I just saw Donald Trump who said that he turned on the television and saw Hillary barking. He would not, he assured his audience to laughter, replicate it. Funny stuff aside, if Bernie keeps raising money and making inroads among nonwhites, she is likely to go sharply negative.
In New Hampshire, Hillary lost, Trump won, both big time. Trump, who is less threatened than Hillary, goes negative nonetheless. In his grand strategy, he has his eye on November, so he already tries to distance himself from the Republican Party by his frontal assault on the Bush family. But he went way too far. Now, he needs to get the discussion back to how 9/11 happened, and turn the dialogue to less about Bush and more about Hillary. Trump is, after all, running for the Republican nomination.
There is a range of opinion on the Iraq War, and Donald Trump has crossed a line from which he ought to turn back. In his rhetoric he has gone beyond questioning the judgment and competence of former President George W. Bush. Trump aims to be the standard bearer of the Republican Party, but he has questioned the integrity and good faith of the party’s most recent president. Trump even flirted with the leftist notion that Bush should have been impeached.
Viewed by the extreme Left, the war was an exercise in conspiracy. Big Business and the Military Industrial Complex colluded with Big Oil.
Contrary to J.A. Hobson and Karl Marx, capitalism does not require perpetual war for prosperity; actually, the opposite is true — war misallocates resources and impairs organic economic growth. Imperialism is not a consequence of capitalist economies using military might to conquer nations for raw materials. Instead, it is a corollary to an ideology of expansionist collectivism, such as communism or Nazism. A democratic republic is unlikely to initiate war if it follows constitutional safeguards. Finally, if the goal of the Iraq War were oil, it would have been easier (and less costly) to buy it.
We turn to former Marxist and New Left intellectual Ron Radosh for insights from his analysis on Donald Trump’s observations on 9/11. Mr. Radosh has been on the side of freedom for more than a generation, but he was a member of the Communist Party and is well qualified to dissect the Left. With the provocative title “Is Donald Trump a Leftist In Disguise?”Radosh sees Trump as “a man closer to the far Left and the Democratic Party than he is to any conservative or Republican.” Does Trump believe he can seduce hardcore leftists into supporting him, to compensate for the erosion in the Republican base that if he continues this way, by the general election, might find him unacceptable and too much of a gamble?
In contrast to Radosh, David Horowitz, also once a major domo of the Left, and now a good guy, writes that while Trump is a “recklessly ill-informed” candidate whose “misreading of the Iraq War is a serious political fault,” Trump’s statements are “the result of ignorance rather than malice against his country.”
Leftist Van Jones on CNN expressed astonishment that Trump, a candidate in the Republican primary, attacked Republican George W. Bush for 9/11 and the Iraq War, but not Democrat Bill Clinton (for passing up at least one opportunity to kill Osama bin Laden and thus prevent 9/11) or Democrat Barack Obama (for squandering the post-surge Iraq he inherited and thus enabling ISIS).
Instead, Trump did not even mention Clinton or Obama, but solely excoriated former President George W. Bush, and not simply for the “mistake” of the Iraq War but for lying. Reasonable people disagree about the wisdom of that war, but only the extreme Left sees a conspiracy with Bush as liar. Well, not quite: there are the Pat Buchanan inspired paleoconservatives at The American Conservative [sic] who see Bush as a liar, in service to the Jews in America and Israel. Never mind that American Jews were among the least supportive of the war, and that Israel’s concern was with Iran, not Iraq. As America’s ally, Israel backed the U.S. but was hardly enthused about what Trump retrospectively and accurately calls an intervention that “destabilized the whole area.”
Incredibly, Trump has suggested that President Bush knowingly deceived the American people. If I were Trump, I would not want the praise of Code Pink’sMedea Benjamin (“Trump has gone farther than Sanders”) and so many other leftists with whom Trump, as Radosh notes, now has in common the refrain, “Bush lied, People died.” These are either people who would never support any U.S. military action, anywhere, anytime, or they now, at least implicitly, sympathize with the Islamo-Fascists, just like they sympathized with the Communists. That’s what Bernie Sanders did when he was known as a “Sandernista” for his support of the Communists in Central America. These folks praising Trump are not what we used to call “Reagan Democrats” or the “silent majority” that could be part of any Trump coalition.
David Horowitz explains that Saddam was able to hide weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) such as sarin gas–filled rockets in buried stage tanks now in the possession of ISIS. But even without that datum, many Congressional Democrats were privy to the same intelligence information available to the president and other foreign leaders who supported the war, information that exaggerated the magnitude of the WMDs threat. Some of the intelligence reflected intercepted communications within Saddam’s hierarchy that falsely inflated WMD capability and inventories. We had the same problem in the former Soviet Union, in which communist operatives touted dubious economic and military data for their own self-promotion. Consider another regime where good news was a career booster, and the bearer of bad news might be demoted, or worse — Egypt under Gamal Abdel Nasser. For example, during the start of the 1967 Six Day War, no one would tell Egyptian leader Nasser that Israel had destroyed his air force.
