Bush hits Rubio, lawmakers for opposition to Syria strikes

Jeb Bush talks about his father's health
Jeb Bush talks about his father's health

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Story highlights

  • Jeb Bush criticized congressional Republicans for not supporting President Barack Obama's request to act against Syria two years ago
  • In the CNN presidential debate last month, Marco Rubio said he bears "zero responsibility" for the escalation of violence in Syria

Des Moines, Iowa (CNN)Jeb Bush on Thursday criticized congressional Republicans, including GOP presidential rival Marco Rubio, for not supporting President Barack Obama's request to act against Syria two years ago.

"Asking for the authorization I think was the appropriate thing to do and he should have gotten it. Then a strategy should have been forthcoming, which he hasn't done," the former Florida governor told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.
After a suspected chemical attack by the Syrian regime in August 2013, the President asked Congress to approve air strikes. But a majority of Americans at the time opposed military intervention, and that lack of support was mirrored on Capitol Hill, including among Republicans.
    Russia and the U.S. reached a framework agreement to oversee the elimination of Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons, so Obama asked Congress to delay a vote. The strikes did not happen.
    Now, with the growth of ISIS and the civil war forcing millions of refugees to flee Syria, Republican presidential candidates routinely blame Obama for drawing a red line over the use of chemical weapons but not acting.
    Asked Thursday about congressional Republicans' opposition two years ago, Bush said he thought Obama's 2013 push for attacks was "tepid" at the time but argued that Republicans were too concerned about public opinion.
    "I think people were sticking their fingers in the breeze and that's wrong," he said. "We should support the President because that was better than inaction. No action at all, we see what happens."
    In the CNN presidential debate last month, Rubio said he bears "zero responsibility" for the escalation of violence in Syria, saying the attack Obama wanted to make was only going to be "a pinprick" and not cause enough damage to affect the situation. Instead, Rubio said, he wanted a solution that would have put "men and women in a position where they can win."
    Bush said he agrees with Rubio that Obama "has not been forthcoming with a strategy" since then, "but when (Rubio) had a chance to show support for the creation of one, he didn't do it. And I just think that turned out to be a bad decision."
    In the interview, Bush also criticized Hillary Clinton for changing her position on the Trans-Pacific trade agreement, which he supports and she now opposes.
    "I found it interesting that Hillary Clinton in her book that she apparently sent me, talks glowingly about supporting the Trans-Pacific trade agreement and now has come out four-square against it because, again, popular sentiment in the here and now apparently on the left is opposed to this," he said. "That kind of leadership is exactly what we don't need anymore."