How Jeb Bush Stumbled His Way Through Four Days Of Iraq Questions

May 14, 2015 6:00 a.m.

More than a decade after President George W. Bush invaded Iraq in 2003, his brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), ended up in his own Iraq quagmire this week.

The likely presidential contender for months somehow had managed to avoid talking much about his older brother even as he began to steam toward a White House bid.

But after the Washington Post reported last week that Jeb Bush told a group of financiers that he still turns to his brother for advice on the Middle East, it wasn’t long before he faced questions over his brother’s legacy and the Iraq War.

What followed was a pile-on from critics, a moment of triumph for his rivals, and an eventual walkback.

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Jeb Tells Fox News, ‘I Would’ Invade Iraq

It all began with a question from Fox News host Megyn Kelly.

“Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?” Kelly asked in a sit-down interview that was set to air on Monday but a portion of which was published online Sunday.

“I would have,” Bush said, before getting in a dig about how Hillary Clinton would have as well, alluding to her vote for the Iraq War Resolution in 2002.

Backlash From The Left And Right

“No Hillary wouldn’t!” said conservative radio host Laura Ingraham on Monday, emphasizing the first half of Kelly’s question. “Hillary wouldn’t authorize the war now, if she knew what she knows now.”

Ingraham added that “you can’t still think that going into Iraq, now, as a sane human being, was the right thing to do.”

Meanwhile, Bush took jabs from liberal critics, from the Democratic National Committee (“hindsight isn’t 20/20”) to “The Daily Show.”

“Sure I’d get on the Titantic again!” host Jon Stewart quipped. “I mean at the time, it had a terrific buffet!”

The Backpedaling

On Tuesday, Ana Navarro, Bush’s former director of immigration policy in the governor’s office, stepped in.

“I emailed him this morning and I said to him, ‘Hey, I’m a little confused by this answer so I’m genuinely wondering did you mishear the question?'” Navarro told CNN. “And he said, ‘Yes, I misheard the question.'”

Later that day, Bush told conservative radio host Sean Hannity that it was all a big misunderstanding.

“I interpreted the question wrong, I guess,” he said. “I was talking about given what people knew then, would you have done it? Rather than knowing what we know now.”

Jeb’s Rivals Pile On

No way were Bush’s potential rivals for 2016 going to waste this moment: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) leaned into his critique.

Not only did Christie tell CNN on Tuesday that he would not have ordered an invasion knowing what we know now, he also came back to the topic on Wednesday, slamming Bush for being unclear.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was also unequivocal: “Of course not,” he told Megyn Kelly in Tuesday interview.

And later on Wednesday, presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) called the invasion of Iraq a “mistake,” even as “a hypothetical.” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined him shortly after.

Even Ohio Gov. Kasich (R) jumped into the fray.

“There’s a lot of people who lost limbs and lives over there, OK?” he said on Tuesday. “But if the question is, if there were not weapons of mass destruction should we have gone, the answer would’ve been no.”

Jeb Invokes The Troops

By Wednesday afternoon, it was clear that this topic was not going away any time soon. CNN’s political director David Chalian attended an event in Nevada where a voter asked Bush about his multiple answers on the Iraq question throughout the week.

This time, Bush had a new response ready.

“If we are going to get into hypotheticals, I think it does a lot of disservice for a lot of people who sacrificed a lot,” Bush told the voter, according Chalian.

“Going back in time, does a disservice for them,” he added.

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