Jeb Bush: I would have invaded Iraq

In an interview with Megyn Kelly to be aired today, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush told the Fox host that he would have made the same decision his brother did as president to invade Iraq. As he said, quoted by The Washington Post: “I would have [authorized the invasion], and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody. And so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got.”

That’s a brazenly emphatic bear-hug for what turned out to be the biggest foreign policy catastrophe of the 21st Century, setting aside the fact that “the intelligence they got” was false — and George Bush knew it was false.

While it’s true that Hillary Clinton voted for the Iraq War — a vote that cost her the Democratic nomination in 2008 — she has at least admitted that the vote was a mistake.

Jeb has not made such concessions. In fact, throughout his entire soon-to-be-launched campaign, he has refused to create substantive space between himself and his brother, who left office as one of the most unpopular presidents in the modern era. Aside form saying “I am my own man,” Bush has gone out of his way to endorse his brother’s record on multiple occasions. Furthermore, his emerging team of advisers are, by and large, alumnae of prior Bush campaigns and administrations.

This, despite former President Bush’s indications that he will keep a low profile in 2016, cognizant of how toxic he could prove to be on the campaign trail.

But here’s the thing: despite the baggage George W. Bush would bring as a surrogate, Jeb probably loses less by embracing his record than he gains by distancing himself from it. No matter what he says about the previous Bush administration, he’s going to be tied to it. If he runs from it, it’ll be seen as a political dodge. Owning the issue tells voters that he doesn’t think it’s a liability, so they shouldn’t, either. Given that Hillary’s position on the Iraq War is, for all intents and purposes, the same as Jeb’s — “We made the best decision we could given the information we had.” — Jeb does more to defuse Iraq as a 2016 campaign issue by embracing the invasion than he does by criticizing it. As there is no clear separation between any of the 2016 frontrunners on the issue, none of them feel any particular need to play defense on it.

This being the case, the Iraq War is likely to get less attention in the campaign than it likely deserves — especially given the fact that you can draw a straight line from the power vacuum created by the removal of Saddam Hussein to the rise of the Islamic State.

(By the way, this is George W. Bush’s “only regret” about the invasion of Iraq.)

Jeb Bush has also undoubtedly noticed that, despite leaving office in borderline disgrace, George W. Bush has seen his favorability rating rise since leaving office, a common trend in presidential approval ratings. While those of who are still paying attention certainly remember just how bad George W. Bush was as president, the American public has, by and large, forgotten. And Hillary Clinton’s hawkish foreign policy — both as a Senator and as Secretary of State — gives her little room to attack him. This being the case, Jeb has more of an opening to reclaim and rebrand the early 2000’s than he otherwise would.

It’s a sad state of affairs when a soon-to-be presidential candidate stands more to gain by doubling down on the biggest foreign policy blunder of the 21st Century than they do by distancing themselves from it. But without a frontrunner with a demonstrably different foreign policy worldview, that’s unlikely to change.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • Sameboat1

    Would you have invaded Iraq? Yes. No. Will you run for president in 2016? Yes. No. What’s the problem? He answered both questions. Twice, even.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Democrats and Republicans have shared the same right wing politics for the last century and a half or so.

    FDR was a conservative who made concessions out of a palpable fear of revolution. Truman was the right wing author of loyalty oaths and McCarthyism. JFK attacked Cuba and waffled on civil rights, LBJ was a mad dog warmonger and mass murderer. Carter began the attack on unions that Reagan continued. Clinton gutted welfare, hired 200,000 new cops, championed and signed NAFTA, the deregulation bills of 1999 and 2000 as well as DADT and DOMA. Obama, another mad dog warmonger, is continuing the attack on working people.

    Democrats are a right wing party and an enemy of working people. So are Republicans.

  • Butch1

    Well said.

  • 2karmanot

    Everything about Texas is bigger than life, including ignorance and regression.

  • 2karmanot

    Dubya and Jebya: dumb and dumber

  • wmforr

    Actually, they are not. But I guess you’re like Dubya and you “don’t do nuance.”

  • Butch1

    I cannot argue that point.

  • Bill_Perdue

    “I still loath the idea of having all three branches of government crawling with republicans” and Democrats, who are the same as Republicans.

  • Butch1

    The War Industrial Complex has an insatiable appetite for keeping wars on the menu for our country only now they have become too much of a glutton and need multi-wars happening to feed their hunger. We average Americans cannot afford to bankroll these never ending wars these rich contractors continue to push the Pentagon to find anywhere in the world. You know as well as I that the rich are not going to spend a dime as long as they can squeeze any money out of the rest of us and as long as they have a fascist grip on our government, we will be “carrying the can” and supplying the military might.

    I’m not sure though whether Gore could have been forced into a war, perhaps the climate was perfect in the Middle east. I am one of those who doesn’t buy the 9/11 story and this country has a history of too may False Flags in order to get us into wars with other countries or peoples. I realize there are enough conspiracy theories and tin-foil hat people to make fun of, but there also is enough data by experts that I pay attention to who do make a lot of sense to disprove that report. An example is the third building, which wasn’t hit by a plane coming down like an implosion in a demolition. Many people even heard the charges going off in it. There are many unexplained questions. So, we start wars to make money; we know that. Iraq was an example of it for the oil fields and yet, we really didn’t get any of it, but we supposedly “stabilized” the region. Right. What we did was open a “can of worms” and we now have ISIS. More boot on the ground? I do not think so. (at least the media will not know about it.)

