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Jeb’s Iraq Albatross

It’s hard to improve on what my colleague Daniel Larison said about Jeb Bush’s lousy Iraq War answer in the Megyn Kelly interview. Excerpt:

Unrepentant war supporters have used these slogans for years to obscure the truth that waging a preventive war for regime change has been indefensible and outrageous all along. Like them, Bush doesn’t have the slightest idea that there might have been something wrong with launching an illegal war to “prevent” a threat that opponents knew at the time to be either grossly exaggerated or non-existent. It doesn’t matter what question Bush thought he was answering. He proved that he shouldn’t be trusted with the presidency based on the content of the answer he gave.

Bush had to have known that he would be asked this question. His was a clumsy attempt to evade criticizing his brother. It didn’t work. Politico writes that Jeb’s attempt to clarify only dug him in deeper:

After a 15-minute interview touching on a number of policy questions, Bush sought to clear up the confusion, saying that he had indeed “misinterpreted” Kelly’s question.

“I thought we were talking about ‘given what people knew then, would you have done it?’,” Bush said.

When given an opportunity to answer the question as Kelly intended it, Bush punted.

“I don’t know what that decision would have been, that’s a hypothetical,” Bush said. “The simple fact is mistakes were made and we need to learn from mistakes of the past to make sure we’re strong and secure going forward.”

As the brother of George W. Bush, the Iraq issue is especially fraught for Jeb, and his comments come against the backdrop of a Republican primary dominated by foreign policy and national security concerns.

“Mistakes were made.” Good grief. This man wants to be president? It’s easy to respect that he doesn’t want to be seen criticizing his brother in public, but this weasel-wordiness will not do. If he believes the Iraq War was a mistake, he should say so. If he believes it was not, he should say so. He’s trying to have it both ways, but he can’t. More Politico:

Even after his clarification Tuesday afternoon that he wasn’t in actuality reaching beyond his brother’s defense of the Iraq War, Bush continues aligning himself with some of the former president’s most hawkish advisers including former NSA and CIA head Michael Hayden and former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz; and the former Florida governor has signaled that his own foreign policy vision would be similar to his brother’s: muscular and interventionist.

Just what America doesn’t need: Another President Bush mobbed up with neocon foreign policy advisers. It will be interesting to see how Bush’s rivals for the GOP presidential nomination come down on the Iraq War question. Will they have the political courage to say, without equivocation, that the war was a mistake?

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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