Trump Explains ‘Obama Founded ISIS’ Comment

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At a rally in Florida on Wednesday night, Donald Trump offered a weird accusation: President Obama had founded the Islamic State (ISIS, in his phrasing). He’d said similar things in the past about how Obama and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton had helped create the terror group, but the fervor with which he made the stronger claim stuck out.

Over and over, to increasing applause, the Republican presidential nominee repeated the claim: “He is the founder of ISIS. He’s the founder of ISIS, okay? He’s the founder. He founded ISIS. And I would say the co-founder would be crooked Hillary Clinton.” Cheers. Applause.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump accused President Obama of being the “founder” of the Islamic State militant group. Speaking at a rally August 10, Trump also said Hillary Clinton was the group’s “co-founder.” (Reuters)

This seemed like a by-now-familiar example of Trump being hyperbolic, taking a rhetorical point to its extreme. On CNBC on Thursday morning, though, he didn’t exactly embrace that idea.

Obama “was the founder of ISIS, absolutely,” Trump said, according to a transcript. “The way he removed our troops — We shouldn’t have gone in. I was against the war in Iraq … We shouldn’t have been in Iraq. I would not have been in Iraq if I was president, but that mistake was made; it was one of the worst mistakes in the history of our country. We destabilized the Middle East. We’ve been paying the price for it for years.”

He continued: “He was the founder of ISIS and so was [Hillary]. I call them co-founders … Because of the way he got out … He shouldn’t have gotten out the way he got out. It was a disaster what he did. Is there something wrong with saying that? Are people complaining that I said he was the founder of ISIS? All I do is tell the truth. I am a truth teller.”

Radio host Hugh Hewitt got Trump to commit to that view even more strongly.

HEWITT: Last night, you said the president was the founder of ISIS. I know what you meant. You meant that he created the vacuum; he lost the peace.
TRUMP: No, I meant he’s the founder of ISIS. I do. He was the most valuable player. I give him the Most Valuable Player Award. I give her, too, by the way, Hillary Clinton.
HEWITT: But he’s not sympathetic to them. He hates them. He’s trying to kill them.
TRUMP: I don’t care. He was the founder. His, the way he got out of Iraq was that that was the founding of ISIS, okay? …
HEWITT: I know what you’re arguing …
TRUMP: You’re not, and let me ask you, do you not like that?
HEWITT: I don’t. I think I would say they created, they lost the peace. They created the Libyan vacuum, they created the vacuum into which ISIS came, but they didn’t create ISIS. That’s what I would say.
TRUMP: Well, I disagree.

There was no “Right, I was making a point” or “I misspoke” in that. Trump said that, no, he really meant that Obama had founded the Islamic State and that Trump had to “disagree” when Hewitt said that wasn’t the case. (Do we need to point out at this late hour that, of course, Obama didn’t found the Islamic State? Well, he of course didn’t.)

On Friday morning, at long last, Trump explained his rationale.

It was sarcasm, guys.

Stuart Stevens, who worked on the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush and Mitt Romney, makes an excellent point: The only metric on which Clinton and Trump are tied is on how much time each has until polls close. Trump’s comment means that he’s spent another 24 hours of fewer than 90 days until the election litigating a point that doesn’t seem like it will do much to close the gap between him and his Democratic opponent.

It was very clear in the moment that he hammered the point at that rally because he enjoyed the reaction. Saying Obama created the Islamic State formed a nice little feedback loop of applause.

(via: Washington Post)

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