The Corner

Donald Trump’s Vaguely Negative Statements About the Iraq War from 2003

Donald Trump, on Meet the Press Sunday:

CHUCK TODD: For what it’s worth, PolitiFact has never been able to find, none of us have been able to find any instance where before the invasion, you came out against this war. Why is that?

DONALD TRUMP: Well, I did it in 2003, I said it before that. Don’t forget, I wasn’t a politician. So people didn’t write everything I said. I was a businessperson. I was, as they say, world-class businessperson. I built a great company, I employed thousands of people. So I’m not a politician. But if you look at 2003, there are articles. If you look the 2004, there are articles.

Since when does Donald Trump have a hard time getting his views heard?

In January 2003, about seven weeks before the war began, Trump did an interview with Fox News’ Neil Cavuto. He offered a word salad that can be interpreted as vague opposition to the war, ambiguous unease about it, or general contradictory incoherence:

“Well, he has either got to do something or not do something, perhaps, because perhaps shouldn’t be doing it yet and perhaps we should be waiting for the United Nations, you know. He’s under a lot of pressure. I think he’s doing a very good job. But, of course, if you look at the polls, a lot of people are getting a little tired. I think the Iraqi situation is a problem. And I think the economy is a much bigger problem as far as the president is concerned.”

In fact, there is evidence that the media did care about Trump’s opinion about Iraq in March 2003; the Washington Post’s coverage of a Vanity Fair Oscar Party, five days after the war began, offered a brief, grim assessment from the current GOP front-runner:

Donald Trump, with Amazonian beauty Melania Knauss at his side, pronounces on the war and the stock market: “If they keep fighting it the way they did today, they’re going to have a real problem.”

Looking as pensive as a “Nightline” talking head, the Donald concludes, “The war’s a mess,” before sweeping off into the crowd.

In his Meet the Press answer, Trump says, “if you look the 2004, there are articles.” Here Trump is on more solid ground; he expressed disapproval of the war in several interviews that year. Of course, by 2004, this was hardly a rare opinion; John Kerry and most of the Democratic Party were denouncing a war they had voted to authorize.

(Interestingly, some Trump fans are taking interviews of their hero from 2007 and labeling them as being from 2003.)

Meanwhile, if you need further evidence of how Trump will instantly insist he didn’t say what he just said…

Donald Trump, in Saturday night’s debate: “You call it whatever you want. I will tell you, they lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction and there were none. And they knew there were none. There were no weapons of mass destruction.”

Trump, the following morning, on Meet the Press:

CHUCK TODD: You called him a liar last night about W.M.D. and you essentially said you would have been okay had—

DONALD TRUMP: I didn’t call him a liar. I say– I said, I didn’t call anybody a liar.

Yes, he did. It’s on video. We all watched it. Chuck Todd presses Trump a bit on this:

CHUCK TODD: Well, you called Ted Cruz a liar—

DONALD TRUMP: Look, I said maybe, Chuck, I said maybe there were lies.

No, he didn’t.  He said, “they lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction and there were none. And they knew there were none.” Then he said to Cruz, “you are the single biggest liar… This guy will say anything, nasty guy.”

Trump continues:

DONALD TRUMP: Because look, the weapons of mass destruction, they said they existed, and they didn’t exist. Now it was his group that said, “There are weapons of mass destruction. That’s why we went in.” That’s why so many people got hoodwinked into going into Iraq. Then they go in there, they searched high and dry, they looked all over, there were no weapons of mass destruction. It turned out that there were absolutely not. There were no weapons of mass destruction. Now, was it a lie? I don’t know.

In what world is “hoodwinked” not a synonym for “lie”?

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