Jeb Bush got into a spot of trouble this week when he told Megyn Kelly that he would invade Iraq “given what we know now.” Rather than press him for clarification at the time, Kelly and some her Fox pals have jumped in to rehab his answer by saying that he answered a different question.
As Kelly acknowledged, Bush has been blasted from both the left and right for his answer. So, Fox News to the rescue!
On May 11, following the airing of her pre-recorded interview with Bush, Kelly rehabbed Bush’s answer:
KELLY: I do think in fairness to Governor Bush, when I said, “Knowing what we know now, would you have invaded Iraq?” I think he was trying to answer the question of, “Do you believe it was a mistake at the time?” That was my take on it in the interview. He wasn’t trying to say, “Still today, I don’t think there was an issue.”
If you listen to the full answer, he was saying, “Look, given the intelligence…” and so on.
Kelly also just happened to note how presidential Bush appears.
KELLY: He slimmed down, had the nice suit, had the haircut going, I felt that he was more at ease in that interview, sort of more presidential in his presentation than I have seen him in any other thus far.
Yeah, just pay no attention to how he mis-answered a very important question!
The next night, Kelly continued the rehab, this time with Brit Hume.
HUME: He clearly misunderstood your question, although the question was clearly straightforwardly posed, Megyn.
…The answer he gave, though, once you listened to it, is clearly and unmistakably an answer to the question about what you would have done had you not known what we know now. In other words, had you only known what you knew then. So that was blindingly obvious, I think, to any fair-minded observer and he’s gotten criticized by a lot of people who are not really making attempts to be fair-minded observers.
Kelly added that she thought Bush “was ready to make news on Iraq” and “ready to finally say how he feels about it, that mistakes were made and take a position and he heard 'Iraq' and this is a candidate’s cue to say what you’re gonna say and he sort of didn’t hear or rejected that part of the question and it got him in some trouble.”
HUME: Right. He had a talking point ready. …The answer was obviously carefully thought through because of course it ended up dovetailing with what he said his brother now thinks. So he was able to answer a question on Iraq, admit there were mistakes, say his brother agrees with him and tie the whole thing up in a nice little bundle. He just didn’t get the question he needed for that answer and the result is what you saw.
However, Hume added that while he thought people have been “unfair in their criticism” of Bush, “Once that happened, he or someone close to him should have said, ‘Governor, you misunderstood that question and you need to straighten that out,’ …by later the same day or the first thing in the morning, I guess yesterday morning, he should have been out with a clarification that he did not make until Sean’s radio show this afternoon.”
“You have to assume they didn’t anticipate that people were going to jump to the conclusion,” Kelly helpfully opined.
But here are my questions: If Kelly thought Bush had answered the wrong question, why didn’t she clarify or press him to clarify? And is it really so much better that Bush misunderstood or wasn't paying attention to the question? Also, does anyone think that if Hillary Clinton answered a question that way, that Fox wouldn't be all over her, regardless of her intent?
In the interview (third video below), after Bush said, “I would have” authorized an invasion of Iraq “and so would have Hillary Clinton,” there was this exchange:
KELLY: You don’t think it was a mistake.
BUSH: In retrospect the intelligence that everybody saw - that the world saw, not just the United States - was faulty and in retrospect, once we invaded and took out Saddam Hussein, we didn’t focus on security first and the Iraqis, in this incredibly insecure environment, turned on the United States military because there was no security for themselves and their families.
…It’s important to remind ourselves of lessons learned going forward.
For the record, I agree with Kelly and Hume that Bush seemed to have been answering a different question than the one she asked. But why didn’t she challenge him to answer her question or at least acknowledge that he hadn't? My guess is that it’s because Kelly didn’t anticipate the response.
Or maybe she was just too eager to prompt Bush to get to the Obama bashing, via her next question: “Do you feel that America’s place in the world has diminished under President Obama?”
Media Matters has noted that while Bush has also claimed he misinterpreted the question, with a little help from Sean Hannity, he still has not said whether he would or would not invade Iraq knowing what we do today.
Watch it below, from the May 11 and May 12 The Kelly File
Always love to see the two former lovebirds — Blackroots Barbie and the Faux Cryptkeeper together again. Would love to interview Mrs. Hume to see what her opinion of Kelly is.
So Bush is stupid, then?
But even after his attempt to clarify, Bush wasn’t clear at all about how he felt about the idea to invade. He seemed more concerned that once the invasion began it was handled poorly.