Jeb Bush speaks at a town hall meeting in Tempe, Arizona. (Deanna Dent/Reuters)
In the space of just four days, likely Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has come full circle on whether he would have made the decision invade Iraq in 2003 as his brother, then President George W. Bush, did.
“If we’re all supposed to answer hypotheticals,” Bush said at a town hall meeting in Tempe, Arizona, today. “I would not, have engaged, I would not have gone into Iraq.”
Bush said he was “reluctant to say what I’m about to say now” because as governor of Florida he contacted families to offer condolences when their children died in Iraq. “It’s very hard for me to say that their lives were lost in vain, and they weren’t.”
It all started with a question posed by Fox News’ Megyn Kelly in an interview that aired on Monday: “Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion” of Iraq in 2003?
“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,” Bush said.
But over the last few days he has sought to refine that answer.
In an interview on The Sean Hannity radio show on Tuesday he acknowledged: "I interpreted the question wrong, I guess” and added “I don’t know what that decision would have been. That’s a hypothetical.”
And Wednesday, at a town hall meeting in Nevada, he said this: "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.”
But speaking to reporters after the event he hinted at the position he took today: “Of course, given the power of looking back and having that – of course anybody would have made different decisions. There’s no denying that.”
Many of Bush’s potential GOP rivals, including Sens. Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, Gov. Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina, have also answered the same question in recent days, and so far, all have said they would not have made the decision to invade if they had known about the fault intelligence.