Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) clarified his stance on the Iraq war on Thursday after days of shifting answers on the subject.
At a campaign stop in Arizona, Bush, a leading potential 2016 presidential candidate, said he would not have supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq if he were aware the country did not have weapons of mass destruction.
“So here’s the deal: If we’re all supposed to answer hypothetical questions, knowing what we know now, what would you have done? I would have not engaged — I would not have gone into Iraq,” Bush said.
The question is a tricky one for Bush, whose brother, former President George W. Bush, led the war and pushed the incorrect claim that Iraq possessed WMD’s. Jeb Bush’s shifting comments on the issue have generated negative headlines and jabs from his rivals this week.
This flap began when Bush gave an interview to Fox News’ Megyn Kelly that aired in full on Monday.
In that appearance, Kelly asked Bush if he would have supported the war based on current information. However, Bush seemed to answer a different question: whether he would have backed the invasion given the intelligence available at the time, which suggested Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.
“I would have and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody,” Bush said then. “And so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got.”
A Bush ally subsequently suggested he “misheard” Kelly’s question. However, during his appearance in Arizona on Thursday, Bush said he heard correctly but “just answered it differently.”
“One final thing, before I close, I was interviewed by Megyn Kelly recently, that’s probably why some of the folks are here. Where I answered a question where I — she asked the question right. It wasn’t confusing. I just answered it differently,” Bush said. “My mind kind of calculated it differently.”
Following his interview with Kelly, Bush made a series of different statements about his position on the war.
On Tuesday, in a radio interview with Sean Hannity, Bush said, “Clearly there were mistakes as it related to faulty intelligence in the lead-up to the war.” In spite of this, Bush suggested he did not want to discuss “a hypothetical.”
On Wednesday, Bush expanded on that at an appearance in Nevada, where he argued discussing hypothetical scenarios would be a “disservice” to those who sacrificed during the war.
“If we’re going to get into hypotheticals I think it does a disservice for a lot of people that sacrificed a lot,” Bush said. “Going back in time and talking about hypotheticals — 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.”
In his latest comments, Bush again claimed his reluctance to discuss whether he would have supported the war, based on current information, was due to a desire to respect those who lost their lives. He also discussed his personal experience.
“Let me be clear here, the reason I was reluctant to say what I’m going to say now is that, as governor of Florida, I called — I didn’t keep tabs of it — but I easily called over 100 family members who lost a loved one in service to our great country. Not an easy thing to do, to do it that many times,” Bush said. “And it’s very hard for me to say their lives were lost in vain. In fact, they weren’t. … Their sacrifice is worth honouring, not depreciating. And I believe that in the bottom of my heart.”
Bush concluded his statement on Thursday by saying that, even though he would not have supported the war given the information we have today, he does believe the removal of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein left the world “safer.”
“That’s not to say that the world [isn’t] safer because Saddam Hussein is gone. It is significantly safer,” said Bush.
Bush also indicated that he hopes the issue has been settled once and for all: “We’ve answered the question now.”
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