Jeb Bush Will Do Fine Defending His Brother’s War

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Jeb Bush just can’t stop talking about Iraq:

“In 2009, Iraq was fragile but secure. It was mission was accomplished in the way that there was security there and it was because of the heroic efforts of the men and women in the Untied States military that it was so.”

In a question and answer session hosted by Americans for Peace, Prosperity and Security held on a college campus here, the Republican presidential hopeful said the removal of Saddam Hussein from power “turned out to be a pretty good deal,” and he praised the 2007 troop surge his brother pushed as “an extraordinarily effective” strategy.

On the debate over interrogation techniques, another issue that dogged his brother, Bush would not say for certain whether he would preserve the executive order President Obama signed banning enhanced interrogation. “I do think in general that torture is not appropriate,” he said.

Obviously I think Bush is wrong about all the Iraq stuff, and I’d certainly like to hear a more robust denunciation of torture than calling it “not appropriate.” Still, I guess he deserves some credit on the torture score since the rest of the Republican field mostly seems to think the only problem with George Bush’s torture policy is that he didn’t do enough of it.

But the merits of the Iraq war aside, here’s what I’m curious about: is this a winning position with the Republican base? I’ve been reading a lot of comments about how extraordinary it is that in only a few short years, Republicans have abandoned their Iraq skepticism and become full-bore defenders of the war again. How could it happen so quickly?

But conservative Republicans never abandoned their support for the Iraq war in the first place, did they? Sure, there were times when support dipped a bit in national polls, but conservatives supported the surge from the start; they’ve always canonized the surge as the point where the war was finally won; they’ve long excoriated Obama for pulling out troops; and they’ve been hawkish on ISIS from the beginning. As near as I can tell, conservative Republicans have never really questioned the value of the Iraq war. Nor have they lost their taste for having lots of ground troops there.

So Jeb should do fine by defending his brother’s war. Plenty of Beltway types will mock him, but the Republican base has never lost the faith. As far as they’re concerned, Iraq was a righteous venture that was ruined only by the gutlessness of President Obama and his cabal of apology tour aides. We coulda won if only we’d just kept at it.

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