Senator Marco Rubio of Florida struggled on Sunday to give clear answers about whether it was a mistake for the United States to go to war against Iraq in 2003, becoming the latest Republican presidential candidate to trip on the wisdom of the military invasion.
Under a barrage of questions from Chris Wallace of Fox News, Mr. Rubio repeatedly said “it was not a mistake” for President George W. Bush to order the invasion based on the intelligence he had at the time. But Mr. Rubio grew defensive as Mr. Wallace pressed him to say flatly whether he now believed the war was a mistake. Mr. Rubio chose instead to criticize the questions themselves, saying that in “the real world” presidents have to make decisions based on evidence presented to them at the time....
The back-and-forth resulted in a three-minute video clip that Republican opponents could use against Mr. Rubio in the future, given that he came across as a politician used to debating fine points and nuances in the United States Senate-- a problem that then-Senator John Kerry faced in his presidential run in 2004 -- rather than as a seasoned leader used to giving clear statements.
Oh, please. No Republican opponent is going to use what Rubio said against him. For that matter, no Republican opponent is going to use Jeb Bush's multi-day stumble on the same question against him. (I was lurking at right-wing sites after that Megyn Kelly interview, and there was much more concern about Jeb's less-than-hardline responses on immigration in the same interview.) The damage for Jeb comes from how much he's now been mocked by the mainstream media and by liberals. (No GOP voter wants to vote for a candidate who's a laughingstock. If you're being mocked by us, you have to get angry and fight back.)
I don't think Rubio seems defensive. He certainly doesn't seem guilt-ridden, the way Jeb did in one Iraq answer after another. Rubio seems angry at the question. He defends a Republican president who's still popular with the base. He doesn't have any qualms about killing Saddam or a bunch of Muslims -- always a plus in Republican primaries.
The Republican base wants this kind of unapologetic pushback -- whatever the facts:
WALLACE: But that's the question I'm asking you. Was it a mistake for the president to go into Iraq?(Full transcript at Real Clear Politics.)
RUBIO: It was not a mistake for the president to decide to go into Iraq --
WALLACE: I'm not asking you that. I'm asking you --
RUBIO: In hindsight. The world is a better place because Saddam Hussein is not there. I wouldn't characterize it -- i don't understand the question you're asking.
WALLACE: I'm asking you, knowing as we do, as we sit here in 2015 --
RUBIO: But that's not the way president's think. A president cannot make a decision on what someone may know in the future.
WALLACE: That's what I'm asking you. Was it a mistake?
RUBIO: It was not a mistake for the president to go into Iraq based on the information he had as president. Today we know -- if the president had known that there were no weapons of mass destruction at the time, you still would have had to deal with Saddam Hussein but the process would have been different. I doubt very seriously that the president would have gotten, for example, Congressional approval to move forward with an invasion had they known they were no weapons for mass destruction. That does not mean he made the wrong decision because at the time he was presented with intelligence saying there were weapons of mass destruction. He wasn't dealing with a Noble Peace Prize winner, he was dealing with Saddam Hussein and he made the right decision based on the information he had at that time.
Notice that this exchange isn't going viral -- as I write this, the YouTube video has only 13,821 views. This is not a stumble for him.
Rubio turns it around on Wallace -- he questions the validity of asking the hypothetical. Most people don't like journalists these days, so that's a smart move. And while Chris Wallace is a Fox journalist, the Fox audience will see him as asking questions the LIE-beral media would ask, out of an overabundance of fairness and balance. So it's a good move to go after him this way.
Jeb needs to find this kind of resentment in himself. It's as if he needs a preppy version of Obama's anger translator. (Hey, I hear Mitt Romney has some time on his hands these days....)