Sigh. I didn’t think we’d have to revisit this. I already addressed this in a very thorough blog post in February. But… the media keeps insisting (or, at best, insinuating) Donald Trump lied when he said he was against the Iraq War before it started.
On CNN today (June 5th), it came up:
Tapper also discussed it with Trump directly, prompting various headlines.
Before we dive into this, let’s just stop for a moment to consider how bizarre this ‘line of attack’ is. It is basically: “You didn’t support the Iraq War before it started!” vs HILLARY, who voted for and led us into the Iraq War. Huh? What’s the point of this discussion?
Let’s dive into this sucker. There are two arguments happening here:
(1) the claim (by both Hillary and the media) that Trump in fact supported the Iraq War before it started (Hillary cites the ‘audio’ and ‘tape’ of this so she means the Howard Stern interview), contrary to his claim that he was against the war before it started; and
(2) the claim that there is ‘no evidence’ that Trump opposed the Iraq War before it started.
Let’s start with the first. Is there actual evidence, as Hillary claims, of Trump supporting the Iraq War before the war started in March 2003?
The ONLY relevant material here, all parties agree, is Trump’s appearance on the Howard Stern show in on September 11, 2002, six months before the war. In it, Stern asked Trump, “Are you for invading Iraq?” and Trump answered: “Yeah, I guess so….”
THIS, kids, is what the media and Hillary have taken as “evidence” that Trump “supported” the war. (Yes, I’m scratching my head, too.)
It is no such thing.
- “Yeah, I guess so…” is NOT a statement expressing support. As someone pointed out to me on Twitter in February when I was discussing this topic, if someone asked you if you love your spouse, and you answered: “Yeah, I guess so…”, they would call a divorce attorney for you. “Yeah, I guess so….” is not at all a supportive or affirmative answer.
- Notice the date — it’s September 11th. Yup, the one-year anniversary of 9-11… and you’re in New York City, no less. Considering the “you’re either with us or with the terrorists” atmosphere at the time surrounding politics, it was considered a no-no to doubt Bush’s plans to go into Iraq (I would know firsthand — I was in NYC at the time).
- Consider the venue — it’s the Howard Stern show. This isn’t exactly McLaughlin Group — does one give a thoughtful answer re wartime policy on Howard’s show? Or just an easy “Yeah, I guess so” which is exactly what Trump gave?
(For more on this, see my original February post, showcasing tweets from Twitter users opining on the issue.)
Second, there’s the timing. The Stern interview is six months (pretty long time) before the war started. Even if, for argument’s sake, we go with “his statement on Howard Stern means he supported the war”, it’s a whopping six months earlier. A lot can happen in six months. Couldn’t a person (and many did) change their minds (whether supporting the war/then not or vice versa), say, two months later? Three months later? i.e., Isn’t it possible to be in favor of the war in September 2002 but not be in favor of it in November 2002, before the war began?
Third, if Trump did in fact “support” the war before it started, why is there no other report and no other interview (Trump was interviewed all the time, formally and informally on the street by reporters while exiting parties and events) showcasing his support? Wouldn’t there be at least one other quote out there were Trump expresses his support, in those long six months between the Stern interview and the war’s commencement in March 2003? Here, the absence of evidence is (almost) evidence itself.
Bottom line: No, there is no evidence Trump supported the Iraq War before it began. Hillary is lying.
OK, moving onto the second angle: Is the media correct that there’s no evidence out there of Trump opposing the Iraq War before it started?
Nope, they’re wrong. There IS evidence of Trump opposing the war before it started.
- In a January 2003 interview on FOX News with Neil Cavuto, the same night as Bush’s SOTU address, Trump and Cavuto are discussing the matter. This is what Trump said:
Notice his statements: “perhaps [we] shouldn’t be doing it yet”…. “perhaps we should be waiting for the United Nations”… “a lot of people are getting a little tired”…. “I think the economy is a much bigger problem [than Iraq situation].”
In my interpretation, and most reasonable folks with whom I have discussed this quote, that is indeed expressing opposition. And yes, it’s “before the war” (two months before).
2. Then there is the eyewitness testimony of those who personally recall Trump’s opposition. Sean Hannity recalls Trump “did not want us to go into Iraq. He was dead set against it.”
In a court of law, we would consider this witness testimony “evidence.”
3. There is the timing-of-his-opposition-statements. The war officially started on March 19th, 2003. On March 25, 2003, the Washington Post runs into Trump at a Vanity Fair party. He is quoted as saying the war is “a mess.” Would have felt the same way a week EARLIER, i.e., BEFORE the war started? Otherwise, the theory is that a person would support the war the week of March 18th but suddenly be against it a week later?!!! That makes no sense! Trump’s remark at the Vanity Fair party, the same week the war started (!), is proof he must’ve opposed it in the immediate days, at the very least, leading up to the war, too!
So there you have it! There is (a) no evidence Trump supported the war before it started, and (b) there IS evidence that Trump was against the war before it started, just as he said.
Sorry, Hillary! Sorry, media! You’re proven wrong. And Trump is right, yet again.