Following Saturday’s GOP debate, establishment conservative talking heads have rounded on front runner Donald Trump, in yet another effort to derail his campaign.
During the debate Trump returned to criticism of former President George W. Bush, saying the 43rd president lied about Iraqi WMD, and illegally took the country to war after failing to stop the 9/11 attacks.
Trump’s words did not sit well with those with influence on the right.
Talk show host Mark Levin labeled Trump a “radical kook”:
“Donald Trump attacked George W. Bush, not because of his liberal domestic policies, not because he expanded Medicare, not because he was weak on the First Amendment. Not because of those things… expanded the government, increased the debt, was for comprehensive immigration reform. ” Levin stated.
“But the fact that he attacked George Bush as a commander-in-chief. Not because he disagreed with him. He attacked him as a liar who knew there were not weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and said he was responsible for 9/11 and he was responsible for those towers coming down.” Levin added.
“Ladies and gentlemen, that’s why I posted on my Facebook this guy sounds like Code Pink.”
“He sounds like a radical kook,” Levin leveled, going on to pull out the outrage card.
“All the rest aside. All of it aside. I know too many Gold Star families who lost sons over there to hear this 9/11 truther crap, which is pretty close to it. Pretty damn close to it.”
“If George Bush went to war in Iraq and was lying about weapons of mass destruction there could not be a worse thing a president of the United States could do, or human being for that matter. And there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And he was not responsible for 9/11.” the host claimed.
“To have the leading Republican nominee for president of the United States to make these statements, and he’s been praised by Code Pink. He should be praised by Code Pink and every kook organization out there and every left-wing kook organization that hates America.”
“To have him praised for what he said? Terrible. Absolutely terrible. You and I’ve lived through this. You and I have lived through this. This isn’t distant history.” Levin concluded.
Rush Limbaugh also took the opportunity to slam Trump, telling his audience that “The things that Trump said and did Saturday night came out of nowhere.”
“They didn’t make any sense. Here we are in a Republican primary, and Donald Trump, out of the blue, starts blaming the Bush family for 9/11, for knowing that the intelligence was made up, that there never were any weapons of mass destruction, and they knew it.” Limbaugh added.
The host then claimed that Trump is lying when he claims that he expressed opposition to the Iraq war in 2001, and that he also also expressed support for Planned Parenthood at Saturday’s debate.
“Not the abortion stuff… but the fact that they do great things for women’s health. Folks, there were a number of occasions where Donald Trump sounded like the Daily Kos blog, where Donald Trump sounded like the Democrat Underground, sounded like any average host on MSNBC.” Limbaugh urged.
Limbaugh went on to speculate that Trump was “strategically was making a move on independents and Democrats in South Carolina since it’s open,” and that he does not really believe what he said in the debate.
Indeed, the latest polls show that Trump now has a 17 point lead in SC, with a 20 point lead nationally. Establishment favourite Marco Rubio has slipped to third with 14 percent, while Ted Cruz is in second with 18 percent.
The same talking points raised by Limbaugh and Levin were trotted out by Bush’s VP Dick Cheney, who said Trump sounded like a “liberal Democrat” in the debate.
“He’s wrong, and he’s I think, deliberately promoting those views in order to advance his political interests,” Cheney said on Fox News.
“The question of WMD charge that the administration lied, that was thoroughly investigated by the Robb-Silberman Commission. They found absolutely no evidence whatsoever to support that.” Cheney claimed (which is up for debate as the commission never investigated “the use of intelligence by policymakers,” according to co-chair Laurence Silberman.)
Cheney also claimed that there was “no actionable intelligence” in the lead up to 9/11, despite the fact that the CIA, as well as multiple foreign intelligence agencies warned the US of impending attacks, and even that terrorists working under Osama Bin Laden planned to strike in downtown Manhattan using aircraft.
In a follow up appearance on ABC News this morning, Trump appeared to soften his tone on Bush, saying “I don’t know if he lied or not…I just know that there are no weapons of mass destruction.”
WATCH: "I don't know if he lied or not…" – Trump on former Pres. George W. Bush and WMDs in Iraq https://t.co/CVtTpIj0bs
— Good Morning America (@GMA) February 16, 2016
Trump doubled down on the 9/11 accusations, however, stating “I know that the CIA and various other agencies knew that something bad was going to happen and they did nothing about it. They got it wrong.”
“The heads of the CIA and the various other agencies weren’t speaking and it was a big problem,” Trump added.
In the face of establishment criticism, Trump also spoke about the possibility of a third party run, claiming that the Republican National Committee is “in default” of its agreement to treat him fairly and on an even par with the other candidates.
Trump repeated his dissatisfaction at the fact that the debate audience on Saturday was stacked with supporters of the establishment candidates.
“The RNC gave all the tickets to special interests that represented Cruz and Rubio. They had all the tickets,” Trump said. “They walked on the stage and the place went crazy.”
“The bottom line is the RNC is controlled by the establishment and the RNC is controlled by the special interests and the donors and that’s too bad,” Trump added, saying that the RNC has “total control” over Rubio and Cruz.