As the 2016 presidential race draws close, there are many things separating the potential candidates, regardless of the fact that some of them are representing the same party. However, there is one issue over which all politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike, seem to agree: the 2003 Iraq war was a bad idea.
Incidentally, during election times the views of the candidates are fairly similar to those of the public opinion, and for the moment the American public is looking very critical towards the conflict where almost 4,500 US soldiers lost their lives. While some of the politicians have had the same opinion for several years now, there are some candidates who seem to have reconsidered their stance on the Iraq war shortly after announcing their intentions for the White House.
Such is the case of Hillary Rodham Clinton, for instance, who after voting in favor of the war in 2002, while she was only a member of Congress. While she stood behind her decision in 2008, after losing the nomination in favor of Barack Obama she seems to have learned her lesson. The Americans no longer like politicians who agree with the Iraq war.
Clinton eventually got away easy, as all she had to do is denounce her judgment in her latest memoir. “I got it wrong. Plain and simple,” she wrote. However, things might not be as plain and simple for other candidates.
Jeb Bush, one of the Republican frontrunners for 2016, was faced with a far more difficult choice. He had even to stand by his brother, who was serving as president in 2002, or condemn his actions. Eventually, he chose the latter, but insisted that his brother’s war was the wrong decision due to the fact that the president was ill-advised.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio, another promising candidate from the GOP, largely follows the same line as Jeb Bush. Rubio repeatedly had to ask the same question on the Iraq war from the reporters, and each time he gave the same answer. “It was not a mistake,” Rubio said, at least not at the time, but based on the information available to us now, it is correct to assess that things should have been handled differently.
In the end, both Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush agreed that in hindsight they wouldn’t have approved the invasion, but something needed to be done in 2002 and going to war was the most obvious choice.
Rand Paul, another Republican candidate, suggested there may have been a rhetorical reasoning behind Bush’s 2002 decision to order the invasion of Iraq. “It is a good idea to topple secular dictators,” Paul argued, and many people agree with this principle, but most of the time things go from bad to worse.
“I think when Hussein was toppled, we got chaos, and we still have chaos,” said Paul, while seizing the opportunity to criticize the Obama administration from making the same mistake in Libya.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, thought to be Jeb Bush’s major contender for the GOP nomination, was one of the politicians who stood behind the president in 2002. He was a little less apologetic than the others towards his choice. Walker explained he “would’ve made a similar decision to what President Bush did at the time,” but again, he indicated information was scarce then and he would probably choose differently in similar circumstances now.
Overall, it seems that what politicians think of past events is largely dictated by the public opinion. After all, there is very little anyone can do to correct the Iraq mistake, and it is just easier for the candidates to repent.
Image Source: LA Times