Donald Trump went after a Bush on Saturday night in South Carolina: George W. Bush.
Trump repeatedly attacked Bush’s handling of the Iraq War, said the Bush administration of lied about weapons of mass destruction, said that the line that Bush “kept us safe” doesn’t hold true because of 9/11 (an attack he’s made before), and obliquely defended comments he made years ago that impeaching Bush for Iraq would be a good thing.
The exchange began when CBS News moderator John Dickerson repeated comments that Trump made to Wolf Blitzer in 2008 that he was surprised Nancy Pelosi had not moved to impeach Bush and that it would have been a “wonderful thing.” Did he still think Bush should be impeached, Dickerson asked, as the crowd booed.
“I get along with everybody, which is my obligation to my company, to myself, et cetera,” he said. “Obviously, the war in Iraq was a big, fat mistake. All right. Now, you can take it any way you want, and it took — it took Jeb Bush — if you remember at the beginning of his announcement, when he announced for president, it took him five days. He went back, it was a mistake, it wasn't a mistake. It took him five days before his people told him what to say, and he ultimately said, ‘It was a mistake.’ The war in Iraq, we spent $2 trillion, thousands of lives, we don't even have it. Iran has taken over Iraq with the second largest oil reserves in the world. Obviously, it was a mistake.”
“George Bush made a mistake,” he went on. “We can make mistakes. But that one was a beauty. We should have never been in Iraq. We have destabilized the Middle East.”
Then Dickerson asked again — did he still he should be impeached?
“You do whatever you want,” Trump said, sharply, as the crowd booed. “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 has repeatedly attacked the Iraq War over the past year, using it as a sign of his own good judgment that he opposed it and a sign of the way U.S. foreign policy has been mismanaged. (One problem: There is no record of Trump opposing the Iraq War before it started.) The politics of that in the Republican Party have changed over the last decade: Many of the candidates have been to varying degrees critical of the Iraq War, though Republican candidates are less often critical of George W. Bush himself, who is more popular with Republicans than he was when he left office.
Jeb Bush, playing to a friendly audience, responded to Trump, saying “I’m sick and tired of Barack Obama blaming my brother for all of the problems that he's had. And, frankly, I could care less about the insults that Donald Trump gives to me,” going on an extended riff about his family.
“The World Trade Center came down during your brother's reign. Remember that,” Trump interjected. “That's not keeping us safe.”
Jeb Bush ignored the line, and continued on, ultimately finishing, “This is not about my family or his family. This is about the South Carolina families that need someone to be the commander in chief that can lead. I’m that person.”
John Kasich, then observed that the whole thing was crazy — to laughs from the audience — before saying, essentially, that we shouldn't have gone to Iraq.