Yesterday, the libertarian Cato Institute hosted a panel discussion on conservatism and the war in Afghanistan with Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-TN). When the conversation shifted to the war in Iraq, Rohrabacher said that “once President Bush decided to go into Iraq, I thought it was a mistake because we hadn’t finished the job in Afghanistan,” but that once Bush “decided to go in,” he “felt compelled” to “back him up.” He then added that “the decision to go in, in retrospect, almost all of us think that was a horrible mistake.”
Moderator Grover Norquist then asked Rohrabacher to provide a “guesstimate percentage of Republicans in Congress who would share that view — not that they opposed the President at the time, but today looking back.” Rohrabacher replied that “everybody I know thinks it was a mistake to go in now”:
ROHRABACHER: Well, now that we know that it cost a trillion dollars and all of these years and all of these lives and all of this blood, uh, I don’t know many…
NORQUIST: Looking for a number. Two-thirds? One-third?
ROHRABACHER: I, I can’t. All I can say is the people, everybody I know thinks it was a mistake to go in now.
NORQUIST: That’s 100 percent.
Norquist then turned to McClintock, asking “what percentage”:
NORQUIST: Of Republicans in Congress, who would agree with the general analysis here that it was a mistake and/or we should go in.
MCCLINTOCK: I think everyone would agree Iraq was a mistake.
NORQUIST: Two hundred percents. Ok, we’re going to average these.
MCCLINTOCK: And, you know, again, I think virtually everyone would agree going into Afghanistan the way we did was a mistake. How many share my, my cynicism over this idea of a resolution of force, which I can’t find anywhere in the Constitution. And how many believe that in those rare cases where we go in, we put all of our resources behind our soldiers, I would say certainly more than half of the Republican caucus probably believe that.
Asked for a number by Norquist, Duncan refused to say, but shared an anecdote of how unpopular the war is politically in his conservative military district. Watch it:
McClintock wasn’t in Congress when the Iraq war was authorized. Duncan voted against the authorization of military force while Rohrabacher voted for it.