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Jeb Bush says the U.S. is getting ‘nothing’ out of restored relations with Cuba

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In an interview with the conservative Daily Caller regarding his foreign policy views, Jeb Bush says that unlike when the U.S. reestablished relations with communist governments in China and Vietnam,  the U.S. is getting “nothing” out of its  rapprochement with Cuba.

“The difference between, say, China or Vietnam is we got something in return when we negotiated diplomatic relations with those countries,” Bush explained. “We had China enter into the [World Trade Organization] and we’ve driven them in some way as it relates to just being a partner, not just a partner for us, but a trading partner with the rest of the world — embracing standards that were global.”

“In the case of Vietnam, we got parity as it related to POWs and MIAs,” he continued. “We’ve got nothing in return for this effort other than to have, I guess, Barack Obama claim that this happened under his watch. This is a legacy building thing that perpetuates the regime.”

Bush’s criticism echoes that of his Miami-area neighbor, fellow GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio, who has issued similar criticisms since the president announced the renewal of diplomatic relations last December.

But Bush goes well beyond speaking about Cuba in his interview with the Daily Caller’s Jamie Weinstein regarding the United States’ relationship with other countries in the world.

Twelve years after the U.S. invaded Iraq, Jeb Bush seems much less enthusiastic than his brother George W. was when it comes to the idea that the United States can spread democracy throughout the Middle East.

Saying that liberal democracy is a value that the  United States must promote, he adds that, “It has to be tempered with the realization that not every country is immediately going to become a little ‘d’ democratic country. Iraq would be a good example of that I think.” He goes on to say that if there is a layer of security that wasn’t present in Iraq, liberal democracy can take root.

“I think ultimately security will lead towards democracy and having an engaged America will help make that so, but you cannot have democracy without security,” he said in reference to both Iraq and Afghanistan, a country that the United States has been fighting for since 2001.

Like virtually all of the candidates running for the GOP nomination for president, Bush finds plenty to criticize President Obama about when it comes to how he’s operating his foreign policy. Specifically, Bush brings up the issue of Egypt, formerly one of America’s closest allies in the Middle East.

In the Arab Spring of 2011, protesters rallied for 18 straight days before then incumbent Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down in February of 2011. Bush doesn’t respond to the Daily Caller’s question of whether the United States should have stood by Mubarak, who ruled as a dictator for over 29 years in Egypt. But he does say that the United States wasn’t prepared for what do do next.

“My complaints about President Obama’s tenure as president is — apart from believing America’s presence in the world, America’s leadership in the world hasn’t been a force for good and as we pull back it creates, all over the world, insecurity — there isn’t a doctrine that guides our policy. It could be a mix of advocacy of freedom and democracy with security, with the focus also on our economic interests. But whatever it is, it hasn’t been expressed in a way that creates consistency, that creates transparency of what America believes in and what America stands for.”

Mohamed Morsi ultimately succeeded Mubarak, becoming Egypt’s first elected president. A member of the Muslim Brotherhood, he was overthrown in a coup in July of 2013, and replaced by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Bush praises Sisi for being willing “to stand up against these Islamic terrorists.”

Weinstein writes that Bush believes Sisi “should be rewarded” for standing up to Islamist extremism. Such a policy would help the United States “have influence and a relationship with the government” and once you have that, Bush said,  “you can also express the desires of other elements of our foreign policy.”

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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