A few days after sitting down in friendly territory on "Fox News" and giving an answer that has gotten scathing responses, even from conservatives, to a question that was not only incredibly easy, but should have been obviously expected and prepared for when you're the brother of a former president, and a full day after that interview went public, Jeb Bush (R-FL) has asked for a mulligan, a do-over, a second-chance to get the question right, "Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion (into Iraq)?"
And the thing is, with days to think about, Mr. Bush still got his answer wrong.
Whereas before he said, "I would have," and tried to suggest that all candidates would have, he now raised his hand for the teacher to call on him for a second change -- with his carefully crafted response after sitting down with his advisers since he knew a "What I meant" reply was needed. Actually, he didn't even wait to be called on -- he called on himself, himself. He called Sean Hannity's radio show (even far friendlier territory than before, sort of the safe room of "Fox News") to give his side of...well, his side.
And what Jeb Bush and his experts carefully came up with as a much better reply is --
“I interpreted the question wrong, I guess. I don’t know what that decision would have been -- that’s a hypothetical. Simple fact is, mistakes were made."
People do misunderstand questions. Though how on earth do you misinterpret "Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?" And bending over backwards to accept that you did misinterpret the question, what does that say about your ability to interpret questions if you became president, especially since this wasn't under stressful circumstances but easy as they come? And what does it say about your ability to correct misunderstanding when this is the best you and your advisers can come up with after a few days to think about it?
First, where did the "I guess" come from? Are you saying you did interpret the question wrong -- or maybe not? And agreeing that mistakes were made is not a simple fact, it's a matter of opinion, and one that I suspect not everyone agrees with. And if mistakes were made, and it's a simple fact...what were those mistakes? But mainly, while yes, that's a hypothetical question, it's still a brain-dead easy one: knowing what you know NOW, would you have authorized an invasion into Iraq where we KNOW there are no hidden weapons of mass destruction, and where we KNOW it was a lie about yellow cake being bought in Niger, and where he KNOW that 4,500 Americans were killed, we KNOW that over two trillion dollars were spent, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis including citizens were killed and we absolutely KNOW that were entrenched there for over a decade?
And Jeb Bush's answer, knowing all that, and after days with your experts to think about it, was "I don't know."
Seriously? He still doesn't know?? Perhaps that makes him the Undecider.
Worse still, lost in all this is that the bad part of his initial, terrible answers from days before isn't just that originally he said, "I would have." It's that he also said -- "So just for the news flash to the world, if they’re trying to find places where there’s big space between me and my brother, this might not be one of those."
So...maybe even if you say you misunderstood the question, it doesn't appear that anyone else misunderstood your answer.
And news flash to the world, here's the correct answer to the question to the question which the judges were looking for, when you're the brother who started a war that only 22 percent of Americans now say was worth it. And that reply is --
"Hindsight always makes everything easy. If we were able to know the results of all our actions before we made them, life would be so much easier, wouldn't it? But that's not how life works. And when you're president and called on to make monumental decisions every day, life doesn't given you the luxury of living it hypothetically You can only act on the information you're given. And while based on that information I understand and agree on acting as we did, same as most people acted, including Hilary Clinton, but given the miracle of looking a decade into the future and knowing what we all know now, and knowing now that so much of that information turned out to be wrong -- I don't think most anyone would have authorized the invasion based on that information, and that includes me. But I think what we've also learned in these same past 10 years, especially with the instability still in the region, the continuing threat of Iran, and the growth of ISIS, is that we now know that there are other powerful reasons which justify invading Iraq."
Bonus answer: for everyone else, the correct answer is, "Knowing what we know now a decade later that our information from experts was wrong, no, of course I wouldn't have."
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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