It’s not every day that anti-war groups find themselves cheering on leading Republican presidential candidates. But, then again, this hasn’t been a presidential campaign that’s stuck to the script.
The morning after he called the Iraq War a huge misstep and argued that President George W. Bush lied to get the country into it, Donald Trump has earned praise from, of all places, Code Pink, the group best known for protesting the Iraq War and subsequent military interventions.
“I watched the debate last night and LOVED IT,” Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin said in an email. “It felt surreal to hear Donald Trump, the leading Republican contender for President, saying what we at CODEPINK have been shouting to the winds for 14 years now: that Bush and his cronies lied about WMDs, that the Iraq war was catastrophic, and that Bush never 'kept us safe' because 9/11 happened on his watch.”
"A 'big, fat mistake,' indeed," Benjamin continued. "Trump even talked bout the cost of war and how the trillions we wasted on war could have been used to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure -- a theme we have been harping on all these years with a campaign called 'bring our war dollars home.' It was wild."
Trump has not been shy about expressing his opposition to the Iraq War. In fact, he usually overstates it -- fudging the dates that he started vocalizing his opposition to make it seem like he foretold how badly it would go. But during Saturday night’s debate, he took it a step further, directly accusing the Bush administration of concocting the case that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction for the purposes of invading the country.
As Jonathan Chait at New York magazine noted, this is not a theory usually uttered by Republicans -- let alone the party’s leading presidential candidates. It’s liberal critics of the war who more often argue that it was founded on a deliberate deception.
“Trump's words on the Iraq War will certainly enlarge the public space for a more critical inquiry of why we went there, why we stayed, and why even those who voted against the war continued to fund it while saying they opposed it,” former Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) told The Huffington Post on Sunday morning.
Kucinich, who introduced articles of impeachment against Bush over Iraq, said he was heartened to hear what Trump said on Saturday. “It is healthy for Iraq opposition and reassessment be bipartisan. Ron Paul and Walter Jones kept up opposition to the war in the House,” he said.
Trump has, to this point, defied basically every supposition that his campaign would fall apart after a heretical comment he's made. And so it seems foolish to think that his criticism of the Iraq War will doom him in South Carolina -- a state where he currently enjoys a comfortable lead in the polls.
Still, it is "wild" to see him echoing the arguments that anti-war activists pushed during the Bush administration while also leading the GOP presidential primary. Even those anti-war activists are having trouble fathoming their new, strange bedfellow.
“Honestly, on this issue, Trump has gone farther than even Bernie Sanders. It was great. I'm not sure it will win him any votes, though. He certainly won't win over the anti-war crowd with his Islamophobia and anti-immigrant tirades. But on this issue, I'd give him a Pink Badge of Courage,” Benjamin said. “I only wish that the bed was as YUGE as Trump's bank account. Most of the country should fit in that bed.”