Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Tuesday criticized President Barack Obama’s initial handling of the Ebola crisis as “incompetent,” saying it gave rise to unneeded fears among the American public about the virus.
Bush, who is the latest potential Republican presidential candidate to attack the president over Ebola, also said in a wide-ranging discussion at Vanderbilt University that he supports travel restrictions for people who have been to the most severely affected countries in Africa.
Bush said Obama should have been more “clear and concise” about his plans, and lent more credibility to health officials leading the response.
“It looked very incompetent to begin with, and that fueled fears that may not be justified,” Bush said. “And now you have states that are legitimately acting on their concerns, creating a lot more confusion than is necessary.”
Obama has tried to place his own imprint on the government’s response, making sure photographers captured images of him meeting with the Ebola team and embracing Nina Pham, one of the Dallas nurses who recovered after contracting the disease. On Tuesday he called U.S. workers in West Africa and delivered a statement from the South Lawn before leaving on a campaign trip to Wisconsin.
Bush contrasted what he characterized as the president’s indecisive approach on Ebola to his own actions as governor when anthrax was mailed to a supermarket tabloid in Florida after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.
“We gave people a sense of calm, what the plan was,” Bush said. “We talked in plainspoken English. We were totally engaged.”
Bush also criticized Obama’s foreign policy as lacking clear “guiding principles,” which he said has created a power vacuum that has been filled by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
“It’s been an unmitigated disaster in that regard,” Bush said. “And he now is paying the price.”
Bush concluded the talk by saying that he would wait until the end of the year before consulting with his family about whether to make a run for president.
“If it’s a yes, I guess you go in the Batcave,” he said. “You try to acquire some superhuman skills, which I definitely will need, because I’m imperfect in every way.”
But Bush said he wasn’t overly consumed by the heavy speculation about whether he would seek to follow his father and brother to the White House.
“I’m totally blessed,” he said. “So I’m not like really freaking out about this decision.”
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