The speech shouldn't have a major impact on Bush's comfortable lead within the Republican party. "It's standard bumper-sticker GOP orthodoxy," says TIME congressional correspondent James Carney. But it should help quiet criticism from the media that, when it comes to foreign policy, Bush the Younger is no, well, Bush the Elder. Where Bush's push for internationalism could hurt him is the general election, especially if Pat Buchanan snags the Reform party nomination, whence he could siphon off a large enough contingent of America-first devotees to split the GOP and leave the White House wide open for the Democrats. Still, on Friday anyway, Bush was only too ready to trade on his father's highly successful foreign policy record. The irony is that the more W. sounds like his father, the more he risks suffering the same fate at the hands of a third party.
George W. Bush, the man with the most suspect and maligned foreign policy background of all the major presidential candidates, managed to deliver his first foreign policy stump speech Friday without saying a whole lot. The governor presented a platform constructed of the broadest of planks, emphasizing principle over policy. Things he's for: "Peace, free trade, strong alliances and a strong military." Bush was critical of the Clinton administration's inconsistent record on China, and said his own policy would be forceful and consistent. The governor also wouldn't put U.S. troops under U.N. control and vowed to cut off aid to Russia if the country commits human rights abuses in Chechnya. One of the few real surprises: Bush said the U.S. needed to "protect" Israel, but should withdraw from dictating policy in the region.