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Republican front-runner Donald Trump continued attacking the legacy of George W. Bush Sunday morning, criticizing the former president for appointing a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court whose decisions have upheld Obamacare and for failing to stop the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Following the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia, Trump told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he would like to see a replacement "just like” the conservative judicial lion.
Trump declined to outline what kind of specific litmus tests, if any, he would employ to ensure the next justice is ideologically right for the job -- a “conservative person.” He also used the opportunity to attack the former GOP president for appointing Justice John Roberts for his rulings on President Obama’s health care law as an example of a conservative justice who “let everybody down.”
Trump allowed that “you never know what happens” once a nominee assumes the bench. But he singled out George W. Bush and Ted Cruz, who once advocated for Robert’s confirmation, for blame, saying they put “the wrong guy in there … so you never really know."
Asked about potential Scalia replacements, Trump once again put forth the name Diane Sykes, a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, but declined to say if he would use prior rulings on cases such as Roe versus Wade to made his selections due to the aforementioned unpredictability. “We have some great people,” Trump said.
The real estate mogul, who is polling at the top of the Republican Party in next-in-the-nation South Carolina, also stood by his attacks on President George W. Bush and his assertions that the Bush administration pushed a false narrative on weapons of mass destruction in order to justify the war in Iraq. “I think that people knew that there were no weapons of mass destruction,” Trump said. "I think they wanted to go in there, I think they thought it would’ve been easier, they didn’t prosecute the war well…and they ended up, well, leaving.”
Trump then touted his own opposition to the Iraq War, but when asked why there was a lack of evidence of Trump’s opposition prior the war’s beginning, he cited as he has in the past, articles from 2003 and 2004 and said that he “said it before” but that voters shouldn’t forget that he “wasn’t a politician, so people didn’t write everything [he] said.”
But Trump softened his criticism when asked about comments he made in 2008 speculating about a potential impeachment of Bush over the rationale for the Iraq war. “I was in the private sector so I didn’t think about it too much, but certainly the war in Iraq was a disaster. No, not to be impeached but the war in Iraq was a disaster,” Trump said. But when pressed again by NBC’s Chuck Todd, Trump said that whether or not it was impeachable was “for other people to say.”
“I can say this,” he continued, “it may not have been impeachable because it was a mistake. I think it was a mistake. But it was a horrible mistake.”
Trump also said that he believed the 9/11 attacks could have been prevented by George W. Bush and that claims from people like Jeb Bush that he “kept us safe” were untrue. “I wish he did,” Trump said in reference to America’s safety. “How did he keep us safe when the World Trade Center, during his time in office, came down?” Blaming a lack of communication between the CIA and other intelligence agencies at the time, Trump said there was “information that bad things were going to happen and yes, the answer is he should have known…absolutely they should have known.”
Once again crediting himself with foreign policy foresight, Trump noted that he “wrote about Osama bin Laden in 2000 in a book” and that "if I know about Osama bin Laden just by seeing press and what was going on, why wouldn’t the President of the United States know about Osama bin Laden?”
It may be a risky strategy to attack the former president in a state where Bush is still a largely popular figure, and where he’ll be campaigning with his brother Jeb on Monday in Charleston. But should Trump win South Carolina, he doesn’t see it as a repudiation of Bush as much as a rejection of the war in Iraq.