The Jeb Bush “Gotcha!”: Unfair Question, Dumb Answers

Enough about Iraq, Jeb: When did you stop beating your wife?

Enough about Iraq, Jeb: When did you stop beating your wife?

In the vast history of unfair questions, even including such immortals as “When did you stop beating your wife?,”none is more unanswerable in a substantive way than the question Jeb Bush was asked on Fox News—yes, that’s the same Fox News that supposedly lobs softballs for any Republican. The question: “Knowing what we know now” would he have authorized the Iraq war?

What possible use is that question, other than as an exercise in complete hindsight bias? If the answer is no, it appears to validate the dishonest criticism of the war decades ago, by those who attributed new knowledge about the infamous WMD’s to the original decision, which wasn’t about weapons of mass destruction in the first place. If it is yes, it is evidence of insanity.

Now we know that the invasion would be botched, the U.N. would cravenly and irresponsibly withhold support for enforcing its own resolutions, that our hillbilly soldiers would torture Iraqi prisoners and take photos of it, that the new Iraqi government would be incompetent and corrupt, that the news media would assist Democrats in re-writing the history of the decision, and most of all, that even after the situation in Iraq had finally been stabilized, an incompetent President would prematurely pull out our troops, causing the government to implode and ISIS to thrive.

George W. Bush had even said when he was President that if he had known that no WMD’s were there, he would not have invaded Iraq. That was also a dumb answer at the time, and I believe a dishonest one. But today, W. would give the same answer, and knowing what we know now, it would be both correct and honest. That’s if he were silly enough not to say, as his younger brother was too dim to say, this:

“I’m not answering that. It’s pointless. Would Lee have ordered Pickett’s Charge, knowing how it would turn out? Would I have left the dock as captain of the Titanic, knowing that it would hit an iceberg? Would I have approved the Space Shuttle program, knowing that two shuttles would meet with disaster? “Would you still go to see ‘Our American Cousin,’ Mrs Lincoln?” A decision can only be judged based on what the known situation is at the time. It cannot be fairly judged based on the results of the decision, immediately or years later. That’s consequentialism; it’s a logical fallacy.


“Nor can I answer the question of what I would have decided in my brother’s place, because I do know how things worked out, and he, of course, could not know. So asking that question is unfair to me, and answering it would be unfair to him. “

But Jeb was too dim to say that. So first he answered…

1.“I would have,” and contended that Hillary Clinton would have, too. That was extraordinarily stupid. Nobody, including Hillary, would have invaded Iraq knowing what would happen, especially that the nation would end up in the hands of a feckless, pusillanimous, anti-military amateur who would degrade the nation’s respect among its allies and adversaries alike, drawing red lines, lying about them, ignoring them; delaying action until the maximum damage was inevitable; encouraging adventurism, like Putin’s in the Ukraine, by making it clear that he is phobic about genuine military engagement.

Ugh. I know this is a side trip, but consider what Obama said yesterday to reassure Arab allies about the dangers posed by Iraq:

“The United States is prepared to work jointly with GCC member states to deter and confront an external threat to any GCC state’s territorial integrity that is inconsistent with the UN charter. In the event of such aggression or the threat of such aggression, the United States stands ready to work with our GCC partners to urgently determine what actions may be appropriate, using the means at our collective disposal, including the potential use of military force for the defense of our GCC partners.”

This doubletalk is actually being called a “pledge” by the incompetent Obama enablers in the press. (The New York Times called it “carefully worded.” No kidding.) It-pledges-nothing:

“The U.S. is prepared to”—of course, being prepared to do something doesn’t mean you’ll do it (heh, heh, heh)“work jointly with”—whatever that means—“to deter and confront”—you know, like a frowny face selfie and a hashtag saying “Bring back our girls!”?—“and stands ready to work”-–I’m ready for a lot of things I’m never going to do—“to urgently determine what actions may be appropriate”—‘Yup—I’ve urgently determined this action may be appropriate, but we’re not going to do it, and you know, it may NOT be appropriate too!’—“including the potential use of military force” —not the USE of military force, mind you, but the potential use of military force. ‘We’ve decided the best course is the potential use of military force!’ What does this even mean?

Nothing! It means nothing! This is how con men talk when they are trying to trick little old ladies into buying phony bonds. You can’t trust anyone who talks like this. It could be a speech in a book about how to spot scam artists. This is the language of liars and swindlers…and Barack Obama.

The worst part is that it’s an insult to world leaders. Does he really think they don’t know how deceitful a statement like this is? Does he not know how this signals his contempt for them? Now, the American public, apparently, is that stupid, or at least the 50% of it that continues to support this President as he embarrasses the nation around the world.

But I digress. Where was I? Oh yes…Jeb’s next dumb answer..

2. Asked the question again on Sean Hannity’s radio show, Jeb said,  “I don’t know.” Now there’s the decisiveness we want from a leader!

