Jeb calls in the troops: His cynical new Iraq answer sounds all too familiar

He's sick of your Iraq questions and won't entertain them anymore, because of the troops

Published May 13, 2015 7:43PM (EDT)

  (AP/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP/Charlie Neibergall)

Look: I didn't expect to be spending this whole week in May, 2015 writing about Jeb Bush's thoughts on the Iraq war, and you didn't expect to be reading about it. But we're not going to turn away from a good show, are we now? But alas, you'll have to get the rest of your "funnin' on the Internet" in now, because Jeb Bush has had enough of this business. He's calling in the troops to shut the whole thing down.

A brief recap of Jeb Bush's evolving answers to the straightforward and painfully predictable question, Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion of Iraq?

Round 1: Yes. I mean. Wait. I can't hear you, tra la la.

Round 2: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Which brings us to Round 3, which went down in Reno, Nevada on Wednesday. The good news is that Bush developed a new line beyond "I don't know." Yes, he's kept the part about not wanting to answer "hypotheticals," even though entertaining hypotheticals is the essential purpose of campaigning for public office. The new component is an explanation of why he won't entertain hypotheticals about the Iraq war. And that's because it would be disrespectful to the troops.

Bush said in Reno that he thought he was being asked whether he supported the war “knowing what we knew then” and had answered that although mistakes were made, politicians on the left and right had backed the invasion.

But he said, he had a problem with revisiting the decision, saying it’s not fair to those who died in the war.

He said as governor he felt a duty to call the families of people who died in service and that “going back in time and talking about what would have happened does a disservice to them.”

“I respect the question, but it does a disservice to a lot of people who sacrificed a lot,” he said.

My God, he really is a Bush. This brings up faint memories of, oh, the entirety of politics between 2002 through 2008, when if you questioned George W. Bush's Iraq war, you were against the troops. You wanted them to lose.

Playing the troops card hasn't become a more ennobling tactic in the years since the Bush administration. It is still some combination of cynical, disgusting, cowardly and hilarious to hide behind the troops because you can't formulate an effective response to a question on the campaign trail. Jeb Bush is saying that he cannot comment on the wisdom of the Iraq war because a lot of troops died in the Iraq war. Think about that. This is an insane response that worked for his brother and fellow Iraq war dead-enders for a number of years and might work for Jeb, too, because lol nothing matters.

What this also means, per Jeb's understanding, is that several of his competitors for the Republican nomination are doing a disservice to the troops. Chris Christie and Ted Cruz both said on Tuesday that they would not have authorized the Iraq war had they known the intelligence was false. On Wednesday, John Kasich also said he would not have. Rand Paul would not have authorized the invasion knowing what we knew then or knowing what we know now, because we knew in 2003 what we know now: that the intelligence was thin. (Always nice to see Good Rand Paul show up, however rare it is these days.) Ben Carson, also, too, would not have done the Iraq. Marco Rubio probably still loves the Iraq war, ugh. He and Jeb Bush may be the only candidates who truly respect the troops by the end of news cycle. Alas.

UPDATE: Even Marco Rubio would not do the Iraq, he said following a speech this afternoon:

[embedtweet id="598583039787192320"]

So only Jeb Bush respects the troops.

By Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

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