Saturday night’s GOP debate, hosted by CBS News, was an anarchic and raucous event that put even the previous Republican clown shows to shame. With the stakes higher for the six men remaining on stage — though not sure why Ben Carson even bothered to show — the candidates dropped any slight pretense of treating this as a serious debate and just started flinging shit at each other.
Encouraged by a crowd stocked full of establishment Republicans who still see his brother Dubya as the man who kept us safe against THE TERRORISMS, Jeb! had his best night yet as he felt emboldened to go toe to toe with Donald Trump, his longtime tormentor. Meanwhile, The Donald took it on the chin with the hostile audience due to his committing a fatal flaw — telling the absolute truth when it comes to 9/11 and the run-up to the Iraq War.
Now, ever since the celebrity billionaire jumped into the race, one of his favorite lines has been that he was one of the first people who was against the Iraq War. (A claim, it appears, that is pure fantasy, as there is no record of him coming out against it before 2004, when public opinion started shifting.) This in itself isn’t that controversial within the GOP as many Republicans are willing to concede that the war was a mistake.
However, even while allowing for that, most conservatives buy the notion that George W. Bush acted honorably at the time. They believe that he truly thought there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that there were ties between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, thus the need to invade Iraq in 2003. On top of that, they do not personally blame Dubya for the terror attacks on 9/11 — despite evidence showing he ignored intelligence warnings — while also holding true to the belief that Bush ‘kept us safe’ in the aftermath of the World Trade Center coming down.
This has essentially been Republican doctrine. Even while Bush’ approval ratings tanked as the Iraq War turned into a quagmire and the economy collapsed, and he disappeared from public view after leaving office, GOPers still won’t cross the line and call out Dubya for 9/11 happening on his watch. Or claiming that he knew there were no WMDs in Iraq but still went to war.
Therefore, even though Trump has completely flouted convention and done whatever the fuck he wants — and it has worked — it is wholly surprising that he went the “Bush Lied, People Died” route on Saturday night. Perhaps flustered by the biased crowd and an emboldened Jeb, Trump got into a tense exchange with the Smart Bush that ended with him being booed mercilessly.
After moderator John Dickerson asked Trump a question regarding a comment he made in the past when he said Dubya should have been impeached, Donald said that the administration lied about weapons of mass destruction. He reiterated that George W. Bush knew Iraq had nothing but he went in anyway, straight up accusing the administration of being war criminals. Jeb responded by saying Dubya was keeping America safe while Trump was building his reality show.
Of course, this only led to Trump continuing his Michael Moore impression, saying we weren’t safe because the Twin Towers came down during his brother’s watch. He also highlighted that Bush ignored warnings from the CIA leading up to the attacks, implying that the administration may have allowed the World Trade Center to come down, maybe. Y’know, just saying. It was almost like Trump watched Fahrenheit 9/11 before the debate.
The thing is, Trump really didn’t say anything that wasn’t untrue, for maybe the first time this campaign. Yet, this is the bridge too far for Republicans. While there are differences within the party regarding approaches on national security and foreign policy, they have all bought into the bullshit lie that the Iraq War was done for honorable reasons and George W. Bush KEPT US SAFE. They aren’t looking for someone to step on stage and tell them Santa Claus isn’t real.
Sure, they love him when he’s calling Mexicans rapists. When he says he saw thousands of Muslims dancing in the streets of New Jersey, they have his back. When he’s calling for the ban of all Muslims from entering this country, they’ll follow him to the ends of the earth. Megyn Kelly is a menstruating bitch? Absolutely! But don’t tell us a Republican didn’t keep us safe after 9/11. That line can’t be crossed.