Marco Rubio crashes and burns on Iraq question, says war was “not a mistake”

In the aggregate, crowded primaries are full of surprises. But for individual candidates, most of the questions are totally predictable. When one candidate or surrogate says something absurd or objectionable — President Obama isn’t a Christian, President Obama doesn’t love America, I wouldn’t attend a gay wedding, etc. — you should expect to get asked about it. Every candidate will.

So when Jeb Bush gave four answers in four days last week to the same question — “Knowing what we know now, would you have invaded Iraq?” — one would expect that his primary opponents realized that they were about to get asked the same question, and spent all of five minutes coming up with a better answer than “yes.”

If Marco Rubio’s appearance yesterday on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace is any indication, he did not take those five minutes.

Wallace started by showing Rubio clips from March and May, respectively, in which he gave two contradictory answers to the “knowing what we know now” question. In March, Rubio insisted that “the world is a better place” because Saddam Hussein is no longer in power, which itself justifies the Iraq War. In May, Rubio insisted that given the intelligence we now have available, both he and former President Bush would have left Hussein in power. But when Wallace offered Rubio a chance to clarify his response, Rubio, like Bush, chose to reject the premise of the question rather than answer it, repeatedly insisting that the Iraq War was a good idea based on the intelligence President Bush had at the time. When pressed by Wallace  to answer the question as asked, Rubio dodged by saying he didn’t understand it.

Here’s the video, via RawStory:

Based on that series of questions, here is what we do know:

  • Knowing what we know now, Rubio does not think George Bush would have invaded Iraq.
  • Knowing what we know now, Rubio does not think it was a mistake to invade Iraq knowing what we knew then.
  • Knowing what we know now, Saddam Hussein did not win the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • Knowing what we know now, Rubio would not have bet on Manny Pacquiao to beat Floyd Mayweather.

The one thing we are left not knowing is precisely what Rubio was asked: whether he would have invaded Iraq given what we now know about the evidence presented to the American people at the time.

It’s bad form for Rubio to weasel out of the question, but going beyond that it’s simply not true to say that if George Bush knew what we knew now he wouldn’t have invaded Iraq. President Bush did know what we know now: The intelligence used to support the administration’s case for invading Iraq ranged from faulty to downright fraudulent.

Given the opportunity to do it again, President Bush absolutely would have invaded Iraq. To frame the decision as an honest mistake as opposed to deliberate dismissal of the information available is to be willfully ignorant of “what we know now.”

So we can chuckle about Rubio’s caginess in answering a simple question on a Sunday talk show (again), but we can’t forget the bigger lie behind his non-answer.

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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