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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Republican presidential race has officially crossed over into the Twilight Zone: GOP candidates are now saying that the Iraq War was a mistake. And we can thank a major gaffe by Jeb Bush for all of this.

The trouble all started in an interview with Megyn Kelly of Fox News, when she directly asked him: “Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?”

Jeb said yes — and, furthermore, that the press won’t find “big space between me and my brother,” former president George W. Bush, on this subject.

As he moved to do some damage control, Jeb said on Sean Hannity’s radio show that he didn’t hear the question correctly: “I was talking about, given what people had known then, would you have done it, rather than knowing what we know now.” And on Wednesday, ABC News reports, Jeb added another twist, when he claimed that even asking the question had been disrespectful to the war dead.

“If we’re going to get into hypotheticals I think it does a disservice for a lot of people that sacrificed a lot,” Bush said after explaining that as governor of Florida he called the family members of service men and women who lost their lives in the war. He added: “Going back in time and talking about hypotheticals — what would have happened, what could have happened — I think, does a disservice for them. What we ought to be focusing on is what are the lessons learned.”

(Of course, a person might wonder if the real “disservice” to the troops was that they were sent to Iraq in the first place.)

But now that Jeb has stepped into this bear trap, the other Republican candidates seem eager to pounce on him — or at least avoid this trap themselves — resulting in the amazing sight of GOP presidential candidates now openly criticizing, in at least some manner, the entire Iraq venture.

Rand Paul declared that the Iraq War shouldn’t have been done at the time — let alone on the basis of all the knowledge that everyone has gained since then. And not only that, but Rand upped the ante by invoking Hillary Clinton and the later conflict in Libya.

Chris Christie said bluntly of the Iraq invasion: “No, it wasn’t” the right decision in retrospect — though he also said that we should all move forward, instead of looking backwards.

Even Ted Cruz, hardly a dove of any kind, got in on the act during an appearance Tuesday night on Fox News. “We now know that intelligence was false,” said Cruz. “And without that predicate, there’s no way we would have gone to war with Iraq, and we know that now.” (The key moment in the video is at about the 5:15 mark.)

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