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From the Wonderful Folks Who Brought You Iraq

The White House
by Craig Unger

The same neocon ideologues behind the Iraq war have been using the same tactics—alliances with shady exiles, dubious intelligence on W.M.D.—to push for the bombing of Iran. As President Bush ups the pressure on Tehran, is he planning to double his Middle East bet?

In the weeks leading up to George W. Bush’s January 10 speech on the war in Iraq, there was a brief but heady moment when it seemed that the president might finally accept the failure of his Middle East policy and try something new. Rising anti-war sentiment had swept congressional Republicans out of power. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had been tossed overboard. And the Iraq Study Group (I.S.G.), chaired by former secretary of state James Baker and former congressman Lee Hamilton, had put together a bipartisan report that offered a face-saving strategy to exit Iraq. Who better than Baker, the Bush family’s longtime friend and consigliere, to talk some sense into the president? [READ ENTIRE ARTICLE]


8 comments for “From the Wonderful Folks Who Brought You Iraq”

  1. Mitt Romney Jeb Bush has a path to the nomination in mind. It’s a ‘long game’ plan: The longer you know him, the more you’re going to love him. Or, at least, the more your going to hate all his rivals after he spends his giant cash pile repeatedly thrashing them:

    The Washington Post
    Inside Jeb Bush’s long game: A bet on peaking late

    By Matea Gold and Robert Costa
    May 6 at 10:45 PM

    At a luxury Miami hotel last month, one of Jeb Bush’s chief strategists stood before hundreds of top GOP fundraisers to deliver an unsubtle message: The former Florida governor will not be one of the “presidents of August.”

    During his closed-door presentation at the 1 Hotel in South Beach, Mike Murphy dismissed buzz-fueled candidates who rise fast early only to flame out once the primaries begin. Murphy ridiculed the early spate of presidential polls — many of which show Bush lagging, particularly in Iowa — as “noise meters.” And he insisted that the Bush team is patiently playing a long game, one that will not be upended by the actions of his rivals.

    Murphy’s talk was aimed in part at quieting pockets of anxiety that have been percolating among Bush supporters who are beginning to worry whether he can excite Republicans in the same way that many of his younger rivals are already doing.

    “They are loyal to him and support him, but they’re watching closely to see if he can campaign in a way that says, ‘Yes, he has energy to get the base electrified,’?” said David McIntosh, president of the conservative advocacy group Club for Growth. He said there is growing “angst” in the Bush bloc of the Republican donor community.

    “This isn’t like 1999, when the money decided there is no one else but George W. Bush and watched it all come together,” McIntosh said.

    In particular, Bush’s backers wonder when he is going to formally get in the race and start making his case to voters in earnest.

    The answer: not any time soon. Bush, who has already stockpiled record sums, intends to hold back from officially declaring his bid for at least another month, people familiar with the plan said.

    The strategy is being driven by a confident, tightly knit group of Bush advisers who are focused on amassing as much money as possible for his allied super PAC on the theory that a considerable cash advantage will enable Bush to outlast his competitors.

    The approach is similar to the tack Mitt Romney took in 2012, when the former Massachusetts governor prevailed at the end of a protracted primary contest in which a half-dozen candidates briefly tasted front-runner status, only to fall. Romney precipitated many of those falls, using his financial edge to relentlessly attack one opponent after another.

    But Bush faces a rougher road to the nomination than Romney did. The Republican field is one of the strongest in years and features several candidates who excite various factions within the party. Many of them will also be supported by their own well-funded super PACs, poised to interject unprecedented money into the race.

    Bush, meanwhile, has staked out positions on issues such as immigration and education reform at odds with conservative activists, and his most fervent following rests with the party’s donor class. As the son and brother of former presidents, he must also overcome a feeling among many Republicans that it is time for a fresh start.

    Bush had hoped to overcome some of these challenges with his early and aggressive entry as a potential candidate, but he has not been able to have the “shock and awe” impact that some supporters had predicted.

    “The big story so far of the Republican presidential race is the failure of Jeb Bush to dominate,” said William Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard. “He hasn’t pulled it off.”

    Bush and his associates maintain they have plenty of time.

    “Not announcing yet may look bad to some of our donors,” said Vin Weber, a Republican consultant advising Bush on domestic policy. “They wonder, ‘Gee, are we waiting too long?’ That’s a natural reaction, but it’s jitters. The campaign’s general response is: We have a plan, and we’re on track to achieve all of our goals.”

    During a stop Friday at the North Carolina state GOP headquarters in Raleigh, Bush said he will eventually win over voters who have little appetite for another president from his family.

    “I have to go earn their respect. I have to go show my heart. I have to talk about my record,” Bush said, adding: “So if I share that, show who I am, have ideas that help people rise up, the dynastic question will subside a bit.”

