Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R) dominated much of the 2016 discussion last week, and for good reason. His inability to speak coherently about his brother’s disastrous war in Iraq – the Florida Republican offered four different answers over the course of four days, none of which was especially compelling – left the ostensible frontrunner looking confused, unprepared, and incompetent.
All of this was excellent news, of course, for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), not just because Bush is a prominent rival for the GOP presidential nomination, but also because Bush’s high-profile stumbles largely overshadowed Rubio’s own ineptitude on the same issue.
But as msnbc’s Anna Brand reported yesterday, Rubio’s clumsiness on his signature issue is starting to catch up with him.
The same Iraq question that Jeb Bush struggled to answer on four different occasions was posed to GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio on Sunday – and it wasn’t any easier for the senator.Through a tangled interview, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked the “question of the week,” as he put it to Rubio: “Given what we know now, would you have invaded Iraq in 2003?”
We’ll talk more later about the propriety of the question itself, but for now, the line of inquiry is especially significant to Rubio because he, like Jeb Bush, has offered contradictory responses.
As Chris Wallace noted on the air, Rubio said in March that the Iraq war was worth fighting, but then said last week that he wouldn’t have launched the war if he’d known so much of the intelligence was wrong. It left the impression that the far-right senator believes this was a good, worthwhile war, which he wouldn’t have fought with the benefit of hindsight.
Rubio also said last week that George W. Bush wouldn’t have launched the invasion if he’d known Iraq didn’t have WMD, a claim contradicted by Bush himself.
Confronted with the contradictions yesterday, Rubio seemed lost. The video of the whole exchange is online, but this stood out for me as the key part:
WALLACE: So, was it a mistake or not?RUBIO: But I wouldn’t characterize it – but I don’t understand the question you’re asking, because the president –WALLACE: I’m asking you, knowing – as we sit here in 2015 –RUBIO: No, but that’s not the way presidents – a president cannot make decision on what someone might know in the future.WALLACE: I understand. But that’s what I’m asking you. Was it a mistake?RUBIO: It was not a mistake for the president to go into Iraq based on the information he was provided as president.
Remember, though the back and forth on Fox was at times cringe-worthy, as far as the Republican senator is concerned, his expertise in foreign policy makes him a uniquely qualified presidential candidate.
Obviously, a White House hopeful can be forgiven for one interview in which a candidate struggles with straightforward, easy-to-predict questions. The larger problem for Rubio is that he’s basing his national campaign on international affairs, despite the fact that he’s routinely incoherent on the subject. Making matters worse, the Floridian’s troubles seem to be getting worse, not better.
Rubio probably should have honed some of these answers before launching a presidential campaign, but it’s still relatively early in the process – there’s still time for him to pick a new issue to run on.