The Note: Jeb Bush: 3 Days, 4 Different Answers About Iraq

ByABC News
May 14, 2015, 8:17 AM


--IT ALL STARTED WITH ONE QUESTION posed by Fox News' Megyn Kelly: "Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion" of Iraq in 2003? And over the last few days, Jeb Bush, who is not yet an official presidential candidate, has struggled to grab hold of one answer. Here's a look back:

1. YES. "I would have and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody, and so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got." --Jeb Bush on Fox News' "The Kelly File" (aired Monday, May 11)

2. I DON'T KNOW. "I interpreted the question wrong, I guess. I was talking about, given what people knew then, would you have done it ... knowing what we know now, clearly there were mistakes as it related to faulty intelligence in the lead-up to the war and the focus on security ... the simple fact is, 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 in the early days ... that security has been totally obliterated by [this] president's pulling out too early, and now these voids are filled by this barbaric, asymmetric threat ... I don't know what that decision would have been. That's a hypothetical." --Jeb Bush on The Sean Hannity radio show (Tuesday, May 12)

3. I WON'T SAY BECAUSE TALKING ABOUT IT DOES A DISSERVICE TO THOSE WHO SERVED. "The problem with hypotheticals is two-fold. One, when I was governor I got to -- I felt it a duty, I didn't have to -- to call all the family members of people who lost their lives and I don't remember the total number but it was easily over 100. And I felt it 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. So, going back in time and talking about hypotheticals -- what would have happened what could have happened, I think, does a disservice for them." --Jeb Bush at a town hall meeting in Reno, Nevada (Wednesday, May 13)

4. PROBABLY NOT. "Talking about the future is more than fair. Talking about the past and saying, how would you have done something after the fact is a little tougher. ... Of course, given the power of looking back and having that -- of course anybody would have made different decisions. There's no denying that. But to delve into that and not focus on the future is where I need to draw the line." --Jeb Bush in a gaggle with reporters after a town hall meeting in Reno, Nevada (Wednesday, May 13)

--ANALYSIS -- ABC's RICK KLEIN: Jeb Bush's explanations for whether he would have authorized the Iraq War have now consumed most of the week. And they are now virtually guaranteed to linger deep into the campaign, far beyond the current period where his rivals see political benefit in piling on. His latest answer to the if-we-knew-then-what-we-know-now question -- or among his latest -- is perhaps the least tenable: that if we "get into hypotheticals I think it does a disservice for a lot of people that sacrificed." To state the obvious, all that presidential candidates really do is answer one big hypothetical, based on the presumption that they would be president. For Jeb Bush, there's another layer of hypotheticals: He's not even formally a candidate for office, so answering anything is based on the hypothetical of him possibly running. (That hypothetical has legal and campaign-finance implications.) Bush is also presuming that veterans and the families of those who lost their lives automatically presume that the war was worth the cost, or think a debate would automatically question their courage or patriotism. What it's done is that Jeb Bush suddenly has many in his own party worried that he's rusty, and that he hasn't thought through the implications of running for a third Bush presidency, in terms of broad perceptions as well as policies. He has also guaranteed that Iraq will be a recurring issue in the campaign -- even if the Democratic nominee is the only presidential candidate who actually voted for the war.


--TED CRUZ: "Knowing what we know now, of course we wouldn't go into Iraq." (The Hill)

--CHRIS CHRISTIE: "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." (CNN)

--JOHN KASICH: "If the question is, if there were not weapons of mass destruction should we have gone, the answer would've been no." (Columbus Dispatch)

--RAND PAUL: "I think even at the time invading Iraq was a mistake and I thought the war even at the time was a mistake given the intelligence." (CNN)

--MARCO RUBIO: "Not only would I not have been in favor of it, President Bush would not have been in favor of it. And he said so. ... President Bush has said that he regrets that the intelligence was faulty." (Council on Foreign Relations)

--CARLY FIORINA: "The intelligence was clearly wrong. And so had we known that the intelligence was wrong, no, I would not have gone in. And I have said publicly, on many occasions, that going into Iraq was mismanaged, and coming out of Iraq was mismanaged." (Fox News)


MORE PROBLEMS FOR CHRIS CHRISTIE ON THE HOME FRONT. The New Jersey branch of the Communications Workers of America is out with a new ad accusing Gov. Chris Christie of breaking the law by skimping on public employee pension payments, ABC's BEN SIEGEL and RICK KLEIN report. The ad, which will run on cable, web and social media in New Jersey next week, comes on the heels of the latest union lawsuit against the state over pension contributions. To Christie's comments that the unions should thank him for his pension reform efforts, the union's ad replies: "If you think you deserve thanks for that, we have a bridge to sell you."



