as “my own man.”
Read the whole thing here.