When John Bolton left his job as national security adviser — President Trump says he fired him, Bolton says he quit — the secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, weighed in. “The president’s view on the Iraq War and Ambassador Bolton’s was very different,” he said. Yes, they were very different.
Trump’s view has long been that George W. Bush & Co. lied the country into war. He said so in one of the Republican primary debates, during the 2016 cycle: “I want to tell you, they lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction. There were none. And they knew there were none.”
This is a charge of high treason, of course. It is hard to think of anything more damnable than lying your country into war.
Trump made the same charge in 2008, talking with Wolf Blitzer on television:
Blitzer: “Nancy Pelosi, the speaker?”
Trump: “Well, you know, when she first got in and was named speaker, 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. It was almost — it just seemed like she was going to really look to impeach Bush and get him out of office, which, personally, I think would have been a wonderful thing.”
Blitzer: “Impeaching him?”
Trump: “Absolutely, for the war, for the war.”
Blitzer: “Because of the conduct of the war.”
Trump: “Well, he lied. He got us into the war with lies. And, I mean, look at the trouble Bill Clinton got into with something that was totally unimportant. And they tried to impeach him, which was nonsense. [N.B. “They” did impeach him.] And yet, Bush got us into this horrible war with lies, by lying, by saying they had weapons of mass destruction, by saying all sorts of things that turned out not to be true.”
Blitzer: “Their argument is, they weren’t lying, that that was the intelligence that he was presented, and it was not as if he was just lying about it.”
Trump: “I don’t believe that.”
Strange as it may be to hear, the current president of the United States — a hero of the Republican party and the conservative movement — has the same view of the Bush administration and the Iraq War as the hard Left. As Code Pink, for example. George W. Bush has virtually no defenders among Republicans and conservatives today (and therefore no defenders). If they exist, they are very quiet. It may not always be this way, however. And the argument over the Iraq War — the interpretation of the Iraq War: its beginnings, its fighting, its end — is very important.
Trump was very hot for the impeachment of Bush. Indeed, it was the one thing he faulted Pelosi for (not impeaching). He speaks about impeachment in a different way now. Earlier this year, he was asked about the prospect that Pelosi & Co. would impeach him. He answered, “I don’t see how they can because they’re possibly allowed, although I can’t imagine the courts allowing it. I’ve never gone into it. I never thought that would even be possible to be using that word. To me, it’s a dirty word — the word ‘impeach.’ It’s a dirty, filthy, disgusting word.”
Politicians are nothing if not flexible, even an outsider like Donald J. Trump.