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Marco Rubio vs. Chris Wallace on Iraq

Sen. Marco Rubio’s interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday was supposedly a disaster for the GOP presidential candidate.

“Marco Rubio Struggles With Question on Iraq War,” declared the New York Times; “Marco Rubio gets his comeuppance: How his Fox News interview on Iraq went disastrously wrong,” crowed Salon; “The Florida senator has a difficult time answering questions on whether the war was justified,” judges Bloomberg Politics.

Bloomberg Politics went so far as to use a surgically edited video clip that cuts off just as Rubio was about to begin his substantive answer, transcribing only the “confusing and telling” back-and-forth preceding the answer in the text of their article. This is an important hint that Rubio’s performance wasn’t as bad as these sources claim. They wouldn’t snip a full minute of him talking, if that minute wasn’t unhelpful to the “Rubio is Toast” narrative they’re trying to write. (And it’s not just about Rubio, or Jeb Bush before him: The media very much wants to create an Iraqi Hindsight House of Horrors that will devour every Republican candidacy.)

Watch the full segment, with Rubio’s actual answer to the question posed by Wallace:

Is it really necessary to deconstruct the first part of this encounter for America’s political pundits? The segment is “confusing” because Wallace spends so much time arguing with Rubio instead of letting him talk. He has a “difficult time answering the question” because he can’t finish a sentence. He wants that “Iraq was a mistake” sound bite, and he’s unwilling to let the senator finish a single sentence until he gets it.

Let me know when someone grills Hillary Clinton on whether Libya was a mistake and interrupts every third syllable she chokes out. Does anyone think she’d fare remotely as well as Marco Rubio does here?

If one wishes to knock a few points off Rubio’s grade because he lets Wallace keep up this ridiculous argument about the meaning of the word “mistake” and cling to this idiotic talking point about 20/20 hindsight over Rubio’s attempt to explain there’s no such thing, fair enough—but that’s not why he’s getting thumbs-down from a media that won’t settle for anything less than an anguished plea for Iraq absolution from Republicans. I look forward to watching Democrats subjected to the same brow-beating over whether Barack Obama’s foreign and domestic policies were disasters we wouldn’t have allowed with the benefit of perfect hindsight.

Once Wallace finally simmered down and allowed Rubio to answer the question, this was the senator’s answer:

It was not a mistake for the president to go into Iraq based on the information he was provided as president. Today, we know that if the president had known that there were no weapons of mass destruction at the time, you still would have had to deal with Saddam Hussein, but the process would have been different. I doubt very seriously if the president would have gotten, for example, Congressional approval to move forward for an invasion had they known there were no weapons of mass destruction. That does not mean he made the wrong decision, because at the time he was presented with intelligence that said there are weapons of mass destruction…”

At this point, Wallace tried to interrupt Rubio yet again, but this time Rubio kept going.

“…He wasn’t dealing with a Nobel Peace Prize winner. He was dealing with Saddam Hussein. And he made the right decision based on the information he had at that time. We’ve learned subsequently that that information was wrong, and my answer was that at the time, if it would have been apparent that the intelligence was wrong, I don’t think George Bush would have moved forward on the invasion, and he certainly wouldn’t have had Congressional approval.

But presidents don’t have the benefit of hindsight. You have to make difficult decisions based on the information that’s before you at that moment.

Remember, liberals spent years spinning wild conspiracy theories about how the Bush administration faked all those intelligence reports, relying heavily upon the fabrications of serial liars Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame. They can’t quite come out and say that now, because it makes them sound like loons, so they settle for hounding Rubio based on the unspoken rule that he can’t claim Bush and his supporters made a valid decision based on mistaken or incomplete intelligence, presented to them in good faith.

One of those supporters was, of course, Hillary Clinton. She’s supposed to get a pass because the evil super-villain George W. Bush, who is both incredibly stupid and diabolically clever, hoodwinked or hypnotized her into supporting the war. Again, her adoring media fans can’t come right out and say that, so they’ll settle for never, ever treating her the way Rubio gets treated in this interview. She won’t be expected to account for her vote, or her contemporaneous statements in support of it—she can just dump some anti-Bush boilerplate and move on.

It would be fun to watch Democrats get this kind of combative interview treatment, wouldn’t it? It’s more like an interrogation than an interview, since only one answer was acceptable, and everything else was gabbled down.

Here, let me get you media hacks warmed up for Hillary Clinton in case she ever emerges from her bunker for anything except a staged lunch-counter photo-op with a pack of Democrat Party activists and Planned Parenthood employees disguised as average ordinary citizens: “Mrs. Clinton, if you knew then what you know now about the degeneration of Libya into a bloody chaos of warlords and terrorist gangs, into which ISIS would expand, and from which a gigantic humanitarian refugee crisis would emerge, leaving countless men, women, and children to drown in the Mediterranean on their way to Europe, would you agree that your Libya invasion was a hideous mistake? Would you have been less vigorous in pressing President Obama to conduct that invasion, if you knew a U.S. Ambassador would be killed on your watch in Benghazi?”

Be sure to do exactly what Wallace does to Rubio here and interrupt Clinton a thousand times whenever she tries to explain that no one can see the future, decisions must be made with the best intelligence available at the time, we don’t know what horrors Moammar Qaddafi might have wrought if he were left in power, and so forth.

As a bonus question, hard-hitting journalists, ask Mrs. Clinton where she thinks the Libyan nuclear program might have been during her Secretary of State tenure, if the fall of Saddam Hussein hadn’t terrorized Qaddafi into abandoning his own plans. You’ve all convinced yourselves to forget about that, haven’t you?

If the point of all this “what if you had a time machine?” stuff is to suss out how the candidates would deal with comparable situations in the future, well, that question can be asked in the current context. “You have been told with a high degree of confidence, by both U.S. and allied agencies, that ISIS has an active nuclear program. They’re defying numerous U.N. resolutions and refuse to allow required weapons inspections. What do you do?”

Is the correct answer really supposed to be, “I would do nothing, because I’d be paralyzed with indecision. Also, who knows if my successor will be an irresponsible Democrat who throws all our gains away? It’s better to wait a few years, so I can answer with perfect hindsight!”

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