- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 13, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Republicans with White House aspirations are quickly running away from the Iraq War, splitting with Jeb Bush, who said he would invade Iraq even without the threat of weapons of mass destruction.

Although Bush later claimed he “misheard” the question, other GOP hopefuls are making clear they would not have followed the path of President George W. Bush.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday said if he had been president and had known there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, he would not have moved for war.

“I think President Bush made the best decision he could at the time, given that his intelligence community was telling him that there was WMDs and that there were other threats right there in Iraq,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper. 

“But I don’t think you can honestly say that if we knew then that there was no WMDs, that the country should have gone to war,” he said.

Jeb Bush, asked in a Fox News interview on Monday if he would have authorized the war “knowing what we know now,” said “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.”

He called into Sean Hannity radio show and said he misunderstood the question. “I was talking about, given what people knew then,” not now, he said.

The misstep gave Christie an avenue to hit Bush as a return to the past, saying the we should avoid “continuing to go backwards in this country. We need a forward-looking foreign policy that talks about how to reassert American authority and influence around the world,” he said.

Sen. Ted Cruz also took the opportunity to hit Bush. “Knowing what we know now, of course we wouldn’t go into Iraq,” the Texas Republican told The Hill.

“At the time, the intelligence reports indicated that Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction that posed a significant national security threat to this country. That’s the reason there was such widespread bipartisan support for going into Iraq,” he added. “We now know in hindsight, those intelligence reports were false.

“Without that predicate, it is difficult to imagine the decision would have been made to go into Iraq, and that predicate proved erroneous,” Cruz said.

But Cruz also kept his options open for veep, saying he was OK with Bush walking back his answer. “My understanding is that his team today walked that back and said that Gov. Bush had misunderstood the question,” he said. “I certainly take him at his word.”

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