After a week of Iraq headaches for Jeb Bush, he gave what sounds like a final answer yesterday: "Here's the deal: If we're all supposed to answer hypothetical questions, knowing what we know now, what would you have done, I would have not engaged. I would not have gone into Iraq," he told a town hall meeting in Arizona, per NBC. By CNN's count, that was the fifth time this week he had offered a position on the war, having initially told Fox that he would have authorized it, before saying he had "interpreted the question wrong" and describing it as a "hypothetical." He stressed that he didn't want to say anything that could be seen as disrespectful to those who served and died in the conflict, and that their lives were not lost in vain.
Bush said he hadn't spoken to his brother before clarifying his position on Iraq, the Washington Post reports. "I am loyal to him," he said. "I don't think it's necessary to go through every place that I disagree with him." As for the current situation in Iraq, Bush said the US needs to "reengage and do it in a more forceful way" to combat the "barbaric Islamic threat," the Post reports. Analysts say they're surprised at how badly Bush has fumbled a question long seen as the elephant in the room. "The question about Iraq is not an illegitimate, hypothetical question," GOP strategist Steve Schmidt tells CNN. "If you're sitting around pondering a Jeb Bush candidacy, it's the first obvious question that you have to be able to answer."