Finally, he came full circle, and told an audience in Arizona:

3. So here’s the deal. If we’re all supposed to answer hypothetical questions, knowing what we know now, I would not have engaged. I would not have gone into Iraq. That’s not to say that the world is safer because Saddam Hussein is gone. It is significantly safer.”

Huh? If it’s significantly safer, then why wouldn’t you have gone in? Except that it isn’t significantly safer. I bet the world would gladly trade ISIS for a reincarnated Saddam and his two evil sons. Of course, we didn’t know about ISIS when President Bush made his decision.

Bah, yuck, poooie.  Jeb Bush isn’t smart enough to avoid media dirty tricks (I bet Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton wouldn’t be conned into answering a question like that), honest enough to admit what everyone knows, or articulate enough to make important distinctions.

And that’s how unethical journalists justify unfair questions and “gotcha!” traps.

They work.


Sources: International Business Times, NPR



12 thoughts on “The Jeb Bush “Gotcha!”: Unfair Question, Dumb Answers

  1. Only on people who are as hopelessly naïve as Jeb Bush (possibly his brother) is. People who believe in the essential GOODNESS of everybody. People to whom illegal immigration is an issue of LOVE.

  2. I was surprised Megyn Kelly asked that question. She is bright, articulate, and well-prepared. Her interviews with all of the announced Republican candidates have been fair and professional. She is a better interviewer than that and she rarely sets up gotcha questions to politicians. Bush’s response should have been more along the lines of, “Well, based solely on the information and intelligence available at the time, the decision to invade Iraq was appropriate. Remember, Saddam Hussein was sponsoring terrorism, openly declaring that he stockpile weapons of mass destruction (oh, by the way, did you read the recent New York Time report that WMDs were, in fact, located in Iraq), and continually threatening the peace, security and sovereignty of states in that region. To allow further threats to go unanswered would have been unacceptable. So, yes, at the time I supported the action because it was the right thing to do. Looking back on it now, with 20-20 hindsight, mistakes were made and we lost many, many of our best and bravest servicemembers, whose sacrifice will not, and should not go, unnoticed or unrewarded.” He stumbled and, according to Anderson Cooper and the CNN talking heads, bumbled around and looked amateurish, and not ready to lead the US (as Hillary is ready to do).

  3. I saw it and it sounded like he had his talking point ready to go about Hillary voting for the war, and did not really listen to/appreciate the question. He answered as if the question was “would you have authorized the war?”

    I agree that “knowing what we know now” questions are generally unhelpful, but they are not unfair, since everyone gets them. And as you hint at in your post, this was one of the easier ones to answer, given the mess in Iraq. He just did not hear it right and then he did not backpedal well at all…

  4. Welcome to my World DEPT: I just got a blog farewell from someone who wrote:

    I have read well over 200 of your columns, and I believe you have an extraordinary and keen mind. I agree with 98% of everything you have written, I believe you have been excoriated unfairly and without ratiocination by the bloggers that immaturely deride you, your lists of ethical actions and gradations of apologies are superb.
    And after reading your columns about Jeb Bush, I can only say with as much respect as possible that you perhaps you might someday consider you might have a very deep and perhaps all but unseeable bias when it comes to the Bush family and the Iraq war at ever phase and level.”

    Isn’t that nice? over 200 blog posts that this guy likes, but because I don’t toe the historical revisionism line regarding Iraq, he’s boycotting me. Why are so many people deranged regarding the Iraq War? Why are they so dishonest? I followed the lead-up carefully. I’m not a fan of the Bushes, any of them, but he was willing to project American strength, which indeed makes the world safer; he was willing to make tough decisions, distinguishing himself from the current occupant, and he believed that cease-fire terms should be kept, or the cease-fire ought to end. If the UN had not been in bed with Saddam and backed the US’s determination to actually enforce UN resolutions, everything would have been different., How can someone be this irrational about Iraq and still support the Iran charade, which guarantees the exact same dilemma when Iran ignores its promises and the US’s option is to keep making fake threats—like the UN to Saddam—or act, like Bush did. Jeb may have heard the question wrong from Megyn, but he’s right that Hillary, as well as John Kerry and Colin Powell, would have invaded Iraq in 2003 based on their statements, as would have later lying, flip-flopping critics like Andrew Sullivan and Richard Cohen. It is the biggest hind-sight bias exercise in US history, even worse than Vietnam, and the public has proven how lazy and amnesiac it is by swallowing it.

    My bias is against ignorant,. lazy, easily manipulated citizens, not for the Bushes.

  5. I wrote a long comment about politicians and journalists and values and then realized none of them have any that anyone can count on. Except experience tells us that conservatives will say and do very stupid things when trying to advance conservative values while avoiding liberal pitfalls and liberals will accept any stupid thing their politicians say and do as long as it furthers the liberal agenda. The end result is the same the only difference is the speed of the decline.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.