Jeb Bush said Tuesday that he misinterpreted a question on the Iraq War when he said he’d back the 2003 invasion -- even with current day knowledge.
In an interview with Sean Hannity, Bush said he was talking “about what people knew then, rather than what we know now,” when he told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly that he’d back the widely unpopular war in Iraq – a statement that infuriated some Republicans and energized Democrats.
But Bush may have done little to quell the controversy, declining to tell Hannity what decision he would’ve made, even with 20/20 hindsight.
“I don’t know what that decision would have been, that’s a hypothetical,” he told Hannity. “The simple fact is mistakes were made, as they always are in life, in foreign policy.
"He’s joking, right?” asked Democratic National Committee spokesman Mo Elleithee. “ Yesterday the answer was yes, and now he doesn’t know? Leave it to Jeb Bush to make George W. Bush look ready for primetime. At least he’s right about one thing: mistakes were made. And one thing conservatives and progressives agree on is that we paid an incredibly high price for those mistakes. So, Governor Bush, what more do you need to know? To the rest of us, this isn’t a hypothetical. It’s clear, and in this one case, we’d like you to be more like your brother — be a decider."
In the initial interview that aired on Fox News Monday night, Bush prompted outrage in some conservative circles when he said that despite what is now known about the war, he would have authorized the 2003 military invasion to take out Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
“I would have and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody, and to would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got,” he told Fox News’s Megyn Kelly.
“You don't think it was a mistake?” Kelly asked.
“In retrospect, the intelligence that everybody saw, that the world saw, not just the United States, was faulty,” Bush said. “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.”
Washington Examiner columnist Byron York called Bush's view of the war “considerably less clear-eyed than that of his brother,” noting that former President George W. Bush called the intelligence “false,” not just faulty.
“Jeb's statement is likely to resonate until he either changes his position or loses the race for the Republican nomination,” York wrote. “Should he become the nominee, the issue will dog him into the general election campaign.”
And talk show host Laura Ingraham – who has previously suggested there was little to distinguish Bush from Hillary Clinton -- suggested “there has to be something wrong with” Bush.
“You can’t still think that going into Iraq, now, as a sane human being, was the right thing to do,” she said. “That’s like, you have no ability to learn from past mistakes at all. When the past mistakes were made by your brother.”
After a Bush confidante suggested on Tuesday that Bush may have misheard the question, the Democratic National Committee on Tuesday pointed to several occasions in which Bush has criticized Obama for withdrawing troops from Iraq.
Bush has said he’s his “own man,” but told Kelly where critics are “trying to find places where there's big space between me and my brother, (the Iraq war) might not be one of those.”