President Barack Obama's chief spokesman brushed off former President George W. Bush's recent criticisms of the current administration during his press briefing on Monday.
"I don't think it's a surprise to anyone in this room that President Bush might have some differences with President Obama when it comes to foreign policy," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.
Earnest was responding to reports over the weekend on Bush's remarks to a closed-door gathering of Jewish donors. At the Republican Jewish Coalition event in Las Vegas, Bush allegedly criticized Obama for putting the US in "retreat" around the globe. Bush also panned the current president's nuclear negotiations with Iran.
Both Bloomberg and The New York Times reported Bush said Obama pulled US troops out of Iraq too quickly in 2011, paving the way for the Islamic State jihadist group (also known as ISIS or ISIL) to take root there. Attendees recalled Bush quoting Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina): "Pulling out of Iraq was a strategic blunder."
But Earnest told reporters that it was Bush who actually set the stage for the Islamic State by invading Iraq in the first place in 2003. Earnest called this point a "historical fact."
"I do think that we've made the case aggressively before, and I think that's backed up by extensive evidence, that there are links between al Qaeda ... and ISIL. And the fact is al Qaeda was not in Iraq prior to President Bush's decision to commit significant American military resources on the ground in that country," he said.
Earnest also tweaked Bush by suggesting Obama was elected primarily as a result of the American public rebuking the Bush administration's foreign policy decisions.
"The fact that President Bush has a different perspective and a different philosophy when it comes to foreign policy, isn't just a well-known difference [between them]," he added. "In the minds of many people, it's the principle reason that President Obama is sitting in the Oval Office right now.
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