Jeb Bush said Wednesday he won’t entertain hypotheticals about how he’d handle a war in Iraq because it would be a “disservice” to those who died in the war.
Speaking at a town hall in Reno, Nevada, Bush faced questions for a second day in a row over how he’d handle the controversial 2003 invasion of Iraq ordered by his brother, George W. Bush. The former Florida governor has been struggling with the question since a Fox News interview that aired Monday night in which Bush said he backed the largely unpopular war – even with the advantage of hindsight.
That enraged some conservatives in his own party and Bush Tuesday night on a Fox News radio show sought to backtrack, saying that he had misheard the question. But he refused to say what decision he’d make, knowing the current facts.
“I don’t know what that decision would have been, that’s a hypothetical,” he told Sean Hannity.
Bush said in Reno that he thought he was being asked whether he supported the war “knowing what we knew then” and had answered that although mistakes were made, politicians on the left and right had backed the invasion.
But he said, he had a problem with revisiting the decision, saying it’s not fair to those who died in the war.
He said as governor he felt a duty to call the families of people who died in service and that “going back in time and talking about what would have happened does a disservice to them.”
“I respect the question, but it does a disservice to a lot of people who sacrificed a lot,” he said.
Bush has sought to create some distance between himself and his family, calling himself his “own man.” But, as he has on past occasions, he opened his remarks in Reno praising his family: “First of all, I’m proud to be George W’s brother,” he said. “It’s just the way it is, I can’t deny the fact that I love my family, I love everything about them.”
Bush used his appearance in Reno to call for increased U.S. engagement in the world, saying it doesn’t mean “you’re a war mongerer.”
“There’s a greater likelihood of boots on the ground if we pull back,” Bush said, arguing that sitting back will embolden Russian President Vladimir Putin and other players.
“Who but the U.S. can make it clear to Putin that there will be a heavy price to pay for invading, for destabilizing the region,” Bush said. “The U.S. needs to be engaged in the world.”