Former President George W. Bush has remained silent on national politics in his post-White House years for the most part, letting his successor do the job free of ex-presidential criticism. On Saturday night however, Bush opened his mind to a group of Jewish Republican donors at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. The Q&A session was not recorded electronically, but one attendee took note of Mr. Bush’s comments which at times were critical of the current administration.
Not surprisingly, the 43rd president was disappointed by Obama’s foreign policy strategy in the Middle East, particularly in regards to his handling of Iranian nuclear negotiations, U.S. withdrawal of troops in Iraq, and subsequent lack of response by coalition forces to the ISIS take-over.
Bush reiterated Sen. Lindsey Graham’s characterization of the 2011 Iraqi draw-down as a “strategic blunder”, and lamented the administration’s failure to secure a new agreement with the government there to keep U.S. forces on the ground.
On Iranian nuclear proliferation negotiations, Bush implied that Obama has unrealistic expectations of that country in lifting sanctions. He said a potential deal with Tehran should be judged by it’s long-term ramifications:
“You think the Middle East is chaotic now? Imagine what it looks like for our grandchildren. That’s how Americans should view the deal.”
Bush went on to criticize the President’s public comments regarding his strategy to defeat ISIS, which hasn’t materialized. Originally, Obama said U.S. forces would lead coalition efforts to defeat the Islamic military. “When you say something, you have to mean it”, advised Bush, “you call in the military and say, ‘Here’s my goal’…’help me achieve (it)'”.
What should be the goal? “Well , you kill ’em”, Bush said emphatically when asked what to do with terrorists.
Republican mega-donor and CEO of Las Vegas Sands, which owns the Venetian, Sheldon Adelson, was reportedly in attendance. In 2012, Mr. Adelson donated over $100 million to Republican presidential candidates.
[Bloomberg] [Photo courtesy Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]