The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Here is every answer Jeb Bush gave on Iraq this week

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush (R) took heat for a series of answers he gave on whether he would have authorized the war in Iraq. (Video: Jhaan Elker/The Washington Post)
Placeholder while article actions load

Jeb Bush has been in politics long enough to have learned one of the key lessons of campaigning: Keep your answers short and to the point.

It appears that he'd maybe forgotten that lesson, though, as he struggled over the course of the week to answer a question that any relative of George W. Bush should have practiced in the mirror repeatedly. Was the Iraq War a mistake? Fox News' Megyn Kelly asked him  Monday. And though his answer -- and subsequent answers -- didn't deviate as widely as reports would suggest, it wasn't until Thursday that he offered the short, to-the-point response that people expected to hear.

Monday, on Fox News

Megyn Kelly: Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?
Jeb Bush: I would've. And so would've Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody, and so would've almost everybody who was confronted with the intelligence they got.
Kelly: You don't think it was a mistake.
Bush: In retrospect, the intelligence that everyone saw -- that the world saw, not just the United States -- was faulty. And in retrospect, once we invaded and took out Saddam Hussein, we didn't focus on security first. And the Iraqis, in this incredibly insecure environment, turned on the United States military because there was no security for themselves and their families.

What he should probably have said: "Knowing what we now know, I would not have engaged. I would not have gone into Iraq."

Tuesday, on Sean Hannity's radio show

Sean Hannity: You gave an interview yesterday where the question of Iraq came up. ... I've watched the media interpretation. You said, yes, and so would Hillary -- and I took that to mean, if it was the same moment with the same intelligence would you do it based on that moment. The media seems to be taking it another way. I wanted to see if I could clarify that today.
Bush: Thank you, because I interpreted the question wrong I guess. I was talking about, given what people knew then, would you have done it, rather than knowing what we know now.
Knowing what we know now, clearly there were mistakes as it related to both the intelligence in the lead-up to the war and the lack of focus on security. My brother's admitted this, and we have to learn from that.
But the simple fact is that in the last few years of my brother's presidency, the surge was quite effective to bring security and stability to Iraq which was missing during the early days of the United States engagement there. That security has been totally obliterated by the president's pulling out too early, and now these voids are filled by this barbaric asymmetric threat that endangers the entire region and the entire world.
So lessons learned: The United States needs to be engaged; we need to have the best intelligence in the world; we need to make sure that our friends know that we have their back. The best way to lessen the chance of having American boots on the ground is to have a foreign policy that is strong and secure and consistent.
Sean Hannity: In other words, in 20/20 hindsight, you would make a different decision.
Bush: Yeah, I don't know what that decision would have been, that's a hypothetical. The simple fact is that mistakes were made. As they always are in life and foreign policy. So we need to learn from the past to make sure that we're strong and secure moving forward.

What he should probably have said: "Knowing what we now know, I would not have engaged. I would not have gone into Iraq."

Wednesday, at a town hall in Nevada

The question is unclear.
Bush: Rewriting history is hypothetical. So I'll give you the full story. What she said was, knowing what we know now, what would you have done. Whatever I heard, it was translated, knowing what you knew then what would you do.
I answered it honestly, and I answered the way I would answer all the time, which is: There were mistakes made but based on the information that we had, it was the right decision -- and the same decision that people on the left and right agreed with.
The problem with hypotheticals is two-fold. One, when I was governor, I felt it a duty to call all the family members of people who lost their lives. I don't remember the total number, but it was easily over a hundred. I felt a duty to do that because I admired the sacrifice of their families, and I admired the men and women -- mostly men -- that made the ultimate sacrifice.
Going back in time and talking about hypothetical, "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. There are two lessons learned on this.
One is, if you're gonna go to war, make sure that you have the best intelligence possible. And the intelligence broke down. That's clearly one of the mistakes of this. Secondly, if you're going to do this have a strategy of security, and have a strategy to get out. Both of those things didn't work, although I'll give my brother credit. Once the mess was created, he solved that mess with the surge and created a much more stable Iraq. That was squandered in some ways when President Obama did not keep any small level of troop level, and those voids, now we're having to deal with that.
I think the focus ought to be on that. On the future. I respect the question, but if we're gonna get back into hypotheticals I think it does a disservice for a lot of people that sacrificed a lot.

What he should probably have said: "Knowing what we now know, I would not have engaged. I would not have gone into Iraq."

Thursday, at a town hall in Arizona

The question is unknown.
Bush: If we're all supposed to answer hypothetical questions: Knowing what we now know, what would you have done? I would not have engaged. I would not have gone into Iraq.

What he should probably have said: That.

He added: "That's not to say the world is  safer because Saddam Hussein is gone. It is significantly safer. That's not to say that there was a courageous effort to bring about a surge that created stability in Iraq. All of that is true. And that's not to say that the men and women that have served in uniform, and many others that went to Iraq to serve did so certainly honorably. But we've answered the question now."

Fair warning: It may come up again.