As the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approaches, Donald Trump wants the public to know one thing: his administration killed "bigger" terrorists than the one responsible for 9/11.
The former president appeared on Hugh Hewitt's radio talk show yesterday and reflected for a while at how impressed he is with his own counter-terrorism record:
"And we took out the founder of ISIS, al-Baghdadi, and then of course [Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani]. Now just so you understand, Soleimani is bigger by many, many times than Osama bin Laden. The founder of ISIS is bigger by many, many times, al-Baghdadi, than Osama bin Laden. Osama bin Laden had one hit, and it was a bad one, in New York City, the World Trade Center. But these other two guys were monsters.... The press doesn't talk about it. They don't talk about it because they don't want to talk about it."
Hours later, the Republican appeared on Fox News and pushed the same line, insisting that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was "far bigger than Osama bin Laden, far bigger."
Right off the bat, the context for such rhetoric is striking. Not only will the United States recognize the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks in two weeks, but we're also currently dealing with the painful end of the decades-long war in Afghanistan, which was launched in response to Osama bin Laden's and al Qaeda's terrorism, and which is drawing to a tragic close in part because of Trump's dubious deal with the Taliban.
It's against this backdrop that the former president did two interviews yesterday in which he eagerly downplayed bin Laden's importance, effectively telling the public, "What really matters is me and my efforts to glorify myself."
But let's also not forget that Trump has spent much of the last two decades saying deeply unfortunate things about the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The Republican has claimed, for example, that he "tried to help" at Ground Zero in New York the day of the attacks, but there's no evidence of any such efforts. In fact, on 9/11, the future president seemed principally focused on how the destruction of the Twin Towers affected his ability to boast about the height of one of his nearby properties.
Fifteen years later, as part of first presidential campaign, Trump frequently referenced the 9/11 attacks, though as the Washington Post reported at the time, "[S]everal of Trump's statements about what he witnessed that day appear to be greatly exaggerated or false."
Two years ago, the then-president delivered White House remarks claiming that he'd predicted bin Laden's rise in a book, and insinuating that 9/11 could've been prevented if only more people "would have listened" to Trump. The rhetoric was both demonstrably untrue and plainly obscene.
And yet, he just keeps going, apparently unable to help himself.