Republican frontrunner Donald J. Trump told the GOP debate in South Carolina on Saturday night that former President George W. Bush had “lied” about weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq.
However, as Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski noted, in Trump’s 2000 book, The America We Deserve, he said that Iraq had continued to develop WMDs and that it might be necessary to ““carry the mission to its conclusion” to stop Saddam Hussein.
Trump fans have noted The America We Deserve as evidence of his prescience in national security matters. In the same book, Trump predicted a major terrorist attack on American soil “that will make the bombing of the Trade Center [in 1993] look like kids playing with firecrackers.” His argument about the possible need to use force in Iraq also mirrors the bipartisan consensus at the time–one Democrats quickly forgot for the sake of political expediency.
Now, Trump is claiming that he opposed launching the Iraq War prior to March 2003, at least privately. He emerged as a vocal opponent of the war in 2004.
Some conservatives have pointed out that Trump’s attack on President Bush is very similar to those used by the far left. The Huffington Post notes that Code Pink–the anti-war group legendary for disrupting campaign events and congressional hearings–praised Trump’s comments at Saturday night’s debate.
It is unclear why Trump is making such strong claims about the Iraq War, and about his own past positions, which are becoming more difficult for him to substantiate. It could be a giant “flip-flop,” an attempt at obfuscation, or a tactic aimed simply at reminding voters that he represents a break with the Bush family and the GOP establishment.
Regardless, Trump is reinforcing one of his rivals’ lines of attack: that he is erratic, and not reliably conservative.