The Iraq Question Conservative Candidates Need to Get RIGHT!

by Andrew C. McCarthy, for National Review:

I spent about 20 years getting people ready to answer questions from tough and even hostile inquisitors. It is what trial lawyers do. I can thus attest that over-preparing a witness can be worse than failing to prepare the witness at all. Ironically, this is especially so with a smart witness

A person of merely average intelligence is apt to follow advice. A seasoned lawyer can quickly demonstrate how foolish he can be made to look if he doesn’t listen carefully to the questions, or if he readily accepts a loaded question’s premise. The smart guy who radiates self-confidence is often a different story. He outsmarts himself. He thinks, “What would I ask me?” Worse, he manages to hear the question that he calculates should be asked, which is not always the question that is actually asked. When he is over-prepared — when he and his handlers have pored over his vulnerabilities and meticulously scripted what he will say when grilled about them — the smart guy will give the scripted answer. It can end up sounding dumb, even smarmy, if he has the question wrong.

I think that’s what happened to Jeb Bush when he was asked about Iraq by Fox News’s Megyn Kelly this week.

There has been head-scratching in the commentariat. Jeb is a very successful politician and much more at ease with the press than the other successful politicians in his famous political family. So how could someone that bright and able be unprepared for the inevitable question about his brother’s momentous decision to oust Saddam Hussein? But I don’t think that was the problem. I think he was too prepared . . . and because he is now candidate Jeb Bush rather than policy wonk Jeb Bush, we got the scripted campaign answer rather than the thoughtful one.

Governor Bush knows that the war in Iraq has proved to be a catastrophe. He knows his last name guarantees he will be questioned about it. He knows his opposition, if he gets the GOP nomination, is likely to be Hillary Clinton. Being a smart guy, he anticipates that he will be asked whether President Bush should have invaded Iraq — after all, when not writing checks to the Clinton Foundation, eminences of the left-leaning media will want to put him in the uncomfortable position of criticizing his brother.


The Iraq Question Conservatives Need to Do a Better Job Answering | National Review Online

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