Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, an all-but-official 2016 presidential candidate, is planning a three-country European tour for the last few days before his expected Miami campaign announcement on June 15. The trip will give Bush the opportunity to distinguish his approach to U.S.-Europe relations from those of the past two presidents and show that he knows about more than just domestic issues.
Foreign policy is poised to play an important role in the 2016 election, and Bush wants to demonstrate that he can exert strong American leadership abroad -- unlike President Barack Obama, by implication -- and that he can stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin. In his first stop on the trail, he will speak at an G-7 economic forum in Germany, followed by trips to Poland and Estonia.
“Russia must respect the sovereignty of all of its neighbors,” Bush is expected to say in Germany, according to excerpts cited by Bloomberg. “And who can doubt that Russia will do what it pleases if its aggression goes unanswered? Our alliance, our solidarity and our actions are essential if we want to preserve the fundamental principles of our international order.”
He will also participate in roundtables and meet with business leaders.
When Bush enters the Republican field next week, he will face at least one rival, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who can claim greater foreign policy expertise. Taking a trip to Europe, particularly if he makes no flubs while he is there, could boost awareness of the credentials he's developed in what his aides have described as 89 trips to 22 countries since he left the Florida governorship.
But there are no guarantees that his trip will be flub-free, and Bush isn’t the first candidate to give Europe a whirl.
In February, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie tried his luck in London, a trip that went extremely poorly when he spoke up about vaccines and later had to backtrack. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, now viewed as a more formidable foe to Bush in the primary than Christie, also had a mishap while on a trade mission in the U.K.
Walker, when asked about abortion, decided to “punt” on the issue and said that it was not a conversation for politicians to be a part of.
Perhaps the best example of a foreign trip gone wrong was when Mitt Romney, visiting London in 2012, questioned the city's Olympic readiness before the summer games there. Romney's résumé included successfully managing the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City. Prime Minister David Cameron witheringly replied that planning is "easier if you hold the Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere."