Questioning Donald Trump Is Like Arguing with a Toddler
Obama "was the founder of ISIS, absolutely," Trump said, according to a transcript. "The way he removed our troops — We shouldn't have gone in. I was against the war in Iraq ... We shouldn't have been in Iraq. I would not have been in Iraq if I was president, but that mistake was made; it was one of the worst mistakes in the history of our country. We destabilized the Middle East. We've been paying the price for it for years."
(It is not true that Trump opposed the war in Iraq.)
He continued: "He was the founder of ISIS and so was [Hillary]. I call them co-founders.... Because of the way he got out.... He shouldn't have gotten out the way he got out. It was a disaster what he did. Is there something wrong with saying that? Are people complaining that I said he was the founder of ISIS? All I do is tell the truth. I am a truth teller."
Radio host Hugh Hewitt got Trump to commit to that view even more strongly.
HEWITT: Last night, you said the president was the founder of ISIS. I know what you meant. You meant that he created the vacuum; he lost the peace.There was no "Right, I was making a point" or "I misspoke" in that. Trump said that, no, he really meant that Obama had founded the Islamic State and that Trump had to "disagree" when Hewitt said that wasn't the case. (Do we need to point out at this late hour that, of course, Obama didn't found the Islamic State? Well, he of course didn't.)
TRUMP: No, I meant he’s the founder of ISIS. I do. He was the most valuable player. I give him the Most Valuable Player Award. I give her, too, by the way, Hillary Clinton.
HEWITT: But he’s not sympathetic to them. He hates them. He’s trying to kill them.
TRUMP: I don’t care. He was the founder. His, the way he got out of Iraq was that that was the founding of ISIS, okay? ...
HEWITT: I know what you’re arguing …
TRUMP: You’re not, and let me ask you, do you not like that?
HEWITT: I don’t. I think I would say they created, they lost the peace. They created the Libyan vacuum, they created the vacuum into which ISIS came, but they didn’t create ISIS. That’s what I would say.
TRUMP: Well, I disagree.
On Friday morning, at long last, Trump explained his rationale.
Ratings challenged @CNN reports so seriously that I call President Obama (and Clinton) "the founder" of ISIS, & MVP. THEY DON'T GET SARCASM?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 12, 2016
And furthermore, his position on Iraq has been every incoherent:
But lost in Trump’s immediate comments is that, for years, he pushed passionately and forcefully for the same immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq.
In interview after interview in the later 2000s, Trump said American forces should be removed from Iraq.
“First, I’d get out of Iraq right now,” Trump said to British GQ in a 2008 interview. “And by the way, I am the greatest hawk who ever lived, a far greater hawk even than Bush. I am the most militant military human being who ever lived. I’d rebuild our military arsenal, and make sure we had the finest weapons in the world. Because countries such as Russia have no respect for us, they laugh at us. Look at what happened in Georgia, a place we were supposed to be protecting.”
Later, Trump said he wished Arizona Sen. John McCain, whom he was backing in the election, had supported pulling troops out of Iraq faster. “I wish he would promise to get us out of Iraq faster,” said Trump. “I am not in love with that aspect of what he represents.”
Those comments echoed similar remarks in March 2007 when he said forces should be immediately withdrawn from Iraq.
“You know how they get out? They get out,” Trump said to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “That’s how they get out. Declare victory and leave, because I’ll tell you, this country is just going to get further bogged down. They’re in a civil war over there, Wolf. There’s nothing that we’re going to be able to do with a civil war. They are in a major civil war.”
Speaking with Howard Stern in October of that year, Trump said McCain’s support for keeping troops in Iraq was costing him the Republican nomination.
“Anybody who stays in Iraq — look at what happened to McCain — he want to show how tough he is, he’s sunk, immediately, and that’s with the Republicans.”
By late 2011, Trump notoriously began saying the U.S. should take Iraq’s oil before withdrawing. Trump also told CNN’s Piers Morgan in February of that year he would get of troops in Iraq “out real fast.”
By 2016, he completely adopted the conservative critique of the Iraq withdrawal.