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Gov. Scott Walker has praised former President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq based on what he knew at the time, but was quoted Friday saying that, in hindsight, he views the Iraq War as a mistake.

Walker’s comments were first reported by conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post.

They represent the building blocks of a foreign policy for Walker, a likely Republican presidential contender whose foreign-policy views have, until recently, largely been a blank slate.

“Any president would have likely taken the same action (President George W.) Bush did with the information he had, even Hillary Clinton voted for it,” Walker reportedly wrote Rubin in an email. “But knowing what we know now, we should not have gone into Iraq.”

The exchange comes as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, another likely Republican presidential contender and George W. Bush’s brother, has publicly floundered in addressing the Iraq question. Jeb Bush initially said he would have supported the Iraq War, then changed course Thursday, saying he wouldn’t have gone into Iraq with the information now known.

Walker used the exchange with Rubin to praise President Bush’s decision to order the Iraq War surge, a 2007 initiative in which more than 20,000 additional U.S. troops were deployed. Walker also took the opportunity to bash the foreign policy of President Barack Obama and Clinton, a Democratic presidential candidate.

“President Bush deserves enormous credit for ordering the surge, a courageous move that worked,” Walker wrote, according to Rubin. “Unfortunately, President Obama and Secretary Clinton hastily withdrew our troops, threw away the gains of the surge, and embarked on a broader policy of pivoting away from the Middle East and leading from behind that has created chaos in the region.”

Walker recently returned from a tour of Israel, from which the press was barred, in an effort to bolster his foreign-policy credentials.

Answering the Iraq War question is a political minefield for Walker and other Republican presidential hopefuls. George W. Bush remains popular in many GOP circles, but the broader public overwhelmingly views the Iraq War as not having been worth the costs.

Walker’s Iraq answer won plaudits from Rubin, who contrasted it with Jeb Bush’s.

“With Bush’s troubles this week, Walker once again has the opportunity to present himself as a someone who can both win and govern,” Rubin wrote.


Mark Sommerhauser covers state government and politics for the Wisconsin State Journal.