Jeb Bush broke from the GOP pack on Monday and criticized fellow presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s comments that the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran would lead Israelis to “the door of the oven.”
Bush, who has been skeptical of the Iran deal, argued Huckabee’s comments were “wrong” and would not help his party win elections.
“This is not the way we’re going to win elections and that’s not how we’re going to solve problems,” he added.
Most other GOP candidates either ignored Huckabee’s comments or praised them.
A spokesman for Donald TrumpDonald TrumpIntel Dem: Nunes 'sacrificed the good name' of committee with Trump briefing Report: Trump regrets backing health plan before pushing for tax reform Dem rep: 'We must pause the entire Trump agenda' until Russia investigation complete MORE — who’s currently atop the polls to become the GOP nominee for president — explicitly endorsed the former Arkansas governor’s remarks on Monday.
“You know what? I’m not offended by the words,” Michael Cohen, Executive Vice President of the Trump Organization, said on CNN’s “New Day.” “What I am is I’m concerned. I’m truly concerned for not just the safety of this country but the countries all around the world.
“I think what he’s really trying to say here is that we’re really in a bad place,” he added. “Because we’ve been there. And my father’s a Holocaust survivor, and I can tell you that there’s that old statement: Never again.”
Huckabee’s comments on Sunday to Breitbart News were immediately seen as an effort to get his campaign some attention in the crowded GOP field.
“This president’s foreign policy is the most feckless in American history,” Huckabee said. “It is so naive that he would trust the Iranians.
“By doing so, he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.”
Huckabee doubled down on Monday, even after his initial comments were criticized by the Anti-Defamation League, saying he would “stand with our ally Israel to prevent the terrorists in Tehran from achieving their own stated goal of another Holocaust.”
Since Trump entered the GOP race, the business mogul has dominated media attention and made it increasingly difficult for other Republicans to be heard.
Huckabee is tied for fifth in RealClearPolitics’s average of polls, putting him on equal footing with retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and ahead of Sens. Rand PaulRand PaulPaul: Pence should oversee Senate ObamaCare repeal votes Healthcare fight pits Trump against Club for Growth GOP rep: Trump could be 'one-term president' if healthcare bill passes MORE (R-Ky.), Ted CruzTed CruzPaul: Pence should oversee Senate ObamaCare repeal votes Senators introduce new Iran sanctions With no emerging leaders, no clear message, Democrats flounder MORE (R-Texas) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R).
In criticizing Huckabee, President Obama raised Trump, who has won attention in part by feuding with other Republicans and making attention-getting comments.
“The particular comments of Mr. Huckabee are, I think, part of just a general pattern that we’ve seen that would be considered ridiculous if it weren’t so sad,” Obama said in his most pointed comments yet about the Republican presidential field.
“Maybe it gets attention and maybe this is just an effort to push Mr. Trump out of the headlines, but it’s not the kind of leadership that is needed for America right now.”
Bush is widely seen as the GOP frontrunner. Though he trails Trump in some polls, his fundraising power and famous family are expected to keep him in the race for the long run. Bush may even benefit from Trump as the billionaire crowds out other candidates who might be seen as alternatives to Bush.
The former Florida governor has repeatedly criticized Trump, and he stood out from the rest of the GOP field in rebuking Huckabee — even as he took care to also criticize Obama’s “horrific” nuclear deal.
Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioSenators introduce new Iran sanctions Senate intel panel has not seen Nunes surveillance documents: lawmakers With no emerging leaders, no clear message, Democrats flounder MORE (R-Fla.) reportedly ducked a question about the remarks while at
a campaign stop in South
Representatives for Paul’s presidential campaign and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamA real national security budget would fully fund State Department Gorsuch rewrites playbook for confirmation hearings Dem senator: House Intel chairman may have revealed classified info MORE’s (R-S.C.) congressional office declined to comment.
Speaking to Boston’s WBUR-FM, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) pointedly declined to condemn Huckabee’s comments, though he added, “You’re not hearing me use that sort of language.”
Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) defended Huckabee’s comments, saying they clearly reflected “Iran’s intent.”
The criticism was fierce from Obama, former Secretary of State Clinton and other supporters of the Iran deal, which lifts sanctions on Iran in exchange for concessions on its nuclear program.
Clinton said Huckabee’s remarks “should be repudiated by every person of good faith and concern about the necessity to keep our political dialogue on the facts and within suitable boundaries.
“I find this kind of inflammatory rhetoric totally unacceptable,” she added.