REPUBLICAN APPROPRIATORS CUT $250 MILLION FOR AMTRAK. In the wake of Tuesday night's deadly Amtrak derailment, House Republicans yesterday blocked a Democratic amendment that would have restored more than $250 million in cuts from grants for Amtrak's capital improvements. Democrats worked to associate Amtrak's funding with the accident, as Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pennsylvania, offered an amendment to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill to fully fund the president's budget request for Amtrak. "It should not escape the consideration of our committee that we actually are responsible -- not for the accident -- but we are responsible for our country's infrastructure as it relates to public investment," Fattah said. "We don't know the circumstances of this accident. We don't know what caused it. But we do know if we don't invest in the capital infrastructure of our country, there will be future accidents." Republicans stressed that investigators are still working to determine the cause of the crash, and subsequently defeated the amendment by a 21-30 vote, ABC's JOHN PARKINSON reports.

JEB BUSH ALMOST BECAME A PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE FOR ABOUT 3 SECONDS YESTERDAY. Honest mistake or Freudian slip? At a run of the mill (non-campaign!) event in Reno, Nevada, Wednesday, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who hasn't yet formally announced his candidacy (but probably will soon), may have unintentionally hinted at things to come."I'm running for president in 2016, and the focus is going to be about how we -- if I run -- how do you create sustained economic growth," he said. As he has "explored" a White House bid over the past few months, Bush has been careful to avoid a formal announcement, according to ABC's ERIN DOOLEY. Doing so would trigger more stringent campaign finance rules, limiting his ability to coordinate fundraising with his PAC, Right to Rise.

--NOTED: BUSH TAKES A SHOT AT CLINTON. At the same town hall meeting in Nevada yesterday, Jeb Bush took several swipes at Hillary Clinton including this one: "You can't script your way to the presidency." And a testy exchange with a young Democratic woman who confronted him with this assertion: "Your brother created ISIS!" When Bush moved to touch her arm, she shot back: "You don't need to be pedantic to me sir," according to ABC's MICHAEL FALCONE and ERIN DOOLEY.

HAPPENING TODAY: JOHN BOLTON TO ANNOUNCE 2016 DECISION. Former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton will announce today whether he will enter the Republican field of candidates for president. Bolton is expected to announce his 2016 decision on an afternoon conference call with reporters, ABC's CHRIS GOOD reports. Bolton served as UN ambassador during George W. Bush's presidency.

THE OBAMA-WARREN TIFF GETS CRANKED UP A NOTCH. Yesterday White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest doubled down on his call for Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, to apologize to President Obama for accusing the president of being "disrespectful" to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, after the president called Warren by her first name in a recent interview. "Sen. Brown is a stand-up guy, and given the opportunity to review the comments that seemed like they were made in some haste, that I feel confident that he'll do the right thing and apologize," Earnest told reporters at Wednesday's press briefing, ABC's JORDYN PHELPS writes. "I wouldn't necessarily expect a public apology, but we'll see how Sen. Brown chooses to pursue this."

THE WHITE HOUSE WORD OF THE WEEK: SNAFU: Have you heard about the "procedural snafu" in Washington? Because the White House press corps has -- a lot. Press Secretary Josh Earnest Wednesday used the term 11 times to refer to the move by Senate Democrats to block trade promotion authority for the president. This comes after he used the phrase 10 times at Tuesday's briefing to explain the stalled trade bill, ABC's MARY BRUCE notes.


SPOTTED AT HILLARY CLINTON'S FUNDRAISER: BEYONCE. This definitely beats Mary-Kate and Ashley. According to photos and Tweets on social media from people inside the event, Beyonce made an appearance at one of Hillary Clinton's fundraisers yesterday in NYC. The fundraiser she attended was at the home of music mogul L.A. Reid. Heba Abedin, the sister of long-time Clinton aide Huma Abedin, was also at the fundraiser and posted a photo of her with Beyonce on her Instagram account, ABC's LIZ KREUTZ notes. Others in attendance: Sharon Osbourne, Tamar Braxton, and Meghan Trainor, according to Bloomberg.


@LangerResearch: #espn #abc #poll shows broad majority backs #nfl sanctions against #TomBrady & #newenglandpatriots: 

@StevenTDennis: There's only one Michael Steel. 

@Yahoo: If Hillary #Clinton won't level with voters now, when will she?  by @mattbai

@WilliamsJon: Let's do time warp! 2 years after Obama #Syria red line, same old debate on new evidence of chemical weapons 

@politicalwire: Bush May Skip Iowa Caucuses  via @politicalwire