Jeb Bush on Tuesday will attempt once again to move past his brother’s handling of the Iraq war, as well as his own rhetorical blunders about the conflict, by placing blame for the rise of Islamic militants in the country squarely on Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration.
The Iraq war has haunted the GOP in the last two presidential elections and created major headaches for the former Florida governor. Bush’s 2016 presidential bid has been flawed because of his responses to questions on the topic.
“Knowing what we know now I would not have engaged -- I would not have gone into Iraq,” Bush said in May, capping off a tumultuous week for the then-frontrunner where he seemed to take multiple stances on the subject.
Despite his campaign’s best efforts, Iraq continues to follow Bush, who was once again asked about his support for the war effort during last week’s inaugural Republican presidential debate.
In remarks Bush is to deliver tonight at the Ronald Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley, CA, he will try to put an end to such questions by promising to eradicate ISIS and by charging Clinton and President Obama with presiding over the terror group’s rise to power.
"Why was the success of the surge followed by a withdrawal from Iraq, leaving not even the residual force that commanders and the joint chiefs knew was necessary?" Bush will ask in prepared remarks.
"That premature withdrawal was the fatal error, creating the void that ISIS moved in to fill and that Iran has exploited to the full as well," he is expected to say, even though it was his brother President George W. Bush who negotiated the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government in 2008 that required all American soldiers to leave Iraq by 2011.
"Where was Secretary of State Clinton in all of this? Like the president himself, she had opposed the surge, then joined in claiming credit for its success, then stood by as that hard-won victory by American and allied forces was thrown away," Bush will say.
"In all her record-setting travels, she stopped by Iraq exactly once," he will say.
In addition to burnishing his own foreign policy credentials, the remarks are another attempt by Bush to turn Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, something she has touted as a strength on the campaign trail, into a liability for the Democratic frontrunner.