After some hemming and hawing, Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio said that, even with the benefit of hindsight, the Iraq invasion was not a mistake.
“He was dealing with Saddam Hussein,” the Florida senator said on Fox's Fox News Sunday, referring to former President George W. Bush. “The world is a better place because Saddam Hussein is not there.”
The answer followed a long and confusing exchange, rife with interruptions, during which host Chris Wallace asked Rubio if the Florida Senator had changed his answer on Iraq. Wallace referenced Rubio's prior comments about Hussein with his Wednesday appearance on Charlie Rose, when he said that, knowing what we know now, he would not have authorized the invasion of Iraq. Rubio maintained that the seemingly contradictory answers did not constitute a flip.
"No, they're two different questions,"Rubio said. "It was not a mistake."
What followed next, was a confusing and telling exchange that showed how difficult the Iraq invasion has proven for some GOP presidential candidates to handle. Here's how it reads, according to the network's transcript:
WALLACE: Senator, isn't that a flip? Six weeks ago, it made sense to invade Iraq in 2003. Now you say it was a mistake.
RUBIO: No, they're two different questions. It was not a mistake. The president, based on -- this is the way the real world works. The president, based on the information that was provided to him...
WALLACE: But she was saying based on the information...
RUBIO: Yes, but, please…
RUBIO: No, no, but, look, there's two different...
WALLACE: She was saying based on the inf -- what we know now.
RUBIO: Well, based on what we know now, a lot of things -- based on what we know now, I wouldn't have, you know, thought Manny Pacquiao was going to beat in that, in that fight a couple of weeks ago.
The exchange is not any easier to follow on video:
It's the same question that tripped up Rubio's friend and possible nomination rival former Florida Governor Jeb Bush over the past week. Bush was asked last week on Fox News's The Kelly File if, knowing what he knows now, he would have authorized the war. Bush said yes, based on the information that was available at the time, then later said he had misheard the question, and had answered as if he had been asked to put himself in his brother's position at the time. Over the course of the week, Bush went from refusing to answer the question, which he deemed a hypothetical, to eventually telling reporters on Thursday that he would not have gone into Iraq.