SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — Jeb Bush struggled for several days earlier this year to say whether he would have authorized the Iraq war, a blunder that exposed his difficulty talking about what many Americans consider the biggest failure of George W. Bush's presidency.
But on Tuesday night, Jeb Bush, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, planned to raise the issue by attacking President Barack Obama and former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton for their "premature" decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq — a move he describes as a "fatal error."
"It was a case of blind haste to get out, and to call the tragic consequences somebody else's problem," Bush planned to say, according to his prepared remarks. "Rushing away from danger can be every bit as unwise as rushing into danger, and the costs have been grievous."
Bush's speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library marks a new effort to confront Clinton, a Democratic presidential candidate, and make his mark on Middle Eastern affairs. But the move also poses a risk by implicitly linking him to the unpopular policies of his brother.
Unmentioned by Bush, for example, was that George W. Bush started the process of withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq. Once in office, Obama sought to ensure that U.S. troops would continue to have legal immunity while in the country. But the Iraqi government refused, leading to the exit of all but residual U.S. forces by December 2011.
Bush's comments come as Clinton has intensified her attacks on him, as many Democrats privately think he will ultimately become the GOP nominee despite the current popularity of Donald Trump. She has targeted Bush's stance on abortion rights, federal funding for women's health research, taxes and U.S.-Cuba relations.
Relishing the attention, Bush's campaign has begun to strike back.
In his speech, Bush planned to argue that as secretary of state, Clinton allowed unrest in Iraq to intensify by not checking the rise of the Islamic State terrorist group, also known as ISIS, which is occupying parts of the war-torn country and neighboring Syria.
"What we are facing in ISIS and its ideology is, to borrow a phrase, the focus of evil in the modern world," Bush says in the prepared remarks, which his campaign provided. "And civilized nations everywhere, especially those with power, have a duty to oppose and defeat this enemy."