Republican presidential hopefuls are lining up to bash former Florida governor Jeb Bush over his fumbling response to the seemingly simple question of whether he would have authorized the Iraq war knowing what we know now. But there’s one prominent opponent who's not joining in the criticism: Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Questions about Iraq are still tripping up presidential prospects 12 years after the U.S.-led invasion and seven years after Clinton couldn’t quite say her vote in favor of the war had been a mistake.
The war was already broadly unpopular among Democrats in 2007 and 2008 when Clinton tried to explain her action as a New York senator without apologizing for it. The inconclusive conflict -- which killed more than 4,400 Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis before President Obama withdrew forces in 2011 -- is now also broadly unpopular with Republicans.
The issue was one of the clearest distinctions between Clinton and Barack Obama and helped the younger, less experienced Illinois senator snatch the Democratic nomination from her.
In a clear-the-decks move ahead of her second presidential run, Clinton wrote bluntly in her memoir last year that her support for the war was a mistake.
Clinton can probably afford to sit this one out, since Republicans are doing the job for her. But part of her silence is no doubt due to her own uncomfortable history.
Bush seemed to declare on Monday that he would have backed an invasion even knowing that there were no weapons of mass destruction to be found in the country. He tried to clean up after himself Tuesday with rambling remarks to Sean Hannity of Fox News: “I don’t know what that decision would’ve been,” he said, because “that’s a hypothetical. But the simple fact was mistakes were made, as they always are in life and foreign policy.”
He dodged the question again during a sometimes hostile event with young voters on Wednesday in Nevada, where he also tussled over his brother's legacy.
Republican contenders including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have pounced.
“I don’t think you can honestly say that if we knew then that there was no WMD, that the country should have gone to war,” Christie said.
Asked whether he would have invaded, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) replied: “Of course not. The entire predicate of the war against Iraq was the intelligence that showed they had weapons of mass destruction and that there was a real risk they might use them.”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich -- also mulling a 2016 bid -- told the Columbus Dispatch: “There’s a lot of people who lost limbs and lives over there, OK? But if the question is, if there were not weapons of mass destruction should we have gone, the answer would’ve been no.”