Republicans’ verbal gyrations over the Iraq War should not be dismissed as the usual rhetorical jabberwocky of an election season. Their stumblings and justifications provide an important window into a larger, crucial story. They reveal that Movement Conservatives remain rooted in a worldview that has been outdated for so long it is now delusional.
The tempest began in a teapot when Fox News’s Megyn Kelly asked Jeb Bush whether he would have gone into Iraq knowing what we know now. Bush said yes, defending the 2003 invasion that more than 70% of Americans now think was a mistake. This answer prompted astonished observers to wonder how he could have fumbled so badly. Within days, Bush stammered first to the suggestion that he had misheard the question, and then concluded that he would, in fact, have opposed the operation altogether.
But Bush’s first answer was not an error. It revealed his continuing loyalty to a series of principles to which he actually put his name in 1997. With those principles, a group of elite white men set out to revive the Cold War world that had given men like them control of the rest of humanity. Those principles dictated the Iraq War, and — although they are completely obsolete — they still animate Movement Conservatives.