    That is, he noted, if he decides to run — a coy aside that Bush constantly repeats, to the puzzlement of some of his supporters.

    The consequences of Bush’s maybe-I-will, maybe-I-won’t attitude are perhaps most apparent in Iowa, which hosts the first-in-the-nation caucuses and has in recent years embraced hard-right favorites.

    Unlike his brother, who won the 2000 caucuses after months of charming GOP voters, Bush has so far been less attentive to the state. He plans to attend the Iowa GOP Lincoln Dinner on May 16, but his allies privately acknowledge that he may neglect this August’s Iowa straw poll, a test of organization disliked by national GOP leaders for the attention it showers on lower-tier candidates. Last month, he skipped an Iowa faith group’s summit.

    “I don’t care if he’s a Rockefeller liberal. It’s his disdain for the grass roots, our sense that he doesn’t think that Iowa is relevant, that will make people stay away,” said Sam Clovis, a conservative organizer in northwest Iowa.

    In his slide-show presentation at the Miami donor conference, Murphy described the months-long money push as necessary to have sizable cash on hand for early next year. So Bush is concentrating now on bringing in tens of millions of dollars for his allied super PAC, taking advantage of the fact that since he is not yet an official candidate, he has more freedom to help raise funds for the independent group.

    Murphy also gave donors a glimpse of the campaign’s plans to promote Bush across the ever-changing world of Web platforms and mobile applications. Sounding like a brash Silicon Valley entrepreneur with talk of disruption and innovation, Murphy detailed the operation’s hiring of software developers and designers, attendees said.

    The presentation impressed many in the room, who said it is clear Bush’s inner circle has its eyes on a drawn-out race, rather than early gains.

    “One of the hardest things in politics is to be patient, to make the plan and work the plan,” said Theresa Kostrzewa, a Republican lobbyist and fundraiser in North Carolina.

    Still, there was a persistent reminder throughout the two-day donor meeting of Bush’s odd status as a quasi-candidate, as he and his advisers repeatedly emphasized “if” he runs.

    Aha. So Jeb’s grand ‘long game’ plan appears to involve Mitt Romney’s approach of getting so many donors to write him massive checks that he ends up with such a massive pile of cash that he can just destroy one rival after another. Plus, he’ll try to squeeze in as many ‘moderate’ positions that he can get away in order to make the ‘pivot to the middle’ following the nomination more effective and believable. At least that sounds like the general strategy.

    And how does he get that giant pile of cash? By continually emphasizing to these donors that he has an awesome ‘long game’ strategy involving their money that will carry him to victory if he runs. And these donors are supposed to be so enamored with Jeb’s vision that might come to fruition if Jeb runs that they write the big check and make all happen. There seems to be a bit of a self-defeating prophecy tucked away in there.

    So is Jeb actually running? Well, let’s just say that if he is running, the ‘long game’ strategy is going to be heavily reliant on very short memories:

    The Washington Post
    One of Jeb Bush’s top advisers on Israel: George W. Bush

    By Robert Costa and Matea Gold
    May 7 at 6:23 PM

    After spending months distancing himself from his family’s political legacy, Jeb Bush surprised a group of Manhattan financiers this week by naming his brother, former president George W. Bush, as his most influential counselor on U.S.-Israel policy.

    “If you want to know who I listen to for advice, it’s him,” Bush said Tuesday, speaking to a crowd of high-powered investors at the Metropolitan Club, according to four people present. The Republicans in the room spoke on the condition of anonymity to divulge information about the private meeting.

    The remark came as part of an answer to a question about Bush’s political aides and their policy views, and whether he relies on the guidance of former secretary of state James Baker, guests said. Baker’s role in Bush’s orbit has been the source of consternation for some major GOP donors, who were upset that the 85-year-old ex-diplomat spoke to a left-leaning Israeli advocacy group in March.

    Jeb Bush said that Baker is not one of his close advisers and that he leans on his brother for insights when it comes to Israel.

    Embracing George W. Bush as a foreign-policy confidant is a risky and unexpected move for the former Florida governor as he readies for a likely presidential bid. While the former president’s approval ratings have improved since he left office in 2009, his foreign-policy legacy — particularly the long war in Iraq — remains deeply unpopular. He has also become anathema to some conservative activists for presiding over an increase in the federal debt, among other policies.

    Jeb Bush has surrounded himself with many of his brother’s advisers and has endorsed many foreign-policy positions that mirror those of the former president. At the same time, Bush has repeatedly stressed that he has his own worldview.

    “I love my brother, I love my dad,” he told an audience in Chicago in February. “I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions that they had to make. But I am my own man, and my views are shaped by my own thinking and my own experiences.”

    For his part, George W. Bush said last month that he planned to stay away from the campaign trail because voters do not like political dynasties.

