Quotes of the day

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) said both he and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton would have ordered the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

I would have [authorized the invasion], and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everyone,” Bush told Fox News host Megyn Kelly in an interview that will air Monday night on “The Kelly File.”

“And so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got,” he added.

Bush also said he had no disagreement with his brother, former President George W. Bush, over the controversial military campaign.


Bush goes on to blame faulty intelligence, and poor post-invasion security. It’s a slippery answer all around, and a classic example of a politician asking the question he wishes he was asked by a reporter, instead of the question he was actually asked. Kelly’s question was not, “Had you been sitting in the White House on 9/11, would you have authorized the invasion?” She specifically conditioned the question with “knowing what we know now” — which is that Saddam did not have WMDs. I can’t believe Kelly let him get away with that evasion. Granted, Jeb Bush is in a terrible spot, given that his brother did authorize the disastrous invasion of Iraq. But if he runs for president, as it seems clear that he will, he (and every Republican candidate) must have their feet held to the fire on these foreign policy questions. If they cannot show evidence of having learned a damn thing from the Iraq catastrophe, it raises questions about their fitness for office.


Note the evolution in Jeb Bush’s approach to the issue. Just three months ago, asked about the disastrous war in Iraq, the Florida Republican told reporters, “I won’t talk about the past…. If I’m in the process of considering the possibility of running, it’s not about re-litigating anything in the past.” Soon after, Jeb Bush was willing to concede “mistakes were made,” but he wouldn’t say who made the mistakes or how he would have done anything different.
By last month, the GOP candidate was willing to say his brother’s policies are “not really relevant” in the 2016 campaign, as if we weren’t still dealing with the consequences of Bush/Cheney-era decisions…
Jeb’s entire posture is a little bizarre. He notes the faulty intelligence, without noting the degree to which it was manipulated by his brother’s team. Bush notes Hillary Clinton’s 2002 vote, without acknowledging the fact that she, unlike him, is willing to say the war was a terrible mistake.
What’s more, all of this comes against a backdrop in which Jeb Bush desperately wants voters to believe he’s his “own man,” despite relying on his brother’s policy guidance, despite turning to his family for fundraising help, and despite surrounding himself with advisers who worked for his father, his brother, or both.


Bush tried to qualify his reasoning by pointing to the faulty intelligence that led to the war. But anything that reminds voters of his ties not just to his brother — but to his brothers’ policies — is a huge negative.

“I love my father and my brother,” Bush said in February during a speech in Chicago. “I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions they had to make. But I am my own man —and my views are shaped by my own thinking and own experiences.”

But as the months tick by, Jeb Bush has not shown how exactly, substantively, he would be different than his brother, George W., particularly with regard to one of those “difficult decisions” – deciding to go into Iraq…

A March NBC/Wall Street Journal survey showed just how much the younger Bush has to do to step out of his brother’s shadow. Sixty percent of voters – and 42 percent of Republicans – said the former Florida governor represents a return to the policies of the past, higher than the 60 percent who thought the same thing about Clinton.


Last month, George W. Bush sharply criticized President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, saying his successor pulled U.S. troops out of Iraq too quickly and mishandled nuclear negotiations with Iran.

“You think the Middle East is chaotic now? Imagine what it looks like for our grandchildren,” the former president was quoted by Bloomberg telling Jewish donors at the closed-door event. “That’s how Americans should view the deal.’”

Bush also told attendees that he likely won’t do any campaigning for his younger brother because he thinks it would hurt Jeb’s 2016 chances.

“That’s why you won’t see me,” he said, according to the New York Times.


According to CNN, Mr. Bush told the private gathering: “What you need to know is that who I listen to when I need advice on the Middle East is George W. Bush.”…

The Bush campaign now says Jeb Bush was only talking about taking George W. Bush’s advice on Israel.

“Gov. Bush deeply respects his brother’s service to this country and in response to a question about James Baker and Israel, he reiterated that he looks to his brother whose stalwart support for our ally is in line with his commitment to standing with Israel in the face of great threats to their security and our own,” said Tim Miller, a Bush campaign spokesman.

