On Monday, I was watching Fox News. (Actually, while flipping channels.) Anchor Megyn Kelly asked Jeb Bush, “On Iraq, if you knew what we now know, would you still have invaded?” His answer left me dumbfounded.
“Yes,” Bush responded, “and so would have Hillary Clinton and almost everybody else who saw the intelligence.” He completely glossed over the fact that 57.5 percent of Democrats voted “no” and 97.5 percent of Republicans voted “yes.”
The following day, Jeb admitted he had misunderstood the question. I assumed Jeb would now say, “I wouldn’t have invaded because the predicate for the war, the WMD intelligence, was faulty.” But Jeb’s “corrected” answer suggests that possibly he’s more like his older brother.
“That’s a hypothetical and I don’t answer hypothetical questions,” Jeb said, looking authoritative and vacant simultaneously. That night, conservative TV political pundit Joe Scarborough blasted Jeb, saying anybody with a brain would answer, “Hell, no!”
But perhaps it was sibling loyalty, or just trying to protect what’s left of the “Bush brand.” Jeb’s answer was basically, “Maybe, maybe not,” and suddenly I had a W flashback. If Jeb’s elected in 2016, like a bad horror movie we could have the Iraq War trilogy: Gulf War, Iraq War I and now Iraq War II. And you thought Godfather III was bad?
Frankly, I always thought Jeb was the intelligent one. For starters, he can pronounce “nuclear” and finish sentences. Even his parents often suggested in not so subtle ways that Jeb was the one they thought would be president, not W with the “youthful indiscretions” until he was 40.
I’ll never forget, in 2001, when W’s twin daughters were cited for underage drinking, Barbara Bush was brusquely approached by an aggressive reporter. I was positive she would justifiably answer, “This is a private family matter, so please respect our privacy.”
Guess what? Almost enthusiastically, Barbara told the reporter, “Well, now George knows what we went through, doesn’t he?” She smiled and walked away. (After eight years of W’s presidency, we all should be able to relate.)
Say this for Jeb: He looks terrific. He’s recently lost 30 pounds on his “paleolithic diet,” also known as the “paleo” or “caveman diet.” It’s based on food humans’ ancient ancestors might likely have eaten such as meat, nuts and berries, but no grains, which means no bread. (And for me, no Subway subs.)
The paleolithic diet lasted about 2.5 million years, which must be a bit of a conundrum for the evangelicals in the GOP who believe the world is only 6,000 years old. (I’d like to ask Jeb what he believes, but he might say it’s “a hypothetical.”) In any event, maybe the paleo has been great for Jeb’s look but perhaps not for above the shoulders.
As for the “faulty” intelligence, it was more like a faulty Bush administration. It’s well documented that W considered that the only great presidents were war-time presidents and wanted to invade Iraq eight months before 9/11. When counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke assured Bush that Iraq had absolutely no connection to the attacks, W put his finger on Clarke’s chest and said forcefully, “Look again.”
The “intelligence” was cherry-picked and even altered. For example, the classified National Intelligence Estimate from 16 different agencies all said Saddam was not an imminent threat to the U.S. But the de-classified version given to Congress and the public mysteriously had that portion deleted. How convenient.
So when Congress voted on the war authorization, it didn’t have the facts. As for Bush’s big intel source, it was a fellow aptly named “Curveball” whom German intelligence warned us was a schizophrenic alcoholic.
Furthermore, Curveball was personally brought to us by Ahmed Chalabi, a convicted embezzler, inveterate political schemer/con man who we were paying $350,000 a month for a crock of lies. (But he looked so dapper in a $3,000 Armani suit.)
During the build-up to the Iraq War, I reluctantly wrote that an Iraq war would be the worst foreign policy mistake in our history. If anything, I understated it.
Even cursorily, let’s summarize: 4,500 dead Americans; 32,000 wounded; 100,000 dead Iraqis; the creation of ISIS; Iran’s dominance; and $5 trillion for the care of those with missing limbs, or afflicted with PTSD or homeless; not to mention the psychic cost of ex-servicemen and women who commit suicide daily. (What a national scandal.)
I realize Hillary has her issues, but given the ruthless Bush/Cheney cheerleading and lying to promote the invasion, her Iraq vote, which she regrets, shouldn’t be one of them. As for Jeb, it disturbs me greatly that his already hand-picked “foreign policy advisers” are many of the same chickenhawks W employed — and we know how that turned out.
The next time someone asks Jeb about his brother’s war, perhaps he should eat a sandwich instead of his words.
Jack can be reached at facebook.com/jackneworth and twitter.com/jackneworth and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.