    Jeb Bush’s revelation that he seeks out his brother about Israel and the Middle East indicates that the siblings may be closer than often portrayed. The relationship is often described as cordial and warm but distant on policy matters.

    Tim Miller, a spokesman, played down the significance of Bush’s comment.

    “Governor Bush has said before that his brother is the greatest ally to Israel in presidential history, he admires his stalwart support for our ally, and that is in line with his commitment to standing with Israel in the face of great threats to their security and our own,” Miller said in a statement Thursday.

    Tuesday’s session was organized by GOP mega-donor Paul Singer and his advisers so their associates could hear from Bush. Similar meetings have been held with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina, three of Bush’s potential Republican rivals in the 2016 race.

    The question that led to Bush’s response was about how much he relied on Baker, a respected party figure and longtime Bush family friend. During his speech in March to the group J Street, Baker criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for not backing a two-state solution.

    Bush said that he respected Baker but maintained that he is not part of his foreign-policy team.

    Bush also expressed regret for the way he has unveiled his staff hires and advisers and said the lengthy list he made public in February, which included Baker, was not an accurate representation of whom he reaches out to when he’s considering Israel-related issues.

    Participants said the reception at the club was mostly encouraging, but one attendee said he was “stunned” to hear Jeb Bush specifically mention George W. Bush as his go-to adviser. “I started looking around and wondering if people were recording it. It was jarring,” the attendee said. “If video of it got out, it’d be devastating.”

    Others saw it differently.

    “It was a very positive response, just based on faces around the room,” a second attendee said. “There didn’t seem to be any sort of negative reaction.”

    Jeb Bush’s comments were widely interpreted as an effort to dispel lingering concerns among Israel hawks that Baker’s comments were indicative of Bush’s own views. Singer, a billionaire hedge fund manager, is one of many top GOP money players who fund conservative pro-Israel groups and candidates who favor a hard-line stance against Iran.

    A majority of registered voters still have unfavorable views of how George W. Bush handled his job as president, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll in March. Nevertheless, there remains deep affection within the GOP for George W. Bush, with 87?percent approving of his presidential tenure.

    “For all of the negatives in how George W. Bush is remembered in foreign policy, people who are supportive of Israel remember him as supportive of Israel,” said Danielle Pletka, who studies national security at the American Enterprise Institute. “For Bush, he has to find a way to deflect the festering question of his relationship with James Baker.”

    Yes, “Embracing George W. Bush as a foreign-policy confidant is a risky and unexpected move for the former Florida governor as he readies for a likely presidential bid.” And since this was a private event that just got leaked, you have to wonder how many other private assurances by Jeb of his brother’s enduring influence are taking place behind closed doors.

    At the same time, you have to wonder how much damage this leak is going to do to Jeb’s ambitions since his whole sales pitch strategy to the mega-donors is that Jeb, and only Jeb within the GOP, is willing to take enough non-far right policy positions to get the media’s ‘moderate’ label and actually in the general election.

    So it looks like this report was probably a totally unintended for general consumption. It was meant for donor ears only:

    Participants said the reception at the club was mostly encouraging, but one attendee said he was “stunned” to hear Jeb Bush specifically mention George W. Bush as his go-to adviser. “I started looking around and wondering if people were recording it. It was jarring,” the attendee said. “If video of it got out, it’d be devastating.”

    Others saw it differently.

    “It was a very positive response, just based on faces around the room,” a second attendee said. “There didn’t seem to be any sort of negative reaction.”

    Jeb Bush’s comments were widely interpreted as an effort to dispel lingering concerns among Israel hawks that Baker’s comments were indicative of Bush’s own views. Singer, a billionaire hedge fund manager, is one of many top GOP money players who fund conservative pro-Israel groups and candidates who favor a hard-line stance against Iran.

    Yes, it looks like Jeb may have been using a reference to his brother as a foreign policy adviser as a kind of code language to indicate his support for a tough line against Iran and who knows what else. But now it got leaked and, as the one concerned attendee said, “If video of it got out, it’d be devastating.” Well, the cat’s out of the bag now, video or not.

    So now we’re in a fascinating situation where Jeb’s secret message to the super-donor class is already out in public. And while most of the super-donor class is probably extremely receptive to the message, the very fact that the message got out in public at all quite possibly does more to undermine Jeb’s general election chances more than anything else he’s done.

    And it’s his supposed ability to win in the general election that is at the heart of Jeb’s ‘long game’ strategy: donors give him so much money that he’s able to win the primaries, despite his alleged ‘moderation‘, and then he uses that alleged ‘moderation‘ to win it all! That’s the ‘long game’! But now, thanks to the leak of this speech to the donors, Jeb may have undermined the entire strategy because if there’s one thing that isn’t going to go over well with the US electorate it’s pledging to follow George W. Bush’s foreign policy lead.

    Wow. Not a great week for Jeb. Maybe 2016 just isn’t meant to be for the Bush dynasty.

    Hopefully Jeb finds a new hobby instead. Maybe George can give him some advice.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 7, 2015, 5:41 pm
  2. Following the reports last week that Jeb Bush told a group of mega-donors that he gets his foreign policy inspiration from his brother, Jeb fold Fox News in a new interview that he would have signed off on the Iraq invasion in 2003. Not the best couple of weeks for Jeb

    Agence France-Presse

    Jeb Bush: I would have invaded Iraq

    Presumed Republican presidential hopeful tells Fox News say Hillary Clinton would have signed off the 2003 invasion, too, though admits mistakes were made in the aftermath

    Sunday 10 May 2015 20.24 EDT

    Jeb Bush has said he would have authorised the US invasion in 2003 of Iraq.

    The presumed Republican presidential hopeful said on Sunday he would have authorised the invasion, though he acknowledged mistakes made after Saddam Hussein’s downfall.

    Bush, the son and brother of two former presidents, pointed out that the Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton voted in favour of authorising the use of force in Iraq before the invasion.

    “I would have [authorised the invasion], and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody,” Bush told Fox News television in an interview to be aired late on Monday. “And so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got.”

    Fox News released part of the interview on Sunday.

    Bush criticised US policy at the time for failing to focus on security first, saying that led the Iraqis to turn against the military.

    But he also denied security was a major point of contention between him and his brother, the then-president George W Bush, who ordered the invasion.

    “By the way, guess who thinks that those mistakes took place as well? George W Bush,” Jeb Bush said. “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.”

    The fact that Jeb said he would have voted for the invasion in 2003 given the ‘intelligence‘ available at the time isn’t all that surprising given the overwhelming support for the authorization for force in both parties (although you’d have to assume Jeb wouldn’t have been privy to all the fact that so much of that intelligence was fraudulently assembled by his brother’s administration).

    But part of what makes Jeb’s answer quite interesting is that he focuses on the massive blunder of “failing to provide security first” – which is presumably an indirect reference to dissolving the Iraqi army and basically sending the message that the Sunnis were going to have second-class status (as opposed to actually trying to foster a national consciousness that transcends sectarianism) – as the key area where he would have done something differently:

    Bush criticised US policy at the time for failing to focus on security first, saying that led the Iraqis to turn against the military.

    While that was no doubt a massive mistake, the fact that the mistakes of the immediate post-invasion phase are where Jeb would have deviated significantly from what his brother did raises a really interesting question for all of the 2016 presidential candidates, especially for those riding in the ever more densely packed GOP clown car given that it’s looking like threatening a war with Iran is going to part of the sales pitch for almost any of the GOP’s nominees: Would you have voted for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but just done it differently, knowing what you know today? Inquiring minds want to know.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 10, 2015, 7:38 pm
  3. OMFG: It turns out that when Jeb answered that, yes, he would have supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003, he wasn’t responding to a question of whether or not he would have done it knowing what everyone knew back then. No, he was asked if he would have supported the invasion back in 2003 knowing what he knows today.

    Wow. Someone is rather rusty. So long Jebbers!

    TPM Livewire
    Even Knowing What We Know Now, Jeb Would Have Invaded Iraq

    By Brendan James
    Published May 11, 2015, 9:09 AM EDT

    Likely presidential candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) said in an interview set to air Monday that he would have invaded Iraq in 2003, like his brother did, if he were President back then.

    Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?” Fox News host Megyn Kelly asked Bush in a sit-down interview.

    “I would have,” Bush said.

    “And so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody,” he added. “And so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got.”

    Note that, now that we know that this question was prefaced with “Knowing what we know now”, it also make his answer rather bizarre since how the hell would he know how Hillary and anyone else would have voted then knowing what we all know now?

    At least he’s probably got the Cheney clan’s vote all locked up but that’s probably not going to be enough.

    So does this mean we’re going to miss out an exciting Bush/Clinton rematch in 2016?

    Maybe. But don’t lose hope. There is another…

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 11, 2015, 2:06 pm
  4. In the wake of Jeb Bush’s potentially campaign-destroying answer about the invasion of Iraq, Josh Marshall has a message for Jeb: It gets better…for everyone that might enjoy watching a bizarre Bush family drama unfold as Jeb is forced into a series of no win situations:

    TPM Editor’s Blog
    Yep, JEB is FKD

    By Josh Marshall
    Published May 12, 2015, 11:52 AM EDT

    We’ve now seen Jeb Bush make what many saw as an eye-popping statement yesterday and now seen a former top advisor saying he now claims that he misunderstood the question which prompted that statement. There are some details to work through. Ana Navarro does not currently work for Gov. Bush (at least that’s my understanding), so we don’t know for certain yet whether she is speaking for him in this case or providing the campaign’s position. (This isn’t to doubt her. We just need to hear this from an official representative.) But the upshot is that Jeb Bush’s campaign is looked pretty screwed at the moment. And here’s why.

    It’s bad enough that Jeb took a position which when stated out loud will be very difficult to sustain with the current US electorate. (See the chart below which is from NBC’s write-up on this topic and their poll on this question.) It’s what this day two turnabout will now necessarily bring in its wake.

    Before getting to that though, let’s be honest. Of course he understood the question!

    As I noted yesterday if you watch the exchange Jeb actually ggoes out of his way to shift the question back from ‘what we know now’ to ‘what we knew then’. So not only did he understand the question, he understood how difficult it was for him to answer and did everything he could in real time to avoid answering it.

    By now switching gears and saying he misunderstood the question he appears to be committing himself to some version of “Yep, that was a mistake.” That in turn all but guarantees a major sit-down interview dedicated entirely to the issue of Iraq (awesome for the campaign!) in which Jeb will try to finesse saying that Iraq was actually a mistake and that his brother, George W. Bush, who he says advises him on Middle East policy, is responsible for what by sheer dint of its magnitude alone must be considered one of the biggest foreign policy blunders in American history.

    So far so good?

    It gets better!

    This is turn will lead to any number of Dowdesque Bush family drama columns about tossing W under the bus, Jeb’s need to show he can be president too and maybe bringing in various other storylines about the parents, Marvin, Neil and whatever cousin or nephew goes by “Dutch” Bush or whoever else.

    If he doesn’t do that – sit down and address this – he’s basically going to be asked about this awkwardly and painedly every time he gets within twenty feet of a reporter from now until he does.

    A lot of people say Jeb’s rusty. He hasn’t run for office since 2002. And even though Florida is a big state, no state is like running for the presidency. I think that’s right. But I also think that, as I said yesterday, this question is kryptonite for anyone named Bush. Every option he has to deal with it is bad. And when he gets close to it he loses whatever super powers he has.

    Well isn’t that an unpleasant picture: if Jeb can’t somehow turn this situation around, and soon, Jeb’s ambitions get the US political equivalent of the kiss of death:

    This is turn will lead to any number of Dowdesque Bush family drama columns about tossing W under the bus, Jeb’s need to show he can be president too and maybe bringing in various other storylines about the parents, Marvin, Neil and whatever cousin or nephew goes by “Dutch” Bush or whoever else.

    An endless stream of Maureen Dowdesque columns attempting to psychoanalyze Jeb and the Bush family dynamics. Yes, some Dowdesque columns were inevitable. But if Jeb had simply responded “No” to this highly predictably question, instead of weirdly dodging it, the punditocracy would have been able to write their quota of family drama columns and move on.

    But that’s not really an option now, is it? And now the whole political punditocracy is going to be incredibly tempted to start channeling Maureen Dowd whenever they write a Jeb-related column. And how could they resist? If there’s one thing that effectively trumps Jeb’s track-record as a far-right governor in “moderate” clothing it’s his bizarre embrace of his brother’s foreign policy decisions. Dowdesque psychoanalysis is really the only option people have because what Jeb just did is so f@#!ing insane.

    What hath Jeb wrought?:

    The New York Times
    Jeb Bush’s Brainless Trust

    Maureen Dowd
    FEB. 21, 2015

    WASHINGTON — I had been keeping an open mind on Jeb Bush.

    I mean, sure, as Florida governor, he helped his brother snatch the 2000 election. And that led to two decade-long botched wars that cost tens of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars. The nation will be dealing for a long time with struggling veterans and the loss of American prestige. Not to mention that W. let Wall Street gamble away the economy, which is only now finally creeping back.

    But, all that aside, shouldn’t John Ellis Bush have the right to make the case that he is his own man?

    In his foreign policy speech in Chicago on Wednesday, Jeb was dismissive toward those who want to know where he stands in relation to his father and brother. “In fact,” he said, mockingly, “this is a great, fascinating thing in the political world for some reason.”

    For some reason?

    Like the Clintons, the Bushes drag the country through national traumas that spring from their convoluted family dynamic and then disingenuously wonder why we concern ourselves with their family dynamic.

    Without their last names, Hillary and Jeb would not be front-runners, buoyed by networks of donors grateful for appointments or favors bestowed by the family. (When Jeb and W. ran gubernatorial races in 1994, they both mined their mother’s Christmas card list for donors.)

