Jeb Bush Heads to Europe: 5 Things to Expect From His Trip – ABC News
This week, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will head to three European nations just a week before he’s expected to officially announce his presidential candidacy.
Foreign trips can often prove problematic for potential candidates. Here’s what we can expect from Bush’s voyage:
Where He’s Going:
Bush will be traveling to three nations: Germany, Poland and Estonia. His first stop will be in Berlin Tuesday, he’ll then head to Poland Wednesday, with a stop in Warsaw Thursday. From there, he’ll head to Tallinn, Estonia, Friday, ending his tour Saturday.
What He Wants to Accomplish:
For Bush, as the son of a former president and brother to another, name recognition won’t be a major hurdle. A businessman, he’s well-traveled, having made 89 trips to 22 countries on six continents since leaving office in 2007. This is his first trip to Poland and Estonia.
His task will be to speak credibly on foreign policy issues that he’s only lightly touched on before and prove he is knowledgeable on issues relevant in that area, such as NATO, sanctions on Russia, the need to complete the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and economic austerity. All three of these countries are nations in which Bush can emphasize that President Obama’s policies, especially in Russia, have hurt U.S. allies.
“This is a chance for him to look really presidential,” said Kori Schake, research fellow at the Hoover Institution and former State Department official under George W. Bush.
He’ll have a chance to speak, especially in Poland and Estonia, on tougher European Union sanctions on Russia, a topic on which Bush has been particularly hawkish. Both countries desire more protection against Russian President Vladimir Putin and his expansive reach and have asked for troop deployment in the region, an action Obama has not been willing to take.
Schake says Bush, unlike many other governors, is no foreign policy neophyte. During his time as governor, he led more than 15 trade and goodwill missions to almost 30 nations.
“He’s much more experienced in governing circles than other governors,” Schake said. “I’d be really surprised if he flubs it.”
What He Is Likely to Say:
Bush, 62, is going to use this stage to directly confront Putin. In the wake of the G-7 summit this past weekend in Bavaria, the European Union sanctions on Russia will be a main component of his talks. Expect Bush to reiterate his early support for tougher Russia sanctions.
In Poland, on Thursday, he’ll take part in a roundtable with the Polish-American Freedom Foundation to meet with senior members of the Polish government on efforts to support Ukraine.
In Berlin, expect to hear a lot about the economy, both domestic and international. The economy is one of Bush’s strong suits; he’ll be able to invoke the cuts he made to Florida’s deficit on an international stage. In Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel is the queen of austerity, you can expect strong talk of budget cuts and fiscal conservatism, hitting hard at Obama’s wide-spending policies.
His first speech will address the Economic Council of the Christian Democratic Party in Berlin. His remarks will also touch on completing the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, Ukraine and stopping Russian aggression, a topic that might be a sore one in the presence of Merkel, who doesn’t want to be pushed to go further on sanctions.
And in Estonia, expect much talk about technology. Estonia is one of the most digitally advanced nations in the world. There you can vote online, file taxes online, set up a business, and even identify yourself as a visitor. Bush publicly declared his support for Estonian innovation in Orlando at the recent economic summit, saying “You can fill out your tax return in Estonia online in five minutes.”
Hurdles to Overcome:
He’ll have to distance himself from the last President Bush. His brother, George W. Bush, was unpopular in Europe because of his policies on Iraq. The younger Bush has already had problems with discussing Iraq domestically; any support of his brother’s policies there will not likely be well-received.
Bush has also publicly supported the Patriot Act. Many Germans have long disavowed the National Security Agency’s policies and won’t welcome any talk of civil liberties violations or big government spying, especially after revelations came out of widespread surveillance of German citizens, including Merkel.
Schake says it’s no coincidence that, in Berlin, Bush will be speaking at an economic council and not publicly; this gives him the opportunity to speak to his strengths and hopefully avoid stickier questions. He’ll have to play on his father’s legacy, not his brother’s. The 41st president is still well-liked in Germany for his push for the reunification of East and West Germany.
But, unfortunately for Bush, Obama remains a fairly popular politician, especially in Germany, which received him back in 2008 with a rock star’s welcome.
What He Wants to Avoid:
Political foreign trips are often ripe for big gaffes, a fate that Bush is hoping to avoid.
Bobby Jindal, while on a 10-day trip to London, insisted that non-Muslim citizens in the U.K. are uncomfortable in certain Muslim-dominated areas, which he dubbed unofficial “no-go zones.”
Mitt Romney, back in 2012, may be remembered most for one line shouted by a member of the press corps to Romney: “What about your gaffes?!” At a fundraiser, the Republican presidential candidate commented that Israel was more economically successful than its neighbors because of the country’s unique culture. Palestinian leaders called the statement racist, saying Palestine cannot reach its economic potential “because there is an Israeli occupation.” Earlier in the trip, Romney offended the Brits by calling London’s security preparation for the 2012 Olympics “disconcerting.” Romney later said that the comments were not meant as an insult.
And Hillary Clinton, on her first trip to Europe as Secretary of State in 2009, caused a stir at a town hall meeting at the European Parliament in Brussels. “I feel the same way about our own democracy, which has been around a lot longer than European democracy,” Clinton said. Clinton’s suggestion that U.S. democracy predates European democracy did not sit well with the audience.
ABC News’ Stacy Chen, Stephanie Ebbs and Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this report.