Jeb Bush: Barack Obama’s policies helped Islamic State’s spread
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Jeb Bush praised the U.S. Special Forces involved in Saturday’s killing of a top Islamic State leader in Syria, but continued to blame President Barack Obama’s policies in the Middle East for the group’s spread across the region.
“It’s encouraging that one of the senior ISIS leaders has been killed, if it’s confirmed, and kudos to the Special Forces, the best in the world,” Bush said during a media availability here following his appearance at a lunch fundraiser for Sen. Chuck Grassley.
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“This administration created the void that created this emerging caliphate that is far bigger than anything that existed before and there is no long-term strategy on how to deal with it.”
Bush, whose campaign has struggled this week to respond to questions about his brother’s decision to authorize the Iraq War, wouldn’t answer a question about what criteria he might use to decide when to employ military force in targeting terrorist targets, nor did he give Obama credit for authorizing the mission over the weekend.
Instead, he maintained that ISIS has spread because of Obama’s decision not to maintain more of a military presence in Iraq and criticized his decision not to keep between 8-10,000 troops there, instead of the 3,000 now on the ground.
“It’s a great day, but it’s not a strategy,” Bush said. “The best strategy is to re-engage with the neighborhood, with the Arab nations, to encourage them to be involved in this, to ultimately find a political solution both in Syria and Iraq, but the military has to be the first component to force that to happen. We have to take out ISIS; there is no other option.”
Bush took 11 questions, including one about his brother’s Iraq War, during an hour-long town hall Saturday morning in Dubuque. He is set to speak at the Iowa GOP’s Lincoln Dinner, along with 10 other presidential hopefuls, in Des Moines Saturday night.
During the press availability, he also told reporters that his decision to skip the Iowa Straw Poll in August is not an indication that he might not compete here in the nation’s first caucus next year.
“If I go beyond the consideration of this and become an actual candidate, I’m going to campaign hard here,” Bush said. “I just don’t do straw polls.”
Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann slammed Bush last week when his campaign confirmed that Bush would miss the Aug. 8 Straw Poll, a fundraiser for the state party that has been used as an early test of support in this all-important early-voting state.
“I’m a competitive person,” Bush said. “My hope is to win any place where I’m competing. I’m here right now. Why would I be here if I’m not going to compete in Iowa?”