    Yet Jeb is bristling with Jane Austen-style condescension, acting as though he would still be where he is if his last name were Tree. The last two presidents in his party were his father and brother, and his brother crashed the family station wagon into the globe, and Jeb is going to have to address that more thoroughly than saying “there were mistakes made in Iraq for sure.”

    He says he doesn’t want to focus on “the past,” and who can blame him? But how can he talk about leading America into the future if he can’t honestly assess the past, or his family’s controversial imprint?

    In his speech, he blamed President Obama for the void that hatched ISIS, which he also noted didn’t exist in 2003 at the dawn of “the liberation of Iraq.” Actually, his brother’s invasion of Iraq is what spawned Al Qaeda in Iraq, which drew from an insurgency of Sunni soldiers angry about being thrown out of work by the amateurish and vainglorious viceroy, Paul Bremer.

    Although Jeb likes to act as though his family is irrelevant to his ambitions, Bushworld stalwarts recite the Bush dynasty narrative like a favorite fairy tale:

    The wonky Jeb, not the cocky W., was always 41’s hope. H.W. and Bar never thought W., unprepared, unruly and with a chip on his shoulder, would be president. His parents’ assumption that he was The One got in Jeb’s head and now the 62-year-old feels he needs “to try to correct and make up for some of W.’s mistakes,” as one family friend put it. The older Bush circle seems confident that Jeb sided with his father and Brent Scowcroft on the folly of letting the neocons push America into diverting from Osama to Saddam.

    So for Bushworld, Jeb is the redeemer, the one who listens and talks in full sentences that make sense, the one who will restore the luster of the Bush name. But if you want to be your own person, you have to come up with your own people.

    W. was a boy king, propped up by regents supplied by his father. Since he knew nothing about foreign affairs, his father surrounded him with his own advisers: Colin Powell, Condi Rice and Dick Cheney, who joined up with his pal Donald Rumsfeld and absconded with W.’s presidency.

    Jeb, too, wanted to bolster his negligible foreign policy cred, so the day of his speech, his aide released a list of 21 advisers, 19 of whom had worked in the administrations of his father and his brother. The list starts with the estimable James Baker. But then it shockingly veers into warmongers.

    It’s mind-boggling, but there’s Paul Wolfowitz, the unapologetic designer of the doctrine of unilateralism and pre-emption, the naïve cheerleader for the Iraq invasion and the man who assured Congress that Iraqi oil would pay for the country’s reconstruction and that it was ridiculous to think we would need as many troops to control the country as Gen. Eric Shinseki, then the Army chief of staff, suggested.

    If he wants to reclaim the Bush honor, Jeb should be holding accountable those who inflicted deep scars on America, not holding court with them.

    Where’s the shame?

    For some reason, Jeb doesn’t see it.

    That’s what Jeb hath wrought and that was Maureen’s take on Jeb from almost three months ago. Imagine what’s she’s going to come up with now and that’s just Maureen. As Josh Marshall pointed out, now that Jeb:
    1. embraced the Bush foreign policy vision by selecting so many ex-Bush advisers for his foreign policy team
    2. gave that bizarre interview answer where he clearly employed one of the worst dodges you could imagine to a question that he had to know he was to be asked.

    Jeb has to respond to this latest screw up and no matter what he does it’s only going to fuel Bush family drama columns from all sort of columnists. Unless, of course, he figures out a way to throw W. under the bus in a way that doesn’t just add to the drama.

    And that’s the big for the Bush clan these days: One of the Bush brothers has to be thrown under the bus. Either Jeb throws George or Jeb throws himself. But someone is getting thrown under the bus and if its not George this campaign is kaput. But he can’t throw George too harshly.

    Is there a kinder, gentler means of throwing someone under a bus? If so, Jeb is in a good position to figure it out. After all, discovering kinder, gentler means of throwing people under the bus was one of his brother’s signature campaign themes. So maybe Jeb will find his way out of his ‘too much like his brother’ mess. He’s got a lot of family resources.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 12, 2015, 3:20 pm
  5. Jeb Bush just got a do-over on his campaign-killing answer to the Iraq War question. His answer: Of course I wouldn’t have invaded knowing what I know today. I just misunderstood the question “Yeah, I don’t know what that decision would’ve been…”:

    TPM Livewire
    Jeb On Invading Iraq: ‘I Interpreted The Question Wrong, I Guess’

    By Daniel Strauss
    Published May 12, 2015, 5:54 PM EDT

    Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) said Tuesday that he misinterpreted the question when he was asked earlier this week by Fox News whether “knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion” of Iraq. But given a second chance to answer the question, Bush said he was unsure what he would do with 20/20 hindsight.

    Bush, in that first interview with Megyn Kelly on Monday, said he would have authorized the invasion. But in a radio interview with Sean Hannity on Tuesday the likely presidential candidate said he didn’t interpret the question correctly.

