For the past week or so reporters favorite question for Republican presidential candidates is the gotcha query, “Knowing what you know now would you have authorized American forces to go into Iraq?”
Jeb Bush is still trying to clarify his initial answer to this question while Marco Rubio is being harshly criticized for his answer.
What few people are talking about is the fact that this sort of question on its face always only has one acceptable answer. Reporters don’t ask Republicans questions like this unless they’re trying to force them into uncomfortable positions.
No matter your opinion of the war in Iraq, the fact is that this is a stupid question to ask a serious contender for the White House. Face it. The history of mankind would be completely different if there was a time machine that allowed do overs in life. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all had a crystal ball that allowed us to look into the future and avoid life’s errors? Unfortunately, nothing like this exists, so human foibles result in mistakes that become part of our history.
To illustrate, imagine asking a similar question of other former leaders.
For example, here’s one for Neville Chamberlain if he were alive today.
“Prime Minister, knowing what you know now would you have trusted Adolph Hitler at Munich?”
And how about this question for Richard Nixon?
“Mr. President, knowing what you know now would you have removed the recording device from the Oval Office during your administration?”
As you can see, the possibilities are endless.
Historians have employed a similar line of thought in some of their work. For instance, books have been written exploring what might have happened had Abraham Lincoln never been born or alternatively had he never been assassinated.
To date, reporters haven’t tried playing this parlor game with Hillary Clinton. In their defense, she barely allows them to ask her what she thinks of the weather much less anything else of substance, but it’s doubtful she’d entertain this line of questioning anyway.
There are, however, lots of good questions like this she could attempt to answer.
For instance, knowing what she knows today would she have installed a private server in her residence and wiped it clean?
Knowing what she knows now, would she have handled Benghazi the way she did? Does she believe the four Americans killed might be alive today had she done anything differently?
Finally, knowing what she knows today would she still have voted to authorize the war in Iraq?
Given that Republican candidates are getting this last question, it’s remotely possible she’ll be asked this, too. Likely, however, no matter her answer it will be treated more favorably by the press than it has been for either Bush or Rubio.
Also, by then, reporters will have moved on to an entirely new line of questions that can never fairly be answered by a Republican candidate for president.