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Jeb Bush Fully Walks Back: 'I Would Not Have Gone Into Iraq'

Jeb Bush walked back his position that he would have authorized the Iraq War, even knowing what we know now. He now says he would not have.
Pat Sullivan
Jeb Bush walked back his position that he would have authorized the Iraq War, even knowing what we know now. He now says he would not have.

After nearly a week of confusion over his position on Iraq, the Middle East and the role of his brother as an adviser, Jeb Bush fully walked back his position that he would have gone to war in Iraq even knowing what we know now.

"So here's the deal," Bush told an audience in Arizona. "If we're all supposed to answer hypothetical questions, knowing what we know now, I would not have engaged. I would not have gone into Iraq. That's not to say that the world is safer because Saddam Hussein is gone. It is significantly safer."

The remarks come after Bush was asked earlier Monday on Fox, "Knowing what we know now," would he have authorized the war. "I would have," he answered. He then pivoted, contending that Hillary Clinton would have, too. Clinton did vote to authorize the war as a senator, but she has since called that vote a "mistake."

Bush tried again Wednesday on Sean Hannity's radio show, but his answer brought more confusion than clarity.

"I don't know," he said, when given the chance to restate whether he would have authorized the war. He dismissed the question as a "hypothetical."

Bush's new position also comes after much of the rest of the GOP presidential field piled on with several candidates taking the opportunity to say they would not have authorized the war.

Last weekend, Bush told donors behind closed doors that he relied on his brother's advice on Middle East policy. His campaign insisted he was talking about Israel policy.

Here's more of what he had to say today, still revealing a hawkish worldview in favor of engagement:

"That's not to say that there was a courageous effort to bring about a surge that created stability in Iraq. All of that is true. And that is not to say that the men and women that have served in uniform and many others that went to Iraq to serve, they did so, they did so honorably. But, we've answered the question now, so now going forward, what's the role of America going forward. Are we going to pull back now and be defeatists and pessimistic or are we going to engage in a way that creates a more peaceful and secure world. That is what 2016's about.

"Not about 2000, not about 1992, not about 1980, but about the future. And I hope that you want leaders that are going to be forthright in their views that will express those views with compassion and conviction and do so so that there's a clear understanding for America's role in the world."

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Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.