Jeb Bush Iraq Gaffe Could Torpedo His Not Yet Announced Candidacy

This past week, former Florida governor and officially not yet announced presidential candidate Jeb Bush committed a serious gaffe in commenting on Iraq war policy. An article in the Christian Science Monitor asked just how serious his flub is. At one point, he suggested he would have invaded Iraq based on the intelligence available, as his brother George. W. Bush did, and further stated that Hillary Clinton would have done the same thing. But now Jeb Bush seems to have flip-flopped on the issue.

“Knowing what we know now [faulty intelligence on weapons of mass destruction], I would not have done what George W. Bush did,” Jeb Bush is quoted as having said, on which the Christian Science Monitor reports, “Or words to that effect, which Hillary Clinton has had to say too since as a US Senator she voted to approve US military action in Iraq.”

The flip-flop and the gaffe on Iraq policy are leading to questions about whether Jeb Bush can be a strong candidate, let alone whether he would be a competent president. Those who followed the 2000 campaign remember a similar gaffe by George W. Bush about foreign policy that lead to a parody by David Letterman entitled, “Are you smarter than George W. Bush?”

“But for the most part, pundits and politicians – Republicans, that is, since Democrats can just sit back and watch the fun – are left wondering why Mr. Bush had such a rough time answering a relatively simple question from Fox News host Megyn Kelly. (“Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?”),” the Christian Science Monitor asked.

Many Republicans, including senators, past candidates, and campaign consultants are questioning whether Jeb Bush has what it takes to be a successful presidential candidate. Many are seeing the performance of Bush as an unannounced candidate as one, who perhaps, may not want to be announced.

“Both he and Hillary Clinton don’t appear ready for prime time. She’s had the worst few weeks of any candidate I’ve ever seen, and Jeb was a close second this week,” former Republican consultant Ed Rollins, who worked on Ronald Reagan’s campaigns as well as Mike Huckabee’s 2008 race, told Politico. “But she has no real Democratic challenger while he’s got a very, very tough battle in the Republican primary. He can’t afford to make these types of mistakes.”

Writing for The New Yorker, Amy Davidson analyzed Jeb Bush’s gaffe on Iraq policy. First, Davidson noted that Bush didn’t listen. Bush himself told Sean Hannity, “I interpreted the question wrong, I guess.”

Second, Davidson noted that Bush didn’t have an answer ready. Surely, Jeb Bush should have know he would be asked if he too would have invaded Iraq, and he should have had a good answer to that question ready to be delivered. This could be as weak a response that Bush gave to the Iraq question, as the infamous “why do you want to be president” question that Ted Kennedy was asked in 1980 when he challenged Jimmy Carter in the primaries.

Bush noted the question was hypothetical as Davidson pointed out, noting that Jeb Bush suggested it was not a valid question to ask. But he supposedly wants to be president, and some are now questioning whether he really does want to be president, so it’s reasonable that he should answer such a “what would you have done” question about past events.

Davidson suggests that Jeb Bush may live in a bubble, and this his “impulse to uphold familial honor was an answer, not its own question.” Bush himself said, “I’m not going to go out of my way to say that my brother did this wrong or my dad did this wrong.” In other words, he didn’t want to go out of his way to answer the question at all, it appears.

Many of the very supporters who have donated millions to help Jeb Bush become a viable candidate for president in 2016 are questioning whether he can do it. Many news outlets are reporting that this past week was the worst week yet for Bush as an unannounced candidate.

The Huffington Post reports, that, “Interviews with dozens of RNC members, Bush donors, early state supporters and strategists show concerns with his skills as a campaigner, unease that his designation as a front-runner has yet to materialize in polls, and worries that while they know the Bush name, they don’t yet know this Bush outside of Florida.”

Last week, Jeb Bush began the week with this comment that he would have done what his brother did, the Inquisitr reported. This was the comment Bush said that lead his later and more apparently contradictory comments on Iraq war policy.

“I would have [authorized the invasion], and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody. And so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got… By the way, guess who thinks that those mistakes took place as well? George W. Bush. Yes, I mean, 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,” Jeb Bush said.

“The invasion of Iraq is one of the most controversial decisions in recent decades, and for a time was extremely unpopular. But now that Jeb is hinting at a closer relationship with his brother, this could be an attempt to explain that the information was at fault, not the president who gave the order. George W. Bush left office with a meager 22 percent approval rating, so Jeb is going to face a little trouble,” the Inquisitr reported.

Will Jeb Bush overcome this gaffe to be successful as a candidate for president in 2016? Only time will answer that question.

[Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images]