Trump is wrong on the facts of how President Bush made his decision or, as Horowitz suggests, he does not know the facts. Certainly, “W” was not a liar. As Peter Wehner noted, Bush relied on the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) as well as his daily intelligence briefings. Bush pressed CIA director George Tenet who famously said the reliability was a “slam dunk.” Intelligence agencies from other countries had independently concluded that Saddam had inventories of different WMDs, and even that they were operational or easily so.
Wehner says Trump is a “menace” who is “unhinged,” the term Trump has applied to Cruz, who also is a “basket case.” It is one thing for the candidates to trade insults and call each other liars. It is quite another for Trump or anyone else to give credence to the Far Left in its historical revisionism on the origins of the Iraq War. Whether Trump is hurting himself politically in the short term remains to be seen in the results in South Carolina. But he could have made some of the same points without assaulting George W. Bush’s character. Trump needs to calibrate. It is reasonable to challenge Jeb as a convenient proxy, to demonstrate that he, Trump, would be, among the candidates, the best commander in chief because he, Trump, is strong and decisive. So, it’s okay for Trump to say: “It’s not about keeping us safer after 9/11. It’s about keeping us safe before 9/11.” You don’t have to be a conspirator to legitimately question why the U.S. did not pick up on the signals that a 9/11 was coming. And questioning whether the Iraq War served the self-interest of the United States is reasonable.
If Horowitz is correct, and it’s simply ignorance, then Trump should get advisers who can brief him on 9/11. We are reduced, though, for discussing the politics of it all. Trump knows that in chess you can’t take back moves. But he doesn’t always deliberate sufficiently before making his political move. He is not known to have political advisers who tell the boss what he needs to hear, rather than what he wants to hear. In his political operation, Trump does not suffer fools or dissenters. Otherwise, Trump would not have skipped the Fox debate, and he would have had the required “ground game” in Iowa, and he might have won. And he needs to walk back his character assassination of George W. Bush. Already, Trump has said that “others” raised the possibility of Bush’s impeachment, that he did not advocate it.
If Trump keeps on his present course of bashing Bush and Cruz, the benefactor would have been Marco Rubio, except that now he is in the “liar’ colloquys. And if Trump keeps catering to the bottom feeders of the Left, he will eventually disillusion even his Republican base.
Trump would do well not to further erode the Republican Party’s brand. It could become his. People already in the club feel it still has redemptive qualities, and Trump aims to lead the party. As has been the case for a long time, Trump behaves not like the leader among the primary candidates, but as someone desperate. Trump is, by nature, a risk-taker, but he does not grasp the unknown cumulative effect of rhetorical, even repugnant excess. He can’t keep exposing the Republican electorate to allergens, because voters may at some point reach a threshold, with a reaction.
Trump realizes that his populist message resonates with certain voters who would otherwise not vote Republican. He aims to make it socially acceptable for them by not merely “self-funding” his rebellion against the Establishment, but proving his bona fides by a frontal assault on the family of the last two Republican presidents. This evidently is part of Trump’s grand plan for November.
As a matter of strategy, this gambit of taking on the Bushes is quite brilliant, but he could have done so without going overboard, or shall we say, waterboarding. The other candidates and prominent elected Republicans did not properly defend George W. Bush, except for Marco Rubio who at least spoke up. Trump may belittle Sen. Lindsey Graham who, after Saturday, now telegraphs he would not support Trump in a general election. But the way Trump attacked George W. Bush has crossed a line, and he needs to pull back before he, Trump, self-destructs.
Trump can still have the proverbial cake and eat it too. He can explain how Bill Clinton blew it — how Clinton’s Justice Department prosecuted the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 as a civilian crime, rather than a terrorist act, and how Clinton was AWOL when it came to killing bin Laden. Then he can put Hillary on the defensive. And he also can fault George W. Bush for ignoring intelligence warnings about a major attack by bin Laden. All that is fair game.
The background to 9/11 is covered in the controversial, accurate, and critically acclaimed ABC docudrama, The Path to 9/11 written by Cyrus Nowrasteh. This dramatic and engrossing miniseries is aptly subtitled, “the years that led up to it, everything that might have prevented it.” It aired in on the attack’s fifth anniversary in 2006. The miniseries traces the origins to the Clinton years. Fair and even-handed, it points fingers at both the Clinton and Bush administrations. That’s what Trump needed to do, and must do now. Disney owns ABC, and the Clintons — then looking toward Hillary’s 2008 campaign, pressured the liberals who run ABC’s parent corporation to abandon plans for DVD distribution. For years, Disney has not relented and the superb dramatic history of 9/11… the DVD, remains censored, as if it were pornography.
There is a graceful way that Trump can turn back the clock from what he did in the Charleston debate on Saturday, and his continued over-the-top attacks that offend even some of his supporters. Trump would do well to turn the 9/11 attack now against the Clintons; Bill Clinton for too long has been given a free pass on 9/11. Trump can highlight the 9/11 issues in a positive way that clearly separates him from the “losers” — the “stupid” people who are “incompetent” and running our government.
In short, Trump can redeem himself and make everyone (except Hillary and Lindsey Graham) happy by following my counsel: Buy the rights to The Path to 9/11 DVD and distribute it. Sell the DVD, and give the proceeds to the vets. Or buy time and put it on the air. Do something.
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