National Security

George W. Bush: As President ‘You Gotta Mean It’ When Talking Tough

Bush criticizes decisions made in Iran, Iraq


Former President George W. Bush gave a foreign policy-focused address over the weekend and criticized the decision to lift sanctions against Iran and the decision to pull troops out of Iraq.

The remarks came during a closed-door session of the Republican Jewish Coalition's spring meeting in Las Vegas and Bush touched on a wide range of issues, according to the New York Times.

Mr. Bush voiced skepticism about the Obama administration’s pursuit of a nuclear deal with Iran. Although he had begun the diplomatic effort to press Iran to give up its nuclear program, Mr. Bush questioned whether it was wise to lift sanctions against Tehran when the Islamic government seemed to be caving in, and suggested that the United States risked losing leverage if it did so.

The former president, in an expansive mood, also offered his views on Hillary Rodham Clinton, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, the joy his grandchild had brought him and the difficulty his younger brother Jeb would face as a 2016 presidential candidate because of his famous last name. The New York Times received accounts of the president’s remarks from a dozen people who attended the meeting.

Mr. Bush’s war in Iraq eventually became deeply unpopular, fueled President Obama’s 2008 candidacy and, according to his critics, prompted much of the chaos in the Middle East. But in his remarks, Mr. Bush appeared to remain convinced of the correctness of his approach and of the resoluteness he projected to the world.

At one point, he cited Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a possible presidential candidate, who has criticized Mr. Obama’s policies in the region. Mr. Bush quoted Mr. Graham as saying, "Pulling out of Iraq was a strategic blunder."

Bush also offered advice to future presidents, saying, "you gotta mean it" when talking tough so that both allies and enemies of the United States know where the president stands.

Many in the crowd saw this comment as a direct critique of President Barack Obama, who Bush has been reluctant to criticize.

Speaking on 2016 politics, Bush acknowledged that he will be a liability to his brother Jeb Bush's campaign, and said he will not be a visible part of it. He said that people don't want "dynasties."

He also said Hillary Clinton is a beatable candidate who will find it difficult to decide how much to distance herself from the Obama administration.