Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush talked yesterday with the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens about nuclear diplomacy with Iran, and the former governor liked his comments so much, his campaign began promoting them soon after.
In a 17-second video clip, the Florida Republican raised eyebrows with his use of a specific word.
“We need to have a deeper debate about this and the recognition that past is prologue. History is full of examples of, when you enable people – regimes – that don’t embrace democratic values, without any concessions, you get a bad result. It’s called appeasement.”
Note, Bush made the comments yesterday, before the diplomatic breakthrough was announced overnight, though there’s no reason to think the GOP candidate’s rhetoric would be any different today than it was yesterday.
There are two broad problems with rhetoric like this, especially from a presidential hopeful who’s struggled with foreign policy. The first is that Bush doesn’t seem to understand that the international agreement does, in reality, include Iranian concessions. Indeed, that was the whole point of the difficult talks that dragged on for months – if Iran didn’t have to make any concessions, Iranian officials would have said “yes” quite a while ago.
But as anyone with even a passing familiarity with this story knows, Iran had to accept precisely what it was reluctant to allow: “extraordinary and robust monitoring, verification, and inspection” of their facilities from international inspectors.
As for Jeb’s “appeasement” talk – does that count as a “big-syllable word”? – the Republican candidate isn’t doing himself any favors repeating cheap rhetoric.
By his reasoning, any set of negotiations with dangerous and undemocratic foes is a mistake. But to borrow a phrase, history is full of examples pointing in the opposite direction.
Jeb Bush’s brother, for example, conducted nuclear talks with Libya’s Muammar Gadhafi, someone who didn’t “embrace democratic values.” Reagan conducted nuclear talks with the Soviet Union – a rival superpower committed to the destruction of the United States, which had the technological capability to destroy us.
I realize that for some on the far-right, even these talks were considered outrageous betrayals, but I’m curious whether Jeb Bush agrees. Were his brother and Reagan “appeasing” dangerous dictatorships with their nuclear talks, or is this a word Bush reserves for Democratic presidents?
Whether the former governor realizes it or not, sometimes, talking to foreign governments to advance U.S. interests is a good idea – even when we don’t like those foreign governments. Talking to allies is easy; talking to enemies is hard; and sometimes, real leadership means doing the latter.