Bernie Sanders came out of his meeting at the White House with the president yesterday talking, hoarsely, about the price young people paid for the terrible decision to invade Iraq. He reminded the press that he had differed with Hillary Clinton about the wisdom of that undertaking 13 years ago.
Look frankly, and we did talk about this– as you all know, I voted against the war in Iraq. And that’s a major point of difference between Secretary Clinton and myself. We both received the same information, and we came to a different conclusion. And as I mentioned to the president, I, In my small state of Vermont went to too, too many funerals of wonderful young people. And I’m very happy to tell you that in the last few years I have not gone to funerals of young men or women in our military. I think what the president is trying to do is the right thing. And what he’s trying to do is keep our young people out of a perpetual war in the the quagmire of the Middle East.
Sanders also highlighted his opposition to the war at the Democratic town hall in Iowa on Monday night, and in his hoarse speech in Mason City, IA, last night.
The Iraq war was supposed to be over years ago. But it is hanging around this year’s election. In fact, it is propelling the two leading insurgents in their respective parties, Sanders and Donald Trump. Notwithstanding Trump’s bigotry on Hispanics and Muslims, both he and Sanders are “anti-establishment” candidates who were thought to have no chance in Iowa last spring, the New York Times’s Trip Gabriel asserted to NPR’s Terry Gross yesterday. And both are mounting serious runs.
I believe that the war is having such staying power because there has never been true accountability for that decision. The establishment that brought it to us is still largely in power. Many leading politicians were for the war, as were so many of the knowledge producers. All the liberal-hawk pundits are still around– Jeffrey Goldberg attended the president’s speech last night at the Israeli Embassy. The neoconservative thinkers who dreamed it up are still all over the thinktanks and the Republican establishment.
Last week Chris Matthews went on a tear against the neoconservatives for attacking Trump. Matthews argued that all the writers behind the “Against Trump” issue of the National Review, as well as the Weekly Standard’s anti-Trump issue, were neoconservatives who had supported the Iraq War.
“These guys are all war hawks. That’s why they don’t like Trump. Because he’s the only guy on the right who says it was a stupid war, we shouldn’t have fought it. And these guys’ heart and soul is with that war…. Regime change is in their blood stream. And Trump’s saying it’s stupid for us to play that war… All these guys are hawks. And Donald Trump says no.
As Trump did in this tweet that helped knock down Jeb Bush:
FLASHBACK via @Reuters from 2004: “Donald Trump Would ‘Fire’ Bush Over Iraq Invasion” It’s called great vision.
Bill Kristol is leading the charge against Trump– and for Marco Rubio– with such hopeful tweets as this one:
Re-upping my IA prediction from yesterday: Cruz 30, Trump 25, Rubio 22, no one else above 6%.
Or this plaintive appeal:
Trump supporters:You want to send a message, defy political correctness, etc. Fine. But do you really think Trump would be a good president?
Today on NPR Jonah Goldberg said that Trump is standing in the way of the best Republican talent in a generation. He means Rubio, the neoconservative favorite– who has taken time off the presidential campaign to sponsor legislation to condemn European measures to label Israeli settlement goods as such.
Back to Sanders: last night again he cited his 2002 speech on the House floor against the Iraq War. He said it gave him no pleasure to say it was prescient. But it was. He said:
I am concerned about the problems of so-called unintended consequences. Who will govern Iraq when Saddam Hussein is removed, and what role will the US play in an ensuing civil war that could develop in that country? Will moderate governments in that region who have large Islamic fundamentalist populations be overthrown and replaced by extremists?
Extremists? Sanders can now say that the establishment that gave us the Iraq War also gave us ISIS.
And there has never been any real accountability for that horrible decision. Which is why the presidential race looks the way it does.