It’s like being stuck in endless sequels to the movie Taken. A carefree Republican presidential candidate heads to Europe. The voyage promises to be fun and low-key—a chance to learn and have a good time—but then everything suddenly spins out of control. Worst of all, there’s no Liam Neeson around to save them—just a pack of reporters eager to see them falter.
That’s the scenario Jeb Bush is looking to avoid as he embarks on a tour of Central and Eastern Europe, kicking off with a speech on Tuesday in Germany.
Consider the fate of some predecessors. In February, Chris Christie went to London to burnish his foreign-policy credentials and show his seriousness. The result was what Politico described as a “weeklong train wreck”:
The Republican governor started a trip to London by bobbling a question about whether measles vaccinations should be mandatory. The next day he snapped at a reporter who tried to ask him about foreign policy. He faced questions about a new federal investigation into his administration and came under scrutiny for his taste in luxurious travel.
Scott Walker had a rough run of it too. Because he, like Christie, is a governor, there’s a desire to show that he knows how to carry himself abroad. Instead, Walker punted over and over again, declining to answer a series of questions during an appearance at Chatham House, a London think-tank. One reason was the traditional warning that “politics stops at water’s edge”—the idea that politicians shouldn’t criticize American policy while overseas, increasingly honored in the breach. But that didn’t explain why he couldn’t lay out a general foreign-policy vision—or say whether he believed in evolution.