During tonight’s Republican debate, Donald Trump was challenged by the moderators with words he spoke nearly a decade ago. Trump, it was noted, had told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that he wished then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, had pushed to impeach George W. Bush for his handling of the Iraq War.
The exchange arose thanks to Jeb Bush’s plan to bring his brother onto the campaign trail in South Carolina this week. (George W. Bush remains popular among Republicans.) It spurred one of the most energetic debates of the night.
But the moderators were correct about Trump’s past statements. That interview with Blitzer was in October 2008.
“When [Pelosi] first got in and was named speaker,” Trump said to Blitzer then, “I met her. And I’m very impressed by her. I think she’s a very impressive person, I like her a lot.”
“But I was surprised that she didn’t do more in terms of Bush and going after Bush,” he continued. “It just seemed like she was really going to look to impeach Bush and get him out of office. Which personally I think would have been a wonderful thing.”
Blitzer interjected: “To impeach him?”
“For the war,” Trump replied. “For the war! Well, he lied! He got us into the war with lies!”
Remarkably, Trump then went on to compare Bush unfavorably with Bill Clinton. “I mean, look at the trouble Bill Clinton got into with something that was totally unimportant,” Trump said, referring to the Monica Lewinsky investigation. “And they tried to impeach him, which was nonsense. And yet Bush got us into this horrible war with lies, by lying. By saying they had WMDs, by saying all sorts of things that happened not to be true.”
That was perhaps Trump’s strongest language on the topic, but the year prior he had equally harsh words for the former president.
Again, talking to Blitzer, Trump blasted Bush. “The war is a total catastrophe,” Trump said. Who do you blame?, Blitzer asked. “There’s only one person you can blame,” Trump replied, “and that’s our current president.”
He lumped in Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, too, and lamented that Condoleezza Rice never closed deals. “I don’t know if they’re bad people,” Trump said. “I don’t know what’s going on. I just know they got us into a mess the likes of which this country has probably never seen. It’s one of the great catastrophes of all time.”
Blitzer asked how the United States could get out of the war.
“How do they get out? They get out!,” Trump said. “Declare victory and leave. … The day we leave anyway, it will all blow up.”
Then he re-directed his fire at Bush. “President Bush says he’s religious. And yet 400,000 people, the way I count it, have died.” He continued: “Everything in Washington has been a lie. Weapons of mass destruction was a total lie.” An example of a lie? “[Bush] reads a book a week,” Trump said. “Do you think the president reads a book a week? I don’t think so.”
By the way, Trump raised other issues in that 2008 interview with Blitzer. For example, he referred to a couple of friends of his.
“Hillary’s a great friend of mine,” Trump said, referring to the front-runner for the Democratic nomination. “Her husband’s a great friend of mine.”
In the same interview where he called for Bush’s impeachment, he summed up his opinion on the Clintons: “They’re fantastic people.”
(C) 2016, The Washington Post · Philip Bump