Marco Rubio gets tangled up in Iraq question

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 14, 2015. (Photo by Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 14, 2015.

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?"

Related: Iraq invasion re-litigated on the 2016 campaign trail

But first, Wallace showed two recent clips of Rubio answering the question in different ways. On Fox News this March, when asked if it was a mistake to go to war in Iraq, Rubio said "the world is a better place because Saddam Hussein doesn't run Iraq." Then, during an interview with Charlie Rose this month, when asked if after finding out there were no weapons of mass destruction, would he have not been in favor of an Iraqi invasion, the senator said he wouldn't have been in favor of going into Iraq. 

"Isn't that a flip?" Wallace asked Rubio Sunday. Rubio defended his answers, saying "these are two different questions," and attempted to begin to explain "the way the real world works."

"It was not a mistake. This is the way the real world works. The president, based on the information that was provided --" Rubio said, referring to former President George W. Bush. 

"But she was saying based on the information ... what we know now," Wallace interjected, referencing the answer Rubio gave Fox co-host Julie Roginsky six weeks ago.

"Based on what we know now, I wouldn't have thought Manny Pacquiao was going to beat in that fight," Rubio cut back in.

Wallace continued to repeat that the questions are the same, attempting to prove that Rubio was giving contradicting answers, but an equally frustrated Rubio shot back: "No, it was not the same question. The question was whether it was a mistake, and my answer was it was not a mistake. I still say it was not a mistake."

"But based on what we know now --" Wallace said, leading to several more bouts of interruptions.

Rubio continued to argue that the question is not the same when presented in hindsight. 

"The president can't make a decision based on what someone might know in the future," Rubio said, adding his bottom line "it was not a mistake for the president to go into Iraq back on the information he was provided as president."

Related: Jeb Bush's no good, very bad week

The hypothetical question has been a headache for former Florida governor and likely GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush, who on Thursday -- after days of conflicting answers -- said knowing what we know now, he would not have authorized the invasion of Iraq. 

"Here's the deal: If we're all supposed to answer hypothetical questions, knowing what we know now, what would you have done, I would have not engaged. I would not have gone into Iraq," he said at an event in Arizona.

Bush earlier in the week said he didn't have to engage in "hypotheticals," period. During his initial interview on Fox News, Bush said he would have gone into Iraq even knowing the information we know now -- though he later said he misinterpreted that question. 

Bush's response has put him at odds within the Republican party, with other official and likely GOP 2016 candidates piling on the former governor's ambiguity. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Sen. Ted Cruz, and Sen. Rand Paul said they would not have supported invading Iraq.