So that puts George W. Bush in the company of every president since World War II, including the current one, in being a stalwart ally of Israel. It serves to differentiate him in no way at all from Hillary Clinton, who actually demonstrated her support for Israel when she was Secretary of State.


There’s no sign of regret in Jeb’s statements about the decision to invade, no sense of hard lessons learned or second thoughts pondered. There’s no recognition that the decision itself was fundamentally flawed, and not just poorly executed. Put into the same or similar situation as president, Jeb seems to be telling us, he would follow much the same path that his brother took. That sense is compounded by the fact that Jeb has surrounded himself with many of the same foreign-policy advisers who dominated his brother’s administration.

Clinton, in contrast, claims to have been chastened by her decision and its aftermath…

That doesn’t by any means wipe away the reality of Clinton’s support for what became the biggest foreign-policy blunder in this nation’s history, a mistake with major repercussions to this day.  But it does suggest a difference in approach between Clinton and her prospective Republican challengers, and that difference could be important given the decisions that will face our next president, from Iran to Ukraine to who knows where.


Nobody named Clinton has ever invaded Iraq — in fact, since Somalia’s “Black Hawk Down” incident, Democrats bomb countries; they generally don’t send in ground troops. Two presidents named Bush have invaded Iraq. Voters remember that…

In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Annenberg poll from June 2014, 71 percent of respondents said the Iraq war “wasn’t worth it,” including 44 percent of Republicans. A CBS News/New York Times poll from the same month similarly found that 75 percent of respondents said the war was not worth the costs, including 63 percent of Republicans and 79 percent of independents. Another June 2014 poll, from Quinnipiac, was a bit more favorable, with only 61 percent saying that “going to war with Iraq” was “the wrong thing.” In all those polls, the Iraq War disapproval numbers have continued to inch upwards…

[B]ecause of family loyalty or pride, or the advisers he has hired from his brother’s administration, or core convictions, Jeb Bush isn’t willing to throw his brother under the bus. From a tactical standpoint, it must be helpful having a father and brother who have collectively won three presidential elections, but acknowledging in public that George W. Bush is your most influential adviser on Middle East affairs? That’s something different…

[R]unning as a Bush on foreign policy in 2016 is folly. Even if the Dick Cheney wing of the Republican Party pushes him through the primaries, it’s poison in a general election. Jeb Bush has a tough choice to make: Does he want to try to resuscitate his brother’s foreign policy reputation, or does he want a shot at the White House?


Republicans have a hard time admitting this. To suggest that the Iraq war was a mistake is to suggest that the last Republican president made an epic error, and that the defining decision of his presidency was wrong. That wrongness is not just some academic question — it cost this nation, Iraq, and many allies untold amounts of life and money. It also makes it hard for the GOP to ding Obama for going soft on Iran if George W. Bush is on the hook for inadvertently strengthening Iran in the first place.

It all adds up to one big problem: Owning the failure of the Iraq war robs the GOP of one of its core strengths, its self-claimed image as the “daddy party” that is best positioned to protect this nation.

What Paul said about Iraq takes guts. There are surely plenty of Republicans across the country who privately agree with him. But there are many more — and not just Bush-era neocons — who will never cop to this publicly…

The wrong lesson of Iraq would be to retreat inward and allow the world to fall into chaos. The right lesson would be to understand that nation-building is utopian and quixotic.


Bush’s view of the war is considerably less clear-eyed than that of his brother, former President George W. Bush, the man who ordered the invasion. In his memoir, Decision Points, W. wrestled with the dilemma of his decision to start a war on the basis of bad intelligence. Only W. did not call the intelligence “faulty,” as Jeb had. W. called the intelligence “false.”…

In January 2008, Romney said, “It was the right decision to go into Iraq. I supported it at the time; I support it now.” In 2011, Romney said: “Well, if we knew at the time of our entry into Iraq that there were no weapons of mass destruction — if somehow we had been given that information, why, obviously we would not have gone in.”

So now Jeb Bush takes a step back to support an invasion even in the absence of WMD.

Jeb’s statement is likely to resonate until he either changes his position or loses the race for the Republican nomination. Should he become the nominee, the issue will dog him into the general election campaign.


The Democratic National Committee released a video Monday attacking likely 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush for saying he would have invaded Iraq based on the available intelligence.