Wherein I Defend Jeb Bush (Really!)

by Kevin Jon Heller

Both the liberal media and the conservative media are pulling out the fainting couches over something Jeb Bush said to Megyn Kelly during an interview on Fox News. In response to a question about whether he would have invaded Iraq in 2003 if he knew what we know now about WMDs and the like, Jeb supposedly said yes — he would still invade. That’s how both Josh Marshall and Byron York (polar opposites, they!) read Jeb’s answer. (And Kevin Drum. And Ed Kilgore.)

But that’s not what Jeb said. Here is the exchange, taken from York’s post:

Fox News’ Megyn Kelly asked Bush a straightforward, concise question: “Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?” Bush’s answer was an unhesitating yes.

“I would have, and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody,” Bush said, “and so would have almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got.”

“You don’t think it was a mistake?” asked Kelly.

“In retrospect, the intelligence that everybody saw, that the world saw, not just the United States, was faulty,” Bush answered.

Jeb now says that he misunderstood the question. And that does, in fact, seem to be the case. Note the verb tenses in his first answer: he “would have” invaded Iraq, as “would have” Hillary Clinton and anyone else who had seen the intelligence “they got.” He didn’t say he or Hillary or anyone else “would” invade Iraq given the intelligence “they have now.” The tenses thus clearly indicate that Jeb was answering a different question — namely, whether he would have invaded Iraq given what decision-makers knew at the time. That reading is then confirmed by his second answer, in which he acknowledges that “in retrospect” — ie, based on what we now know — the invasion was a mistake.

To be sure, Jeb deserves some criticism for his answer. A number of important people opposed the invasion of Iraq even in the face of the faulty intelligence George Bush and Hillary Clinton received. And, of course, if Jeb wants to be president, he should probably pay attention to the questions journalists ask him in televised interviews.

But Jeb didn’t say he would have invaded Iraq knowing what we know now. He just didn’t.


4 Responses

  1. So the right follow up now should be – in light of what we know now and all that is happened, was the War in Iraq worth it. He is playing word games. Also, another followup for all the candidates, what form of accountability should there be for those who led us into that War?

    Also, there are congressional reports on how the intelligence was “sexed up” (to use the Downing Street Memo language).

    Finally – “the faulty intelligence George Bush and Hillary Clinton received” – gives the impression that they were equally passive recipients of faulty intelligence. This is a variation on the “mistakes were made” meme that is always present with respect to high level disasters. It is a false equivalence.

    Let us be clear – George Bush and his team misrepresented the intelligence to the American people in ways that Senate Intelligence Committee Report (Rockefeller version) pointed out years ago (with Republican demurrals). Consistently and systematically underplaying in the unclassified version all of the limits that the intelligence services put in their classified version.

    Hillary was one of the recipients of that sales job – along with the rest of Congress in that run up to the October 2002 pre-election vote where too many of the then incumbents voted the political expedient way.

    Just sayin’.


  2. Too hard to avoid — “knowing what we know now” and “I would have”
    Also, how does he know what Hillary would have authorized even with faulty intelligence, as Ben notes, that was manipulated by his brother?
    Kevin: did he really acknowledge that “the invasion was a mistake”? not from what you posted

  3. Waiting for FOX News to ask: “knowing what we know now, would you have authorized secret detention, waterboarding, death threats, the cold cell, and use of dogs for terroristic purposes?

  4. Thanks for excellent post Kevin. The real amazing joke in fact , is the idea , that due or thanks to faulty intelligence , Bush invaded indeed Iraque . Since , It was only an excuse for the big plan of the neo conservatives at the time , for bringing democracy to the Arab world , and fighting so the global terror ( drying the swamp , over killing mosquitos ) .

    All that nonsense of mass destruction weapon, is not worthy even a casual glance. He (bush ) couldn’t simply tell the truth , since he had admitted in fact , that sadam Hussein had nothing to do with September the 11th attacks .Thanks

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