Yes, that actually was the front-runner for the Republican party’s presidential nomination shouting about how “Bush lied, people died” and praising the good works of Planned Parenthood and sneering at unnamed big fat cat donors during last Saturday’s debate. The same day’s death of Justice Antonin Scalia and all the resulting politics got most of the conservative media attention, which is appropriate, but it surely is also worth noting that the once-Grand Old Party is threatening to go Code Pink.
Not even self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the abortion-loving foe of big fat cat donors and all-around far-left-wing kook who is currently the front-runner for the Democratic party’s presidential nomination, bothers with that “Bush lied, people died” nonsense anymore. Perhaps that’s because he’d rather not let his opponent, former First Lady and Senator and Secretary and long-presumed First Woman President of the United States Hillary Clinton, off the hook for voting in favor of the war as Senator, even if he’s willing to let her off the hook for facilitating a premature withdrawal from a pacified Iraq as Secretary of State, which is the smart way to play a Democratic primary, but we’ll give him some begrudging credit for avoiding that losing argument. To hear it shouted so loudly at a Republican debate, though, and by the front-runner, at that, is something hard to explain.
Even if you’re not satisfied by the sarin-tipped rockets and other chemical weapons that were found in Iraq, or discount the many plausible accounts of more weapons being shipped to Syria, and conveniently forget the many other persuasive casus belli offered for the Iraq war, and assume that an absence of more widely publicized evidence is evidence of absence, an allegation that any president knowingly lied to the American people about non-existent weapons of mass destruction to launch a war for still unstated reasons carries a burden a proof. One would have to explain why such a diabolical president would launch a war on a pretext he knew would be exposed, or why such a diabolical president wouldn’t plant some evidence to cover his crime, which shouldn’t have been too hard after recruiting the intelligence agencies of every American ally in Europe and the Middle East to bolster his made-up claims, not to mention getting all those inspectors from the United Nations to say they had their own suspicions about what was going on in Iraq, and we’d like to think it’s still hard to make that case to a majority of Republican primary voters.
Especially in South Carolina, a state where the Republican primary includes many proud veterans of the Iraq War and a lot of people who still prefer the president that is being accused of treason to the one that is being left off the hook for squandering the victory those proud veterans won. Especially when you’re Donald J. Trump, a foul-mouthed real-estate-and-gambling-and-reality-television mogul and proud adulterer and good friend of the Clintons and you’re shouting about all the good works that Planned Parenthood does, and a lot of stout South Carolina Christians are voting in the state’s primary and they’re not likely to be reassured his boast that “I drink my little win, have my little cracker” and is therefore good with God. They might like the part about fat cat donors, which as always plays well everywhere, the implied free speech concerns notwithstanding, but the fact that Trump also routinely boasts about being a fat cat donor himself might undercut that message once he goes up against Sanders.
Which makes us doubt the explanation that Trump is once again making a brilliant maneuver. Even one of the putatively conservative right-wing talk radio hosts was speculating that Trump figures he’s already got the Republican nomination wrapped up and is already positioning himself to appeal to the general electorate, which is apparently so boiling angry that it’s hell-bent on one conspiracy-theorizing kook or another, and our once-reliable host didn’t seem to mind the possibility that our kook might even be kooky enough to put California and New York into play. Even if Bush is still more unpopular than even Obama we’re not sure that the Republicans could ever win a most kookiest candidate contest against the Democrats, and try as we might we can’t see Trump winning over any of those basement-dwelling Sanders kids or Hillary’s abortion-loving old ladies or those Code Pink commies, but in any case we’d rather play another game with a conservative candidate against whatever left-wing or far-left-wing candidates the Democrats wind up with. Trump might find a few disaffected Democrats in the open-primary state of South Carolina who are only Democrats because their Confederate great-great-grandpappies were, and with the anti-Trump field still split too many ways they might be enough to give him another victory to boast about, but starting the play-offs before the regular season is over is always a risky strategy.
Our best guess is that Trump really believes that “Bush lied, people died” nonsense, and he really believes that if he’d been president the terror attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon never would have happened and that nothing bad will ever happen if he is the president, and he even believes all that “birther” stuff about Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and President Barack Obama and all the other weird conspiracies he talks about with the lunatic Alex Jones’ on the “Infowars” show that he visits, and that he’s the kind of guy who responds to the kind of criticism that he got in that debate by spouting off baseless allegations of treason at a more honorable man than himself and yelling “liar” at people more honest than himself. At least he fights, his enchanted supporters will always insist.
It seems to be working, we glumly admit, but we even more glumly wonder what he’s fighting for. If beating a self-described socialist and full blown kook or a thoroughly corrupt and incompetent felon requires shouting “Bush lied, people died” and ignoring the lessons of Obama’s withdrawal and indirectly funding all the not-so-wonderful stuff Planned Parenthood does and jettisoning the First Amendment to deal with all those fat cat donors not named Donald J. Trump, then we’re not all sure it’s worth doing.
— Bud Norman