Trump gives GOP permission to rethink Iraq invasion

730x420-048f1adc344f45d573846b0b156dcc10-1

In a GOP debate over the weekend, Donald Trump strongly attacked the national security record of President George W. Bush, blaming him for not preventing the attacks of Sept. 11 and for lying us into a disastrous war in Iraq that has unsettled the entire Middle East.

Making such statements just before the Republican primary in South Carolina, a state with strong military ties, is quite a risk, and has once again inspired that familiar refrain of “This time, Trump went too far.”

“Everything we know about political strategy suggests that Trump’s decision to attack George W. Bush will backfire,” Curt Anderson, a GOP strategist, told Politico after the debate. “If it doesn’t backfire, then it will be official; nothing can stop him.”

So we have two questions, one about the accuracy of Trump’s attack and a second about its political consequences.

We’ve been over this ground before, and I’ll say what I always say: I’ve never been comfortable blaming Bush for 9/11. Even if he had understood the gravity of the threat and acted upon the warnings that he received, a lot of things would have had to go right to prevent those attacks from occurring.  I’m not willing to dump the moral responsibility of more than 3,000 deaths on to anybody based on sheer conjecture.

However, it is simply untrue that “he kept us safe.” He did not. Those towers did come down. Those people did die. You can’t simply pretend those things did not happen.

The invasion of Iraq is a different question entirely. It cost us more than 4,000 American lives and the lives of tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and it disrupted the entire Middle East, with ramifications that will echo for decades. And for that decision — the single worst foreign policy decision in American history — Bush will always bear moral responsibility. He launched a poorly conceived war of choice, and compounded that mistake by conducting that war incompetently. I don’t know how history will reach any other conclusion.

And speaking of history, there is no evidence whatsoever that Trump warned “loud and strong” against the Iraq invasion beforehand, as he claimed again in Saturday’s debate. There is no record of him doing so, and when he speaks, he’s usually quite good at making sure there’s a record of it. It simply did not happen. If he thought that at the time, he lacked the guts to say it publicly.

But back to 2016, and back to politics.

A majority of Americans now accept that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. Even Jeb Bush acknowledged it was a mistake earlier in this campaign. I also think it’s safe to say that a lot of those who still nominally back the war do so out more out of a sense of party or tribal loyalty than out of an honest cost-benefit analysis, because frankly, the benefit side of that equation is non-existent. They still say they back the war because they just don’t want to admit that the other side was right, because that’s how we humans do such things. But I suspect that in most cases it is not a strongly held belief.

With his barrage on Saturday night, Trump gave those voters an opportunity to reduce the cognitive dissonance and come to grips with what happened. They weren’t being asked by some liberal, politically correct Democrat to betray their conservative tribe. This was Trump, giving them permission as conservatives to admit the truth to themselves. More importantly, this was Trump, telling them that to continue to back the war at this late date is akin to backing the Bush wing of the party, the establishment, the insiders, the people to whom previous acts of loyalty have not been rewarded.

I don’t know how well that offer is going to be received in South Carolina. But I’m fascinated to find out.

 

 

Reader Comments 0

535 comments
Julie Yael Sender
Julie Yael Sender

Idiots...can't you see it...Trump can never put cause on the Clintons! Because he is practically in bed with them. He's only running to put the Clintons back in the white house! Look at the polls for GE. Rubio to Clinton... Rubio wins by over 4%, Ted Cruz wins by like 2% ,and Trump? He LOSES by 4% or more...most likely it will be more...especially if Clinton chooses Sanders! (which she already mentioned she would do). This is EXACTLY what Dump wants to happen!!!! Trump is NOT for the American people, he's for himself (and the Clintons). Time to start using your brain people. DO NOT fall for this lying bigots pathetic "plans".

Jan Swann Hilton
Jan Swann Hilton

I'm no Trump supporter--not by a long shot. Reading comprehension is fundamental.

Julie Yael Sender
Julie Yael Sender

You've got to the kidding me!! 9/11 happened just months after he was in office. You really think the MUSLIMS weren't planning this for YEARS???! What a naive trump supporter thing to say!!! 9/11 may have happened during bush, but it was planned during Clinton!! Clinton could've stopped it.