    We are already in league with Iran and have been working with them against the Taliban in Afghanistan and ISIS in Syria and that has been under the radar which is why those forty-seven bumpkins sending their letter to Iran to disrupt the negotiations along with the Israeli lackey who just wants to continue his cold war with Iran and wants no peace with them, were myopic in national diplomacy.

    Though I really see no major differences in both corrupt parties, both of them receiving their orders from the Wall Street 1% , I still loath the idea of having all three branches of government crawling with republicans.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Yes, we really do. We know that the US oil companies and banksters wanted a war and that whoever was elected would have given them one.

    Republican Senator CHARLES HAGEL: “People say we’re not fighting for oil. Of course we are. They talk about America’s national interest. What the hell do you think they’re talking about? We’re not there for figs.” (Speaking at Catholic University, Sept. 24, 2007)

    Former Federal Reserve Chairman ALAN GREENSPAN, in his book The Age of Turbulence; Adventures in a New World: “I’m saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: The Iraq war is largely about oil.”

    Democratic Senator JOHN TESTER: “We’re still fighting a war in Iraq and people who are honest about it will admit we’re there over oil.” (Associated Press, Sept. 24, 2007)

    General JOHN ABIZAID, retired commander of CENTCOM: “Of course it’s about oil, we can’t really deny that.” (Speaking at Stanford University, Oct. 13, 2007)

    In their pursuit of oil hegemony and controlling the profits of gas pipe lines US military commanders deliberately set Sunni against Shiite, and both against Kurds. That’s the common policy of the Bushes, the Clintons and Obama and the Democrat and Republican parties.

  • Butch1

    One would think we’ve had enough lessons from the Bush dynasty without having one more to finish off this country, but there are always those “dull-knives” still left in the drawer that can never be sharpened who will vote for him never the less.

  • Megyn Kelly of Fox News asked Jeb Bush if he would have authorized the Iraq War — “knowing what we know now“. Clear and unambiguous language.

    Bush said “yes”.

    The Cons sure are beating the war drums.

  • Indigo

    The Jebster styles himself an education specialist and continues to boast how he reformed public education here in Florida when he was governor. We’re still undoing the damage and have a long way to go. I doubt enough Floridians would vote for him, if he gets the nomination, for president. I don’t think he can carry the state. He’ll probably beat out young Mario in the state primary but that’s as far as he’ll get.

  • Butch1

    We really don’t know that; he wouldn’t have had a Cheney for a Vice President, though I do not consider his choice much better.

  • Butch1

    An iteration flaw.

  • Butch1

    This was supposed to be the more intelligent brother. If he hasn’t learned anything from his brother’s mistakes, then just how bright is this younger Bush?

  • Butch1

    Exactly so.

  • I’m often wrong about these things, btw, but I think Walker is the nominee. He has the backing of the Koch brothers which means he won’t have to worry about running out of money even if he stumbles a bit along the way. (Running out of money is the main reason most candidates drop out.) Of course a lot can happen over the next year or so. He could really screw up at some point. Plenty have. But over and over what I hear from Republicans (both in person and through various media outlets…not the leadership but actual primary voter types) is that they keep losing because their candidates aren’t conservative enough. Yeah, I know that sounds insane but it’s what they believe. So another McCain or Romney type touted by the party elite is not going to get the support needed to win primaries this time.

  • devlzadvocate

    It is a genetic flaw. A DNA thing.

  • devlzadvocate

    An endorsement of the Bush double-down?

  • Indigo

    Good analysis. Refreshing. Thank you.

  • Indigo

    Yes, he would and that’s one more reason to keep him out of the White House.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Al Gore would have done the same. He never varied from supporting Clintons warmongering or his murder of half a million Iraqi children.

  • nicho

    Hillary said it was a mistake — when her handlers and her focus group folks told her that’s what she needed to say — and after the horrific damage had been done. Hillary, as always, playing both side of the fence.

  • Hue-Man

    No wonder politicians lie so often. The Cheney/Bush administration lied their way into the Iraq disaster. Not only were they not prosecuted, they’re going around a spouting the same lies (for pay) and Americans believe their lies. Jeb is merely repeating the same lies – I can’t believe that he is so stupid that he would invade Iraq based on the identical lack of information.

  • 2karmanot

    ” the bar isn’t that high” The bar is so low we’ll call it the amoeba limbo.

  • 2karmanot

    ” Megyn Kelly to be aired” —— says it all!

  • The_Fixer

    Ex-President Bush’s approval rating may have gone up and some of the bad stuff may have been forgotten, but nobody’s forgotten the Iraq war and the fact that he got us into it. We also haven’t forgotten the financial crash that happened under his watch.

    I think that no matter what Jeb tries, he’s not gonna walk away with the presidency. He’s got plenty of time left to keep inserting his foot into his mouth, and by god, he’s gonna do it well, and often.

  • I’ll say it again, Bush will not be the nominee. He’s only polling well at this point because of name recognition. At this point in 2007 the presumed GOP nominee was Rudy Giuliani. Bush can’t run against his brother’s record but he can’t run on it either. He loses either way. And here we thought Jeb was the “smart one”. I guess compared to Neil (the crook) and W (the idiot) the bar isn’t that high, but still. What an idiot.

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