Iraq War comment puts Jeb Bush on the defensive

By Mitchell Blatt
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, May 30, 2015
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Jeb Bush's mishandling of a TV journalist's question undermines his viability as a presidential candidate.

It's safe to say "Bush defends decision to invade Iraq" wasn't the headline Jeb Bush wanted in the papers last week.

The first thought that comes to mind when reading the Washington Post's headline is, "Not another four years of Bush." By now the Iraq War is so unpopular in America that even a plurality of Republicans (49 percent) say the war wasn't worth it.

On May 11, Fox News's Megyn Kelly asked Bush, "Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?" By "knowing what we know now," Kelly meant knowing that the weapons of mass destruction Saddam Hussein's regime was alleged to have had were not found, that Iraq's government would be weak and factional, and that ISIS would take a foothold in the country. Bush answered in the affirmative, adding, "And so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got."

Bush's mishandling of the question undermines the argument that he is "electable" and would be most capable of defeating Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. If he can't answer such an easy question, what other mistakes might he make during a high-pressure campaign?

His best defense is that he was answering a question that wasn't asked: Would you have chosen to invade Iraq based on what you knew in 2003? Defending himself on Sean Hannity's Fox News show the next day, he said, "I interpreted the question wrong, I guess."

Still, even in that scenario, what Bush is admitting is that he would have made the wrong choice. Bush didn't vote for the Iraq War in the Senate like Hillary Clinton did. He doesn't have to defend that decision. But he seems to be more interested in defending his brother's legacy than doing what it takes to win the election.

"I won't go out of my way" to disagree with my family, he said, but answering a journalist's question in the course of a campaign hardly amounts to going out of your way. In fact, Bush did go out of his way to defend his brother, saying, "My brother's admitted [mistakes were made]. … But the simple fact is that in the last few years of my brother's presidency, the surge was quite effective to bring security and stability to Iraq."

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