Julie Yael Sender
Julie Yael Sender

Everytime Trump opens his mouth digs him deeper in the hole and gives me 1 more reason to NOT support him. to think there was a time when I considered he would be good....that time is gone!

Christy Noullet
Christy Noullet

Terrible things happen all the time. The only ones to blame here are the terrorists.

Richard Lindsay
Richard Lindsay

I think Jeb was the only one he didn't call a liar. I guess that means something. But he did call him weak. I thought Jeb stayed classy.

Guy Bailey
Guy Bailey

Fair, balanced and moderate piece Jay. People won't like that...

Rob McNeil
Rob McNeil

Bush was personally involved and so was Jeb.. FBI warned Bush about the attack, weeks before it happened.. people dont forget 9/11 just because Politicians want to

Jan Swann Hilton
Jan Swann Hilton

Just like a broken clock is still right twice a day, Trump is correct on this one. JEB!'s claim about his president brother keeping the U.S. safe is farcical. JEB! can try to spin it any way he wishes, but 9/11/01 happened when GWB was president and 3000+ died.

J.r. Ransom DynastyEnt
J.r. Ransom DynastyEnt

I don't blame Bush, but when Jeb is out there selling that, "my brother kept us safe" bs as though 9/11 didn't happen on his watch is what gets me. I applaud Trump for calling out that bs.

Al Effendi
Al Effendi

The only people who truly could have prevented 9/11 were the scumbags who hijacked the planes. But it happened on Bush's watch, and he ignored warnings. This idea of not killing Bin Laden is just stupid. It's Bush/Cheney's choices afterwards that seal Bush's well-deserved place in history as the Worst President Ever. Fabricating excuses to go to war with the wrong country, and causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands while ruining both our relationships with the rest of the world and our economy were just two of GWB's many disastrous accomplishments.

Alyssa Baker
Alyssa Baker

Bush armed the terrorists because they played victim in their country then tried to take it over and Obama did too. Bush also mentioned a terrorist attack about 9/11 before it happened

lvg
lvg

Crazies are now running the asylum over at the GOP looney house with Trump and Cruz fighting over who gets to hold the keys. Two ex-presidents and Obama can't get the asylum under control . Nice to see that Cruz and tea heads and anarchy caucus have finally launched all out attack on all three brancehs of federal government to totally gum up the works and make a mess of US system of governance. Can't wait to see all out fight between two leading crazies- Cruz and Trump as they destroy whatever vestiges of sanity remain inthe Grand Old Party. Maybe Rinse Peanuts will bring in Clint Eastwood to help him restore order like last time.

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

So the 4 guys avoid being felons which in turn allows them to own a gun and to vote.

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

@rimsky @BuckeyeGa I wouldn't presume that.  but this shows how some people are disenfranchised while others are giving a slap on the wrist..these thugs avoided being labeled and treated as thugs.

jeffcamaro
jeffcamaro

Isn't this whole thing fascinating?  More so than the Gore-Bush thing in 2000, that was the most interesting time period in presidential race history.  Think of the differences caused by those 500 votes in Palm County.  Changed the direction of the country and the world.  500 votes.


rimsky
rimsky

@jeffcamaro We went from pent house to sh!te house by 500 votes.  Amazing.

tireOfIt
tireOfIt

Senator McConnell must do his duty under the Constitution. To do otherwise dishonors the late Justice Scalia.

rimsky
rimsky

@tireOfIt Senator MM will do whatever he pleases.  If he dishonered a sitting president, he can dishonor a dead guy.

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

CNN is showing all of the candidates participate in a townhall tonight and tomorrow.  MSNBC is only having Trump hosted by Morning Trump I mean Morning Joe.

Peachs
Peachs

CNN did the same thing when it was MSNBC's turn to host, have two hours of nothing but Trump. This is a blatant money grap. There is no subtle lip service anymore, it is like homeless at a free buffet.

ByteMe
ByteMe

Full CNN/ORC poll results

The economy is rated the top issue by 42% of likely Democratic caucusgoers, and which candidate would better handle it seems a central division in the race.

