Imagine you're running for president, but you've got one big, really predictable problem. Several years ago, your older sibling was also president and did really poorly at it, so you're pretty sure you're going to be called to account for some of his or her mistakes. Now, imagine the thing many people considered the biggest mistake was a matter of life and death, a war undertaken on bad intelligence, and under dubious circumstances. That's one to figure out how to address, right? And yet, Jeb Bush's Iraq war answers keep changing as the campaign season wears on.
The Iraq war began in 2003, launched by then-President George W. Bush, and lasted through 2011, finally ended by the Obama administration. Considering there was already Jeb presidential buzz flying around back in 2012, you'd figure he's probably had at least four or five years of knowing he wanted to run, all while knowing the Iraq question could be a big sticking point in a campaign.
But, as demonstrated in the first GOP presidential debate and a string of varying explanations throughout his nascent campaign, it seems like he simply hasn't found the right approach — unless, of course, there simply isn't one.
1. Would You Have Authorized The Iraq War? (May 11)
This, uttered just over three months ago, was the start of a pretty awkward week of rhetorical gymnastics by Bush. Speaking in an interview with Fox News, Bush told Megyn Kelly that he would've authorized the invasion of Iraq, albeit with a disclaimer implicating Hillary Clinton.
I would've, and so would've Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody. And so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got.
2. Would You Really Have Authorized The Iraq War? (May 12)
Just one day later, no doubt with an urge to get out in front of the story, Bush made a call-in appearance on Fox News host Sean Hannity's radio show. Here's what he told the popular conservative chatterbox, as detailed by Mediaite:
Knowing what we know now, you know, clearly there were mistakes as it related to faulty intelligence in the lead-up to the war and the lack of focus on security. And my brother’s admitted this, and we have to learn from this.
Bush also declined to say whether he would've invaded Iraq, however, which is the core question throughout all this. Even with the benefit of hindsight, he declined to say what he would've done, saying, "I don't know what that decision would've been, that's a hypothetical." Of course, answering hypothetical scenarios isn't some unusual feat for a presidential candidate — it's almost the job description.
3. OK, No, I Wouldn't Have Authorized The Iraq War (May 14)
In yet another testament to just how quickly things can change in political life, Bush was out on the campaign trail just two days later, and was again rewriting his previous words on the invasion. Speaking at an event in Nevada, as detailed by Reuters, Bush came right out and said that he wouldn't have invaded, given the knowledge he now has.
Knowing what we know now, I would have not engaged, I would have not gone into Iraq.
4. The Iraq War Was A Mistake, And I Wouldn't Have Gone In... (August 6)
During the first GOP presidential primary debate on Fox News, Bush was again put on the spot by moderator Megyn Kelly, and told her that "knowing what we know now," the invasion was a mistake.
Knowing what we know now, with faulty intelligence and not having security be the first priority when we invaded, it was a mistake. I wouldn't have gone in.
5. ...But It Was A Pretty Good Deal, No? (August 13)
And now, despite working hard to extricate himself from the Iraq war blues, Bush seems to have sunk himself right back in. Speaking at a forum in Iowa, Bush had at least one laudatory thing to say about his brother's war.
Bush has long attempted to separate the current conditions within Iraq from his brother's decision to remove Hussein from power — he's made it a point to blame President Obama's withdrawal from Iraq for the rise of ISIS, rather than his brother's administration for creating the power vacuum in the first place.