Nobody is more grateful for last week to come to a close than inevitable 2016 GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush.
It all began last Monday when the former Florida governor answered his first question about the Iraq war. A question he would answer more times than it takes to summon Beetlejuice before he got it right.
Appearing on Fox News’ The Kelly File, host Megyn Kelly was the first to bring up the issue:
Kelly: “On the subject of Iraq, very controversial, knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?”
Jeb Bush: “I would have and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody, and so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got.”
“I don’t know how anyone could look at that question and not – his brother even said in his own book that he would have done something differently,” potential 2016 GOP candidate Rick Santorum responded during a Republican National Committee meeting days later.
It sounds like Jeb needs to read more because Hillary Clinton also tackled the subject in her recent book, Hard Choices:
“I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best decision I could with the information I had, and I wasn’t alone in getting it wrong, but I still got it wrong. Plain and simple.”
In a follow-up question with Kelly, Bush acknowledges the intelligence leading to war was “faulty,” yet he still doesn’t retract his support of authorization.
The next day, Bush began his damage control tour on Sean Hannity’s radio show, admitting he misinterpreted Kelly’s question. He quickly then erases any goodwill created as if it were on a chalkboard in this ending exchange:
Hannity: “In 20-20 hindsight, you would make a different decision?”
Bush: “Yeah, I don’t know what that decision would’ve been, that’s a hypothetical.”
At this point, I have to believe a hamster in a ball is simply rolling over a pad with random answers and the Bush advisors use whichever response on which the hamster stops.
On day three, Bush responds again to the issue of Iraq during a town hall meeting in Nevada. This time, incorporating the nation’s service men and women:
“Going back in time and talking about hypothetical, ‘what would have happened, what could have happened,’ I think does a disservice for them. What we ought to be focusing on is what are the lessons learned.”
Bush goes on to explain the two lessons learned from Iraq are “make sure you have the best intelligence possible” and “have a strategy of security.” Essentially, the exact opposite of what his brother did (although he can’t bring himself to say that).
Bush concludes with:
“I respect the question, but if we’re gonna get back into hypotheticals I think it does a disservice for a lot of people that sacrificed a lot.”
Really? Call me crazy, but I think responding to a hypothetical that gives you the opportunity to acknowledge grave mistakes were made and they would not be repeated under your administration is a great service to the troops.
Day four, Bush appears at an Arizona town hall meeting:
“If we’re all supposed to answer hypothetical questions: Knowing what we now know, what would you have done? I would not have engaged. I would not have gone into Iraq.”
This is what Bush should have said on Monday. Somebody must have given the hamster a wooden chew stick that day.
A June 2014 NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Annenberg poll shows that 71% of Americans feel the Iraq war “wasn’t worth it.” The same poll shows that Republicans are nearly split down the middle about support for the war, with 44% feeling it was not worth the sacrifices.
Bush wasn’t alone in the headlines; he ended up sharing the front page with University of Nevada student, Ivy Ziedrich after his Wednesday town hall appearance.
Attending the Nevada town hall, the 19-year old college student confronted the politician about comments he made connecting the creation of ISIS to current President Barack Obama’s foreign policy:
“You stated that ISIS was created because we don’t have enough presence and we’ve been pulling out of the Middle East. However, the threat of ISIS was created by the Iraqi coalition authority, which ousted the entire government of Iraq. It was when 30,000 individuals who are part of the Iraqi military were forced out. They had no employment, they had no income, yet they were left with access to all the same arms and weapons. Your brother created ISIS.”
Ziedrich is referring to the Coalition Provisional Authority Order 2, which disbanded the Iraqi army in 2003.
Her number of 30,000 troops is just slightly off… it was closer to 400,000.
George W. Bush’s original policy was to keep the Iraqi military intact. In 2007, When biographer Robert Draper asked Bush why the order still went through, the then President responded: “Yeah, I can’t remember; I’m sure I said, ‘This is the policy, what happened?’” Oh, boy.
Ziedrich is correct that the disbandment of the Iraqi army is crucial to the development of ISIS.
Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawl was a colonel in the intelligent services under the Saddam Hussein regime. Once the army was disbanded, Samir adopted the pseudonym Haji Bakr and became the mastermind of ISIS.
Bakr was killed in 2014. Last month, the German publication Der Spiegel published a review of multiple documents previously belonging to the ISIS strategist.
To put the power of Haji Bakr’s position in perspective, Abu Bakr al-Bagdadi, the leader of ISIS, was chosen by Bakr and a “small group of former Iraqi intelligence officers” to “give the group a religious face.”
Der Spiegel’s Christoph Reuter writes:
“Thousands of well-trained Sunni officers were robbed of their livelihood with the stroke of a pen. In doing so, America created its most bitter and intelligent enemies.”
Bush responded to Ziedrich: “Look, you can rewrite history all you want, but the simple fact is that we’re in a much more unstable place because America pulled back.”
Buddy, you’re writing with the eraser end of a pencil.
I hope somebody filled the Bush-advisory hamster’s water bottle, because if last week is any indication, he’s going to be doing a lot of running around.