    “I interpreted the question wrong, I guess. I was talking about given what people knew then, would you have done it? Rather than knowing what we know now. And knowing what we know now, clearly there were mistakes as it related to faulty intelligence in the lead up to the war and the lack of focus on security,” Bush told Hannity. “My brother’s admitted this. And we have to learn from that.”

    Bush then pivoted to praise his brother’s troop surge in Iraq saying it brought “stability and security to Iraq which was missing during the early days of the United States engagement there.”

    Hannity then asked Bush what decision he would have made with 20/20 hindsight.

    “Yeah, I don’t know what that decision would’ve been,” Bush responded. “That’s a hypothetical but the simple fact was mistakes were made, as they always are in life and foreign policy. So we need to learn from the past to make sure we’re strong and secure going forward.”

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), a potential rival of Bush in the 2016 Republican primary, seemed to pounce on Bush’s answer to Fox News and in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper said he would not have ordered an invasion of Iraq given the the information available now.

    Well that answer should satisfy pretty much no one.

    But what’s really exciting about this whole situation is that Jeb bafflingly unprepared response to questions about the invasion of Iraq just might end up spreading the Bush family taint to the rest of the GOP’s 2016 field because now they all are going to have do what what Chris Christie just did and state clearly whether they would have supported the invasion knowing what we know today. And, at that point, we get to find out whether or not Jeb’s strange inability to denounce the invasion is due to familial bonds or could it have been due to Jeb’s awareness that the GOP mega-donors expect their candidates to support a highly questionable war because they want more highly questionable wars now.

    So we still don’t know what Jeb would have done in 2003 with 20/20 hindsight since Jeb apparently doesn’t know. And know Chris Christie’s position on the matter. But what about the other 20+ occupants of the 2016 GOP clown car? Isn’t the “what would have have done know what you know today?” question now a must ask question for all of them now that the guy that was once the presumptive front-runner potentially imploded his campaign trying to answer it? It seems kind of an irresistible question now.

    So it will be very interesting to see which other candidates follow Christie’s lead and start spontaneously offer their opinions on what they would have done and how many of them make it through the process unscathed. Who knows, if we see more candidates stumble on the Bush family’s kryptonite and end up dropping out of the race Jeb may have actually done the GOP a favor.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 12, 2015, 6:40 pm
  6. Hi Ptera. Obviously, I agree with your contempt for this fool and the army of slugs looking to revive the family honor. However, I disagree on your optimism that ANY of this spells some kind of “end for Jeb”.

    The media didn’t exactly “jump” on this development outside of the leftie blogosphere. Remember: a HUGE amount of the GOP establishment sticks to their “guns” on the Iraq matter, they just twist it by saying “if only Obama had kept the troops there a little longer, everything would have been OK and the Sunni and Shia would have learned to love each other”. Which is another total fantasy based on Washington’s total failure to comprehend anything Islamic.

    Admittedly, the GOP grassroots is different and MANY of them now admit the Iraq war was a huge mistake as they get that Saddam actually held the worst jihadists in check. It’s pretty rare that I see a GOP grassroots commentator defend the Iraq War. The best they can muster is “well, a lot of Democrats supported it, too!”

    A lot of them also get the same thing in Syria and hold Muslim Brother pimps like McCain and Graham in contempt. However, the grassroots of the GOP doesn’t own the banks, the defense corps, contractors, the security firms who CLEANED UP on the war. And those are the folks who will put Jeb in the White House. When Jeb speaks on this stuff, he is speaking to THEM, not to the GOP electorate who have largely soured on the Iraq effort. And the elite will not wince at names like Wolfowitz. Remember: these guys have been resurrected before. How many “disgraced” Nixon/Ford flacks wound up in Reagan, Bush 1, and Bush 2 admins? Uh, pretty much all of them?

    I wish the “opinion of the American people” mattered more than it apparently does. But a lifetime of watching this shit unfold hasn’t led me to that conclusion. There is a great quote from late Arkansas gov Winthrop Rockefeller, who mentored the Clintons, in Morris/Denton’s “Partners in Power”: “there are only two things that matter in a political campaign: financing and organization. Issues are relatively unimportant”. It’s what the Clintons live by and part of why they, and so many other politicians are able to skate through slippery ice. (not Clinton-bashing here, I voted for Bill twice and Hillary over Obama in ’08!) I always go back to that quote when I’m flabbergasted by a choice by the American electorate.

    And you KNOW that Jeb will a) have money and b) his organization will be second to none. The fact that large chunks of his “base” 1) don’t want another Bush in office and 2) totally disagree with his take on immigration reform 3) don’t like seeing Iraq war shills back in office, will increasingly become irrelevant as his GOP competition is picked off one by one by the media.

