Saturday, May 16, 2015

Race for the White House 2016 Volume 20

At this early stage in the Presidential race, many events are magnified by the media and by the relatively select few who are actively following the campaign. This past week saw examples of that, as presumed Republican candidate Jeb Bush was tripped up over a hypothetical question. I do not happen to think what happened was really that huge of a deal, but if what happened becomes a trend or part of the narrative, then the candidate who I today believe is the best person to be elected and serve as President, may have some enduring political problems. On the positive side, it really is still very early on the campaign.

During an interview with Fox News Channel's Megyn Kelly, Jeb Bush was asked if he still would have gone into Iraq, as his brother, the former President had done, back in 2003, in spite of faulty intelligence about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction. The former Florida Governor answered that he still would have, based on what was known, and that Hillary Clinton, then a New York Senator who voted to authorize force, would have done the same thing. It appears based on his answer, that Bush either misheard the question and was not taking the concept of "no WMD" into account, or doing what many politicians have done, and choose to sidestep the issue. In the same answer, he also made it clear that mistakes were made in the conduct of the war, and his brother George W. believes that as well. The general tone of the answer was fairly defensive, especially as it related to his feeling the need to stand up to his brother, who has long been politically maligned for the costs of the Iraq War. Over the next few days, cable tv and the political punditry had field days, as Jeb Bush claimed to have misheard the question, stating he did not want to answer hypotheticals, before trying to make the issue go away, by joining several other GOP candidates in saying he would not have invaded Iraq had they known the U.S. would not find WMD. Of course, it could be pointed out that it is doubtful that the George W. Bush Administration would have either. At the minimum, a far different case for war might have been made to the world, the American public, and to Congress. However, the entire world, including Congressional Democrats, and perhaps Saddam Hussein himself, believed he did have WMD, as he had used them before against his neighbors, and was surely trying to reconfigure the program, as he thwarted international weapons inspectors.

My thoughts of the issue of going into Iraq, WMD or not, and overthrowing the evil, terrorist supporting regime there are irrelevant at this moment but I have been a bit surprised to see so many Republicans, beyond just the Rand Paul faction, coming out to attack Jeb Bush for his answer. I think many of them, including Ted Cruz and Chris Christie were quite disingenuous in how they answered those questions and tried to parlay it into an attack on the Republican candidate who leads in the money race and in some national polls. John Kasich and Marco Rubio also gave responses in which they seemed to take a different position from Bush's original statement, but did not pile on him politically. Let me just state that the world is a better place without Saddam Hussein, and while mistakes were certainly made, and eventually corrected, in the conduct of the war, I refuse to believe that mainstream Republicans have come to reject the post 9/11 Bush Doctrine in regards to foreign policy and fighting terrorists.I will also say that the situation in Iraq would be a whole lot better if it looked today more like it did when George W. Bush turned over the Oval Office to Barack Obama in 2009.

Asking Jeb Bush foreign policy questions is certainly fair game, as he wants to be Commander in Chief, but he is also his own man with his own extensive background in the private and public sectors. Just because he shares a last name and bloodline with the last two Republican Presidents, does not make him any more responsible or culpable for their actions, for good or bad, than any other GOP candidate.In that regard, it was an unfair line of questioning, but certainly one that Jeb Bush should have been better prepared for.

Time will tell if there is any kind of "real damage" to Jeb Bush's candidacy. I tend to believe it will easily fade into the background in the weeks ahead, but there were certainly a lot of bad headlines, considering that both national Democrats, as well as every other GOP hopeful, regards him as their biggest challenge to overcome. Many of those other Republican candidates certainly smelled blood in the water, and when the multi-candidate debates begin, some may indeed try to goad the Governor by trying to get him to defend policies of his brother.

All Presidential campaigns eventually bemoan what they consider to be unfair coverage, and all suffer a gaffe or two from time to time. I do not know why what Jeb Bush said initially, was controversial (and Hillary Clinton's campaign certainly did not rush out to dispute what he said about her), but perception becomes a reality in politics, and with only the media and the diehard political junkies engaged at this point, the perception is that Bush "stepped in it" the past week. There will be ample time to demonstrate campaign strength, but it will give credence to those who say that Bush is "rusty" on the stump or that his loyalty to his family will hurt with the electorate. I still think he is my party's strongest candidate (Mitt Romney fresh off his turn in the ring with Evander Holyfield for charity aside), but once again, I am glad there are other viable options in the field if Jeb Bush falters later on.

By talking to the media, and even hostile voters, and being accessible, Jeb Bush garnered some headlines this week, at the same time where Hillary Clinton's front-running Democrat campaign remains limited to closed door fundraisers, scripted speeches, and orchestrated photo ops with party activists posing as voters. Eventually, she will have to talk to the press and answer questions and deal with real voters as well. If something trips her up or she gives an answer that is seen as politically damaging, she can be certain that other Democrat Presidential candidates and the entire GOP will pounce on it, and she will have to endure what Jeb Bush has this past week, only probably more so.


At 6:28 AM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

As a lifelong Texan, I'm backing Perry all the way!


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