George W. Bush's Iraq hawks dismayed by Jeb's dithering

Many of the party’s old-guard Iraq hawks hoped Bush would be the exception. They wanted to see him go to bat for his brother’s legacy in the region — reminding the electorate that, botched intel aside, there were good reasons to topple the Hussein regime and seek democratic change in the country. And more to the point, many believe the case should be made on the campaign trail that President Obama made a grave mistake in pulling troops out of Iraq.

“As a political messaging matter, Gov. Bush could easily say to Obama, ‘The surge was working. You were handed a three-run lead at the bottom of the ninth, all you had to do was come in and close, and you blew the game,” said Scheunemann.

But while Bush has, in fact, touched on these arguments, they have been largely lost amid the tangle of confused quotes, hasty walk-backs, and constant revisions that has characterized Bush’s recent Iraq rhetoric. “It shows how rusty he is as a candidate,” said Scheunemann. “And that whoever’s advising him isn’t giving him very good advice.”

That sentiment was echoed by a former Bush 43 State Department appointee, who said Jeb should be talking about the ink-stained fingers of first-time Iraqi voters and the success of the troop surge late in his brother’s presidency. “The answers aren’t hard for Jeb,” he said. “People may not all agree with them, but they’re pretty obvious.”