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Jeb Bush on Mackinac Island: ‘Yes, I am a Bush’

Posted at 5:52 AM, Sep 19, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-19 05:52:09-04

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Friday embraced his last name more than he has at any point in his presidential campaign to date -- saying he is a Bush, and that's why he'd be a good leader on foreign policy.

Speaking at the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference in Michigan, Bush got into a riff attacking Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

"Name a country in the world where our relationship is better today than the day that Hillary of Clinton became secretary of state," Bush instructed the crowd.

"Iran," he said, responding to an audience member. "There's one more, come on, you're smart, you're from Michigan. ... Cuba. Maybe Burma, we'll give 'em a break. That's it."

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Instead, he said, relations appear to be worse with Israel, the Middle East and Canada.

The next president needs to foster better international relations and peace, he said.

"I know how to do this because, yes, I am a Bush," he said. "I happened to see two really good presidents develop relationships with other countries."

The line got big applause from the audience at the signature event of the Michigan Republican Party.

It's the most full-throated defense of his presidential last name that the former Florida governor has engaged in during his campaign -- where he has often sought to distinguish himself as his own man.

He has, at times, dealt with his family history awkwardly, most notably when he took days to answer whether he would have invaded Iraq if he was in his brother's place.

The comments followed on the heels of the GOP debate on Wednesday night, where Bush defended his brother, former President George W. Bush, against attacks from Donald Trump by saying he kept the nation "safe."

That line has already generated an attack ad against Bush from a liberal group which is invoking Sept. 11 against him.

Friday's speech was another night of a renewed Bush, who has been plugging his "high energy" persona since the debate on Wednesday, when he sought to confront Trump, who has often knocked him as being "low energy."

He made a reference to his demeanor -- and that of the Republican front-runner -- to an appreciative crowd.

"A couple nights ago we had this debate and it was fun, in some ways," Bush said. "And I hope it was entertaining. ... But in reality, it's not about the personalities on the stage, the big ones or the little ones, the ones with high energy or the ones with even higher energy."

After rousing applause, Bush continued that the real issues are the ones facing everyday Americans.

The Republican Leadership Conference on Mackinac Island continues Saturday with appearances expected from Sen. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, John Kasich and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was also expected to speak but cancelled early Saturday morning.