    Posted by Tiffany Sunderson | May 13, 2015, 9:56 am
  7. @Tiffany:
    Here’s an interesting twist on the ‘what hath Jeb wrought’ question that seems to support the idea that Jeb has nothing to worry about: Fox News conducted a recent poll of registered voters and guess who came in tied for first place at 13%. Ben Carson and Jeb. Although also half of respondents say they’ve never heard of Carson and Jeb actually had a 37% favorable vs 44% unfavorable rating so it wasn’t all good news for Jeb. But all things considered it could have been a lot worse:

    The Hill
    Poll: Carson ties Bush for No. 1 among the GOP

    By Jonathan Easley
    May 14, 2015, 11:23 am

    Ben Carson has surged into the top tier of GOP presidential candidates in a Fox News poll released Thursday, tying former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for the No. 1 slot.

    The poll shows the Tea Party activist and Bush in the lead with 13 percent support each. That’s a jump of 7 percentage points for Carson, who was tied for sixth place in the same poll in April.

    Carson’s jump comes on the heels of his presidential announcement two weeks ago in Detroit. His campaign immediately sought to fundraise off the poll, boasting of the more than 100,000 donations it has collected in recent weeks.

    Carson has a strong favorability rating, with 26 percent viewing him positively against 16 percent negative, but the former neurosurgeon remains relatively unknown. Forty-nine percent said they had never heard of him.

    Only businesswoman Carly Fiorina and Ohio Gov. John Kasich have worse name ID.

    The poll is also good news for Bush, who sat in fourth place with 9 percent support in April.

    While Bush’s poll numbers are lagging in the first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa, which many believe to be a reflection of his problems with the base, he continues to poll well nationwide. Bush leads the field nationally, according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls, with 15.4 percent support.

    Still, the Fox News poll shows he’s underwater on favorability, with 37 percent saying they have a positive view of him against 44 percent negative.

    Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker sits alone at third place in the Fox News poll with 11 percent support, followed by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee at 10 percent, Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) at 7 percent and Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at 6 percent each.

    The Fox News survey of 1,006 registered voters was conducted between May 9 and 12 and has a 3 percentage point margin of error.

    Yes, it definitely could have been worse for Jeb. And who knows, it just might get better or worse because note the dates the poll was conducted: May 9-May 12. May 10, Sunday, was when we first got reports about Bush’s response to an interview question that was to be aired on Monday. Then on Monday we see the interview and learn that the he answered was actually about would he would have done in 2003 knowing what we know today. And then on Tuesday, May 12, Jeb responded to another interview that he didn’t hear the question correctly and, knowing what he knows today, doesn’t know what he would have done in 2003.

    Assuming the people polled were paying any attention to the GOP primary news at all, Jeb managed to tie for first when Jeb’s giant f#ck up was arguably getting worse by the day! That’s pretty impressive for a guy with net negatives running against a clown car of opponents. Of course, Jeb then went on to suggest that reexamining the decision that led to the Iraq invasion would be a “disservice” to the troops and then finally just came out and said that he wouldn’t have supported the war knowing what he knows today. But that didn’t happen until two days after the poll.

    So it’s going to be interesting to see how Jeb does in next month’s Fox News poll. Well, as interesting as a Fox News poll can be.

    Who knows, after coming all as a shy warmonger, if things go awry for Jeb in the primaries he can always flip back to supporting the invasion and be a strong contender as a ‘Dick Cheney’-esque VP pick of 2016 to provide the ‘gravitas’ for whichever nut ball gets tapped for the top slot. Assuming he was willing to take the second slot. Although, even there, he could have some stiff competition.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 14, 2015, 8:28 pm
  8. *warning* This is not the onion. The video is real. Appropriately, minutes ~9 – 11 might cause exploding heads. You’ve been warned:

    TPM Livewire
    Judith Miller And James O’Keefe Discuss Ethics In Journalism (VIDEO)

    By Brendan James
    Published May 15, 2015, 1:43 PM EDT

    Ex-New York Times reporter Judith Miller and rightwing guerilla filmmaker James O’Keefe filmed an hour-long discussion trying to answer the question that has persisted through their careers: “Why do they hate us?”

    “I think journalists who poke holes in comforting narratives tend to be subjected to a fair amount of scorn,” Miller told O’Keefe. “I’ve spent my whole life trying to poke holes in comfortable narratives. And I think that annoys people.”

    She commiserated with O’Keefe about being “despised” by the mainstream media, saying that the two were united by “skepticism” and their efforts to get at the truth.

    Miller is widely known for her reportage on weapons of mass destruction in the lead up to the Iraq War, while O’Keefe is known for doing things like crossing the U.S.-Mexico border dressed as Osama bin Laden.

    “That’s what journalism is, trial and error,” Miller said to O’Keefe in the interview.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 15, 2015, 2:47 pm

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