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Candidates vs. Journos: Marco Rubio and the War in Iraq

Candidates vs. Journos: Marco Rubio and the War in Iraq

When is a flip, not a flip?

I can’t be the only one who has absolutely had it with campaign theatre—especially when it pops up during media interviews with presidential candidates.

Yesterday on Fox News Sunday, anchor Chris Wallace went full tilt-a-whirl on presidential hopeful Marco Rubio over some alleged “flip-flopping” on George W. Bush’s decision to enter Iraq back in 2003. The issue itself is obviously fair game, but Wallace took things a step further by pressing the Senator on his answers to two separate-yet-equally-important questions: Was the war in Iraq a mistake? And, if you had known that there were no WMDs, would you have been in favor of the Iraqi invasion?

Except Wallace presented them as the same question. It didn’t go well.


(Real Clear Politics has the full transcript of this segment, which you can read here.)

…what the hell did I just watch?

This is a case of an interviewer really, really, really wanting to expose a flip-flop in the beliefs of a candidate who is growing in popularity. Let’s just focus on the content of the interview as-aired by Fox: we have two snippets from two separate broadcasts where Rubio addressed the Iraqi invasion. We’re not given any context, or extended audio—just two different questions.

(Even Wallace changed his mind halfway through the interview—hang out at about the 1:30 mark—about what the question posed to Rubio in the first clip meant.)

You can see in the video (at around the 10 second mark) the full context of the question posed to Rubio during the Council of Foreign Relations Q&A. Here’s the full context of the back-and-forth from Rubio’s appearance on The Five:

JULIE ROGINSKY, “The Five” SHOW GUEST CO-HOST: My question about that Senator, that’s a good point. But, we went into Iraq over a decade ago, and Iraq was a great counterweight to Iran, back when Saddam Hussein was there, that guy he was. So won’t you think having gone into Iraq, we’re these that empower Iran to then, be able to have that’s sphere of influence which that they did not have before we went in there in the first place. Was it a mistake to go to war to Iraq?

RUBIO: No, I don’t believe —


RUBIO: The world is a better place because Saddam Hussein does not in Iraq. Here’s what I think might have happened, had we not gone. And you might had an arms race to put Iraq in Iran, they are both would purse the weapon. I will be dealing with two problems, not just one. We forget that Iraq, at the time of the invasion, was an open defiance of numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions, that the United Nations refused to enforce. They were, they were, they were refused to comply with allowing inspectors in. Repeatedly, this was a country whose leader had gassed his own people on numerous occasions. So I think, Hindsight is always 20/20, but we don’t know what the world would look like if Saddam Hussein was still there. But I doubt it would look better in terms of — it will be worst — or we are just bad for different reasons. I think it’s very difficult to predict, I think — a better notion is, at the end of the Iraq war, Iraq had an opportunity to have a stable, peaceful future.

Amazing what a little creative clipping can do. Igor Bobic said it best:

The phrasing of questions posed to Rubio is key. On Wednesday, he was asked the same question that tripped up Jeb Bush — whether he would have given the order to invade, even if he knew that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. But in March, he was asked whether he believed the war was a mistake, full stop. That gave him some room to essentially say that, while he wouldn’t have gone to war under similar circumstances, he’s ultimately glad we did.

(Follow the link and note the Bobic still doesn’t believe this puts Rubio on top of the issue; I don’t either, but for different reasons.)

Interviews like this are what put presidential politics fully through the looking glass. Anyone who watched this interview without the full context of those two questions probably (and was probably meant to) came to the conclusion that Chris Wallace, Truth Teller©, just smacked the crap out of Marco Rubio, Bumbling Idiot©. It’s good TV, but it’s terrible journalism. Real, effective journalism doesn’t have to prime the pump by planting the dirtbag seed before the question is asked, and that’s what Wallace and his editors did here.

This really has nothing to do with Marco Rubio. I’d be just as annoyed if Wallace had done this to Rick Perry, or Carly Fiorina, or Ted Cruz, because at the end of the day all the media is doing here is spinning a web of crazy for the right to fight over and the left to exploit.

I like Marco Rubio. I’ve dipped my toe in the tank and tested the water; but I still have questions about his experience and his capacity to handle the role of Leader of the Free World—and I’m 100% sure I’m not the only one in that position.

Unless journos like Chris Wallace hop off the merry mixer, they’re not going to be the ones helping voters answer those questions.


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Not A Member of Any Organized Political | May 18, 2015 at 12:46 pm


Is that the new corporate name for ABC?

Oh my. Chris Wallace sux. Hard. Bilge water. I watched, I turned away. Now, I’m going to vote for Rubio.

    That confirms my suspicions about Wallace.
    It also is an excellent demonstration of a Republican candidate not putting up with crap from a journalist with an agenda. Rubio, in my mind, rose a great deal by this exchange.

    Rewind back several years when Wallace asked Congresswoman Michele Bachmann “Are you a flake?”

    Wallace is the Liberal anchor doing the RINOs bidding. Roger Ailes is himself a known RINO who had FoxNews push Romney through two presidential primaries & the 2012 presidential election.

    He uses conservative talent to have an audience.

    Bill O’Reilly is pretty much his proxy.

Humphrey's Executor | May 18, 2015 at 1:00 pm

Is there a statute of limitations on Monday-morning quarterbacking?

