Trumping himself: Has the Donald gone too far in calling Iraq war ‘a big fat mistake’?

Republican U.S. presidential candidate former Governor Jeb Bush (rear) walks past rival candidate businessman Donald Trump © Jonathan Ernst
Donald Trump seems to be playing for a general election candidacy and is completely breaking Reagan’s 11th Commandment, which says that one should never speak ill of fellow Republicans, says Ted Rall, American political author and cartoonist.

The six GOP candidates for president clashed Saturday in a final debate ahead of the crucial February 20 South Carolina primary. Frontrunner Donald Trump had a series of fierce exchanges with his rivals, during which he accused George W Bush of “not keeping America safe” by failing to prevent the 9/11 attacks and called the Iraq War “a big fat mistake” that “destabilized the Middle East.”

RT: From relations with Russia to the war on terror - Donald Trump's position is in stark contrast to the rest of the Republican camp. How is Trump able to garner so much support from the party's voters?

Ted Rall: It really is remarkable. Trump is completely breaking the idea that the Republican commandment that was enunciated by Ronald Reagan – that one should never criticize a fellow Republican, in this case President George W. Bush who invaded Iraq, and all the Republicans on stage who supported the war and support militarism in general. Trump seems to be playing for a general election candidacy. If he is the Republican nominee, this will help him to run against Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton, whoever is the Democratic nominee in the fall. I don’t even know if this is something that you can even say is a tactic or a strategy, as much as just something he is trying out. It didn’t play very well in the audience in South Carolina. But the real audience is on television. It remains to be seen how the vast majority of the American people, who do believe, according to the polls, that the Iraq War was a mistake, will take this. It may be that Iraq is just isn’t going to be a major issue this year.

RT: In compote contrast with other Republicans on that debating panel, Donald Trump seems friendly to Russia. Why is there such a contrast?

TR: I think he is more of a realist. This is a businessman, someone who has had a lot of international dealings around the world, including in Russia. He recognizes the fact that, for example, in Syria Russia has taken a decisive role in combating the Islamic State. The US has been more dithering and has even done more harm than good by – in some cases – backing radical jihadists. He even floated the idea of possibly working with Iran, which is something that he has sort of skirted recently. It seems that he is more of an international realist and he doesn’t need a lot of preconditions to talk to other countries and other rivals of the US including Russia.

RT: Trump is certainly a successful businessman and entertainer, but does he really have what it takes to run the White House?

TR: Yes, that is the question that everyone in the US and possibly around the world is increasingly having to ask. He has been asked what he would do, and his answer seems to be: “Well, I don’t really know, but I’ll hire really great people and figure it out, if I get in.” I don’t know if that is enough, but that is what he is offering.

RT: There's still plenty of time left before the Republicans choose a candidate to run against the Democratic nominee for the presidency. What sort of tactics could be used to take down Trump before the Republican National Convention in July, if you think they don’t want him to be the candidate for their party?

TR: At this point, the Republican Party does not have the super-delegate system that the Democratic Party is using to try to stymie Bernie Sanders’ insurgency against Hillary Clinton. But what the Republicans could do is try to broker in advance a coalition between his rivals so that they are not dividing up the anti-Trump vote. Right now, Trump is running about 44 percent in national polls. So obviously 44 per cent is not 51 percent. If two or three of these primary rivals were to agree to drop out and endorse one of the remaining ones for example, one of the stronger ones, like, for example, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, or Marco Rubio from Florida, then you could see a scenario, in which Trump could be stymied possibly before the Republican convention.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.