Bush Walks Back Iraq War Comment, Sort Of

Bush Walks Back Iraq War Comment, Sort Of
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Attempting Tuesday to clarify a clumsy remark about Iraq, Jeb Bush seemed to fall short of "mission accomplished."  

Asked by conservative commentator Sean Hannity whether he would have made a different decision than his brother, George W. Bush, to invade Iraq, Jeb Bush said he would have. But, he added, leaving room for interpretation: “I don’t know what that decision would have been. That’s a hypothetical.”

Bush taped the interview with Hannity in the aftermath of another interview, with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, which aired Monday but was teased throughout the weekend, wherein Bush seemed to suggest that he would have invaded Iraq even in hindsight.

In the first interview, Kelly asked Bush whether he would have “authorized the invasion” of Iraq “knowing what we know now.”

“I would have, and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody,” Bush said. “And so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got.”

That response sparked a rash of incredulous headlines — and some speculation that Bush had misheard the question. Bush confirmed Tuesday to Hannity that he had “interpreted the question wrong.”

"Knowing what we know now, clearly there were mistakes as it related to faulty intelligence in the lead-up to the war, and the lack of focus on security,” Bush said. “My brother's admitted this, and we have to learn from that."

At the same time, Jeb Bush praised the troop surge late in his brother’s presidency as “quite effective to bring security and stability to Iraq.”

“That security has been totally obliterated by the president’s pulling out too early,” Bush added of President Obama’s decision to withdraw troops from Iraq, “and now the voids are filled by a barbaric, asymmetric threat that endangers the entire region and the entire world.”

But Bush wouldn’t go into detail about what decision he would have made had he been in his brother’s shoes.

“The simple fact is, mistakes were made,” he said.

The controversy sparked by Bush’s remarks illustrates the political tightrope he will need to walk to pull off to win the Republican nomination for president and possibly the general election. Even as he has insisted he is his “own man” on foreign policy, he has expressed his support for many of his brother’s decisions, even some controversial ones. 

By Tuesday afternoon, Bush’s remarks on Iraq had begun to permeate the Republican primary conversation. 

On CNN, Jake Tapper asked New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, another likely Republican presidential candidate, whether, “knowing then what we know now” it was “the right decision to go to war.”

"If we knew then what we know now and I was the president of the United States, I wouldn't go to war," Christie said. "But we don't get to replay history."

Rebecca Berg is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at rberg@realclearpolitics.com.

 

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