After a week’s worth of Jeb Bush’s stumbling statements about the Iraq war, the debate triggered by his remarks on the wisdom of 2003 Iraq invasion spilled into a major gathering of Republican 2016 U.S. presidential candidates on Saturday.
The forum sponsored by the Iowa Republican Party was the biggest gathering of 2016 rivals in Iowa to date as the presidential race picks up speed in the state that early next year holds the first nominating contest on the road to the election in November.
The former Florida governor Jeb Bush spent all week struggling to answer whether he would have supported his brother’s unpopular decision to invade Iraq in 2003, a question initially asked by Megyn Kelly in a Fox News interview last week.
Bush fumble with question marked the lowest point so far of the former Florida governor’s still undeclared campaign for the White House, yet it is unclear if the controversy will have any effect on his chances of being elected.
After criticism, he disavowed the remark, but said his loyalty to George W. is strong.
Noting that he is the son of former President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush, Jeb Bush told the Iowa gathering: "Some of you may know that W.’s my brother. I’m proud of that, too. Whether people like that or not they’re just going to have to get used to it," he said.
Jeb Bush’s initial answer to Kelly’s question was: “I would have, and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody, and so would have almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got.”
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a libertarian-leaning Republican with an isolationist streak, questioned whether the Iraq war was worth it given the rise of ISIS also known as ISIS.
"We have to question: Is Iraq more stable or less stable since (Iraqi leader Saddam) Hussein is gone? Is there more chaos or less chaos?" he said. "Is ISIS more of a threat now because of the instability?"
Other Republicans blame the rise of ISIS on the failure of Democratic President Barack Obama to leave a post-war contingent of U.S. troops in Iraq. George W. Bush launched the war based on intelligence that said Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, which were never found.