May 20, 2015 10:34 PM
NH1 Political Director - NH1.com
PORTSMOUTH – Jeb Bush defended his family ties and blamed President Barack Obama for the current bloodshed in Iraq.
The former two-term Florida governor and all-but-certain Republican presidential candidate, speaking before a gathering of Seacoast business leaders Wednesday, said right off the top to applause that “I love my mom and dad. I love my brother and people are just going to have to get over that. That’s just the way it is.”
Taking questions from reporters following the business roundtable luncheon, Bush was asked if he concerned that his family name will be a burden if he runs for the White House. The son to former President George H.W. Bush and brother to former President George W. Bush said “I’m not going to be in the witness protection program. I’m a Bush, I’m proud of it. I love my mom, love my dad, love my brother.”
Bush’s two-day swing through the first-in-the-nation primary state comes one week after he was pummeled by pundits and by rivals for the GOP nomination for struggling for four days to answer questions on whether he would have authorized the 2003 war against Iraq, knowing what we know now about the faulty intelligence that precipitated the war.
Joking about his recent misfortune, Bush said “it got a little bumpy. But all is well now, the ship is stable.”
And he defended his brother’s actions in Iraq, saying “ISIS didn’t exist when my brother was president. Al Qaeda in Iraq was wiped out when my brother was president. There were mistakes in Iraq for sure, but the surge created a fragile but stable Iraq that the President could have built on,” Bush said, adding “that stability has now been lost.”
Bush criticized his brother’s successor, President Barack Obama, for the current unrest in Iraq.
“I think it’s fair game to say that the surge was a success and that pulling back has created a void that has been filled by what President Obama has called the junior varsity. Doesn’t look like a junior varsity anymore when it’s taken over Mosul and taken over Ramadi and within miles of Baghdad and destabilizing Iraq and Syria. This is a serious threat,” Bush said.
“I think we’re in a more unstable world because of President Obama’s policies of detachment from the rest of the world, of pulling back, of leading from behind,” he added.
And Bush said that Obama’s move to withdraw troops “was a decision made based on a campaign promise. It was a decision based on conditions in Iraq at the time and I think that we’re now paying a price for it.”
The event seemed to give Bush a shot in the arm after a rough stretch. When one man said that Bush’s family was an “asset,” applause broke out throughout the packed room.
Bush, who’s considered one of the frontrunners for the GOP nomination, has faced criticism by many conservatives for his support for the Common Core educational standards, which many on the right see as Washington’s meddling in the education of their children.
Trying to correct the record, Bush said that “there’s a lot of misunderstanding of what common core standards are, or aren’t. What they are, are standards, not curriculum content. And the federal government should have no role in it at all.”
Bush’s trip to the Granite State, his third so far this year, came one day after Hillary Clinton urged the State Department to release as soon as possible tens of thousands of emails from her tenure as secretary of state.
Bush was critical of Democratic presidential candidate for claiming that the emails were not hers and that she has limited authority to release them to the public.
Bush touted that he’s released many of the emails from his eight years as Florida governor, saying “I released… 250,000 emails. I put it on line not just for the press to see but anyone can go on a website and see my emails.”
Asked if Clinton, the overwhelming frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, was being honest, Bush said “I don’t know her deal. I just know that emails are a two way street, you send them and you receive them, so someone received them, someone sent them. It seems like you’d have the ability to know where your emails are.”
Bush’s visit also comes as Republican Rep. Frank Guinta faces calls from some of the top GOP politicians in the state to resign for breaking campaign finance laws. Asked whether Guinta should step down, Bush said “I think that’s a decision he’s going to have to make and his constituents I’m sure will weigh in as well.
Bush donated money to Guinta and headlined a fundraiser in Manchester for the congressman in March. Asked by NH1 News if he regrets attending that fundraiser, Bush said “no I don’t regret it. I think people are innocent until proven guilty in all these matters. I had no knowledge of any of that.”
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