Overall, Clinton holds broad advantages as more trusted on foreign policy, race relations, immigration and health care, but likely caucusgoers are split 48% for Clinton and 47% for Sanders on the economy. Among those likely caucusgoers who call the economy their top issue in choosing a candidate, more support Sanders: 52% back him vs. 43% for Clinton.

When asked who would do more to help the middle class, Sanders narrowly tops Clinton among all likely caucusgoers, 50% to 47%. Likely caucusgoers are also split on which candidate best represents Democratic values, 50% say Clinton does, 49% Sanders.

As was the case in Iowa, Sanders' support rests partly on those who are not regular participants in the caucus process, and turnout could play a role in whether the results reflect this close a race on Saturday.

Clinton fares better among those who say they are definitely going to participate in the caucus, as well as among those who say they have regularly participated in the past. Newer voters are more likely to back Sanders, as are those a bit less certain they'll show up on Saturday.

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

@ByteMe from what I understand it's hard to poll people in states that caucus.   People often change their votes.

Peachs
Peachs

These polls are spitting in the wind! In Nevada the recession was so bad there ,the campaigns can't find up to one million people who lost houses,that voted Democrat last presidential election.

Peachs
Peachs

They don't know who to poll. This generation of older people can't keep up, yet Sanders can, it is remarkable to watch. Even the networks are antiquated.

Peachs
Peachs

Sanders is picking up minor black endorsement in the south. I wonder if young people care. These establishment people have been so weak at getting people to the polls,that it leave a ton of flyover country for Sanders to organize.

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

@Peachs Sanders has been doing well with black endorsements, that's one of the reasons Clinton is everywhere pandering for the black vote..

Peachs
Peachs

And why would Sanders have a problem with black votes, his appeal is more suited for them that anyone in this election. You think there might be some monetary incentives from the establishment?

rimsky
rimsky

@Peachs Bernie had a good crowd in Atlanta (Morehouse) last night.

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

@Peachs I never said Sanders is having a problem, my point was actually the opposite.  Sanders has been doing well with black endorsements hence Clinton had to step up her game.  Besides breaking up the banks, Sanders need to promote his other ideas.

ByteMe
ByteMe

@rimsky Anecdotal evidence from reporters there indicates they were largely "undecideds".  Asking for their vote is one step, getting them to vote at all is another.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

Sometimes Atrios just nails it so perfectly that I have to post it here in its entirety without further comment except to say he nails it perfectly, in a perfect way, the nailing. Which is perfect.

http://www.eschatonblog.com/2016/02/marco-rubio-will-be-real-winner-of.html


The blatant cheerleading for Rubio by our supposedly "objective" press has been one of the funniest things about this primary season. I don't really get it, as he just seems to be horrible. Not horrible because he's conservative and I don't like conservatives, but horrible because he's just a horribly inept candidate. I'm not just talking about the theatre criticism, though our press corps loves theatre criticism so they should be aware that he's horrible in that sense, but he just seems to be stupid and silly and horrible and just the worst. Did I mention I hate Rubio? I hate Rubio.

Peachs
Peachs

I agree! He have no resume to be running. The right have woke up too late, to realize they are going to have a liberal candidate. We were licking our chops to get them in the general, while Trump just stepped into their silly primary and beat us to the kill.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex


@Peachs 

You may be correct. If nothing else, though, Trump's enduring popularity drives home what's been clear to me for quite awhile, that ideology and issues mean little to a big percentage of the Republican base. It's mostly about swagger and the ability to act like a credible bully.

Peachs
Peachs

They infliltrated our churches, really damaged our brand and now realized that won't work and have thrown the church to the curb. They trade the church for a winner..

ByteMe
ByteMe

One of those funny random thoughts that I wake up with:


Will President Trump demand an HOA fee paid to Trump Enterprises for us to live here?

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@ByteMe

it'll be a beyootiful subdivision, this America, that he's making Great again.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

Obama on the tube

Ever notice that it's the rightie regulars who are most likely to be tuned in to watch the President's every utterance and breathlessly report them here in real time?

I can't remember the last time I actually watched a Preznidentshul Presser live on the TeeVee myself.