I worry when the media drives the narrative. It really does not matter who the candidate is, if that candidate is not in favor, the media will discredit and declare them unelectable. This is no longer looking for the best candidate for the Country, this is my team against yours. The Country is not the benficiary of media driven politics, the media benefits. The money flows to the candidates who spend it on media buys. The circle remains unbroken. As long as people watch, advertisers buy, candidates buy, the dollars pour into the media outlets. The money then collects in the hands of a selct few media moguls. The canidates are but the face of a contrived controversy, the money is the object.

Repeat every two years.

“Assuming that President Bush had perfect information…?

That really is the form of the question, and NOBODY should stand for someone…anyone…to play that bogus game.

NOBODY…EVER…has perfect information. How much gasoline would you buy today if you had perfect information, and could KNOW that the price would be lower tomorrow? You buy gas today because you need it, and have no good information it WILL be cheaper tomorrow.

    Skookum in reply to Ragspierre. | May 18, 2015 at 4:12 pm

    Exactly right. A wise ‘Ican presidential candidate would refuse to play the game. Instead, he’d educate the electorate on how decisions are made.

How does “If you had known that there were no WMDs, would you have been in favor of the Iraqi invasion?” rate as an important question? The congressional resolution for the Iraq War listed many justifications. More than a decade later it seems irrelevant to second guess whether one reason out of many would have been all that important, especially given that WMDs and elements of a program to develop more were found in Iraq.

That Fox News is playing this irrelevant game is troubling.

    Sammy Finkelman in reply to Skookum. | May 18, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    The problem is there actually were WMDs, as I said in the other thread, and not onlky that, but they injured some American troops. Ansd the U.S government bought them in secret. What theer wasn’t was very much weaponized chemical weapons, and this was a possibility Bush had considered. But Saddam wanted him to think he had them to deter an invasion, which he thought couldn’t happen after Turkey double-crossed the United States.

    And the nuclear program was pretty much what everybody thought – in mothballs. But that was only becvause of the threat and reality of U.S. bombing, the no fly-zone and sanctions.

    Sammy Finkelman in reply to Skookum. | May 18, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    The possible WMDs were the strongest justification under international “law”

    Bush’s real reason was because Saddam was wicked, ambitious and reckless,like Iran and North Korea, and Sept 11th showed everybody possibilities we hadn’t thought of before, and well…

    Iraq was easier to take care of than Iran.

      Every single Republican candidate should start walking around with the military reports that stated exactly when, where and what type of WMDs were found in Iraq.

      When asked “If you had known that there were no WMDs, would you have been in favor of the Iraqi invasion?” the answer should be as follows:

      Well (Mr. or Mrs. interviewer), we KNOW for a fact that there WERE WMDs in Iraq, so the premise of your question is false to begin with. Here’s the reports of the military men who located, identified and disabled them, and the times, dates and amounts that were found. Perhaps you’ve been fed bad information by your colleagues in the press.

      If you would like to ask a more specific question regarding the exact nature of those found Weapons of Mass Destruction, I would be happy to engage in theoretical evaluation of what I would have decided, but to suggest that there were NO WMDs in Iraq is both factually incorrect and misleading to your viewers.

      THAT answer should get some people talking and it would finally put the low information morons that keep droning “there were no WMDs in Iraq, there were no WMDs in Iraq…” in their place.

      The KEY though is to have that report RIGHT THERE and be able to reference it without having to think about it, and make it seem like the most natural response in the world.

      Challenge the premise, and the Media narrative often collapses.

“Knowing what you know now, would you still have been for the invasion of Iraq?”

“You mean knowing that the country could go on to elect as president an America-hating Islamo-phile who would abandon Iraq to the terrorists? Yes, I would still be for the invasion. We WON that war. Iraq became a killing field for al Qaeda. They flooded in from around the world to fight and we wiped them out, an amazingly positive result. If we could have a do-over, I would make it the election of Barack Hussein Obama. That’s where our country screwed up.”

It’s not a hard question guys!

How about ask Hillary Clinton – Knowing what you know now about Ramadi,Iraq, would you have opposed Pres Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq?

Sammy Finkelman | May 18, 2015 at 2:45 pm

Thjat’sa good point Rubio makes: We can’t automatically assume Saddam Hussein would have continued to be contained in the 12 years following 2003 as well as he was in the 12 years preceding it.

And anyway what is this – you want a cruel dictatorship?

Chris Wallace: IF your Pappy Mike hadn’t gotcha a broadcast job, would you still be living in his (RIP) basement??

History ISN’T made up of “IFs”, you ignorant schmuck. It’s mental masturbation and revisionist manure.

I don’t understand why these guys don’t point out that George Bush or the invasion didn’t empower Iran. Barack Obama has and is empowering Iran. And if you listened carefully in 2008 Barack Obama was promising to do exactly that.

Proof? In 2010 Obama declared Iraq a success. Biden went on Larry King to announce that Iraq would be one of the greatest achievements of this administration.

Of course, the achievement had nothing to do with his administration and all to do with George Bush’s. They were willing to take credit for it, naturally. But that was five years ago and too early in their misadministration for their magic touch to bear fruit. What we are seeing now is entirely their achievement, the predictable result of their disastrous, willfully ignorant policies.

Some of their other achievements? Yemen. They actually refuse to stop calling Yemen a success. And of course Libya. If these reporters are now so in love with dictators because they provide counterweights, then it was a huge mistake to launch an illegal war in Libya to oust the dictator who was the only counterweight to the Islamists. Now, Libya is a terrorist playground.

And this isn’t 20-20 hindsight. As I said earlier, if you listened carefully Barack Obama promised to do this in 2008.