The primary campaign is barely underway, but that hasn’t stopped presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton from exchanging blows as if it's already 2016.
One of Clinton’s top campaign officials said Tuesday that Bush's brother, George W. Bush, is largely to blame for the problems in Iraq. The comments came ahead of a speech tonight where the former Florida governor is expected to slam Clinton on foreign policy.
Bush is scheduled to deliver what his campaign is billing as a major foreign policy speech Tuesday night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California. He’ll use the opportunity to knock the former secretary of state, especially on Iraq and the rise of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS.
"Who can seriously argue that America and our friends are safer today than in 2009, when the President and Secretary Clinton — the storied ‘team of rivals’ took office?" Bush will say, according to excerpts released by his campaign. "In all her record-setting travels, she stopped by Iraq exactly once."
On a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon ahead of the speech, Clinton policy adviser Jake Sullivan, who was also a senior State Department official under Clinton, said Bush was trying to "rewrite history."
“This is a pretty bold attempt to rewrite history and reassign responsibility,” said Sullivan. “We’ve seen similar things from other Republican candidates — they cannot be allowed to escape responsibility for the real mistake here. They might hope we all forget but the American people remember.”
Sullivan went on to say that ISIS “emerged in no small part as a result of President Bush’s failed strategy. And it gained strength by signing up former Sunni military officers. Officers from the very army that the Bush Administration disbanded.”
The foreign policy spat comes a day after Clinton and Bush camps exchanged fire on Twitter over the college affordability plan she rolled out Monday in New Hampshire.
Bush said to Clinton that student loan debt went up 100% under Obama. Clinton fired back by “fixing” his graphic to say Florida deserves an “F” for college affordability under Bush. And Republican candidate fired back by making his own “fix” to Clinton’s logo to suggest she would raise taxes.
On Tuesday, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, another top-tier Republican candidate got in on the action. ".@HillaryClinton I’ve frozen in-state tuition rates for four years, while you charged colleges $225K+ just to show up," he tweeted, referring to Clinton’s speaking fees.
Even though Clinton and Bush won’t face off for almost a year — if at all — the exchanges now likely benefit all sides in their primaries. The candidates would rather fight across the aisle than with the fellow partisans in the primary.
It excites partisans on both sides to attack the other side — as both are auditioning, in part, to be their party’s standard-bearer in what will likely be a nasty general election battle next year.