Donald Trump’s views on Iraq have long been at odds with Republican Party orthodoxy. The GOP candidate, for example, has said more than once that he believes the Bush/Cheney administration “lied” about weapons of mass destruction. Trump also likes to say he opposed the U.S. invasion from the start – a claim that’s patently false.
But the presumptive 2016 Republican nominee also appears to be the only politician in America who’s willing to publicly praise Saddam Hussein.
Donald Trump praised former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein Tuesday night, allowing that he was a “really bad guy” but had redeeming qualities when it came to his handling of terrorists.Trump lauded the former U.S. adversary for how “well” he killed terrorists, recalling that he “didn’t read them the rights, they didn’t talk. They were terrorists, over.”
Oh. So in Trump’s mind, Hussein may have been “bad,” but Trump is nevertheless impressed by the efficiency with which the Butcher of Baghdad massacred people without regard for due process.
Let’s also note that the Republican’s praise is at odds with reality. As the New York Times’ report noted, Trump’s recollections of Saddam Hussein thwarting terrorists “are not grounded in fact. While Mr. Hussein’s interests were not aligned with jihadists … Iraq was listed as a state sponsor of terrorism by the State Department before the 2003 invasion. In the 1980s, Mr. Hussein fired scud missiles at Israel and used chemical weapons on tens of thousands of Iraqis.”
If Trump’s admiration for Saddam Hussein’s policies seems familiar, it’s because last night wasn’t the first time the GOP candidate praised the Iraqi dictator, though as defenses go, I’m not sure it helps his case to say, “Donald Trump keeps expressing admiration for Hussein.”
But as remarkable as it is to have an American presidential candidate publicly complimenting Saddam Hussein over and over again, there’s also the broader pattern of Trump praising authoritarian regimes.
I’m reminded of something Hillary Clinton said in a speech last month:
“I have to say, I don’t understand Donald’s bizarre fascination with dictators and strongmen who have no love for America. He praised China for the Tiananmen Square massacre; he said it showed strength. He said, ‘You’ve got to give Kim Jong Un credit’ for taking over North Korea – something he did by murdering everyone he saw as a threat, including his own uncle, which Donald described gleefully, like he was recapping an action movie. And he said if he were grading Vladimir Putin as a leader, he’d give him an A.“Now, I’ll leave it to the psychiatrists to explain his affection for tyrants.”
I take Clinton’s point, but perhaps it’s best not to leave this to the psychiatrists. Rather, it may be worthwhile for all of us – voters, journalists, officials in the political arena – to come to terms with Donald J. Trump and his frequent admiration for authoritarian regimes.
As of last night, it seemed some conservatives weren’t altogether pleased with the GOP candidate’s judgment. John Podhoretz, for example, responded to Trump’s praise of Hussein by saying the presumptive 2016 nominee is “f—ing insane,” while Amanda Carpenter, a former aide to Ted Cruz, added, “Seriously. How do you screw up messaging Hillary’s ‘extreme carelessness’ by praising Saddam freaking Hussein”?