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Donald Trump Calling Obama The “Founder” Of ISIS Requires One To Ignore History, And Reality

Obama ISIS

In a speech last night, Donald Trump called President Obama the “Founder” of ISIS, and Hillary Clinton a ‘co-founder”:

SUNRISE, Fla. — A day after remarks that appeared to suggest that gun rights advocates harm Hillary Clinton, Donald J. Trump sprayed his fire at President Obama on Wednesday, accusing him of creating the Islamic State and saying the terrorist group “honors” him.

“In many respects, you know, they honor President Obama,” Mr. Trump told a raucous and rowdy crowd in Florida on Wednesday night. “He’s the founder of ISIS. He’s the founder of ISIS. He’s the founder. He founded ISIS.” He added, “I would say the co-founder would be crooked Hillary Clinton.” During an extended riff on the crisis in Crimea, Mr. Trump added extra emphasis on the president’s full name, saying that it occurred “during the administration of Barack Hussein Obama.”

Mr. Trump’s statement was an escalation in his recent criticism of the Obama administration’s handling of the terror threat, as he had previously accused only Mrs. Clinton of having a “founding” role in the terror group. His suggestion that the president was honored by ISIS recalled an earlier controversy when Mr. Trump seemingly implied that the president had some connection to the terrorist massacre of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

In making this comment, Trump is, of course repeating a familiar Republican trope that it was President Obama’s decision to withdraw the final American troops from Iraq in 2011 that led to the rise of ISIS. In addition to suffering from the familiar post hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy, this argument ignores several important facts about ISIS, the course of the Iraq War itself, and the factors that contributed to the instability that ISIS and its allies were able to exploit in their rise to power.

First of all, as many in the GOP seem to forget, ISIS has in fact been in Iraq for more than a decade, It started out under the name al Qaeda in Iraq and was among the chief adversaries that American forces were arrayed against in the battles that took place after the fall of Saddam Hussein. After a time, al Qaeda in Iraq broke with the main al Qaeda organization largely due to differences over strategy and, thus, ISIS was born. There’s much more to the story, of course, including the alliance between the jihadist organizations and former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime and military, but given the fact that al Qaeda was essentially non-existent in Iraq prior to the Iraq War, it is fair to say that the roots of ISIS can be found not in any policy enacted by President Obama, but in the decision to go to war in Iraq itself. We don’t have the ability to divine what an alternate timeline without an Iraq War might look like, other than to be able to say with a high degree of certainty that thousands of Americans and Iraqis would be alive and uninjured today but for the decision to go to war.

Second, as has been made clear many times in the past, the decision to remove troops from Iraq was not one that President made on his own. The December 31, 2011 deadline that he complied with was one that had been set in the final Status of Forces Agreement that George W. Bush signed with the Iraqi Government during his final days in office.. For the better part of a year prior to that deadline, the United States attempt to negotiate an agreement with the Iraqis for a new agreement that would have allowed for a small training force to remaining behind but the Iraqi government was never able to come to an agreement on the matter on its side, and the Pentagon made clear that without a SOFA that defined the mission and protected the rights of American troops it would recommend that all remaining troops be withdrawn. Indeed, without a SOFA or similar treaty it would have been a violation of international law for American forces to remain behind after December 31, 2011. The additional flaw in this argument is that the idea that a small American force whose mission was limited to training would have been able to stop the rise of ISIS even while Iraq was slipping into political chaos and Syria into civil war is simply absurd. If anything, it’s probable that this force would have become the target for insurgent and terrorist attacks, which just would have added to the already unnecessarily high death and casualty list from a mistaken, misguided, unnecessary war.

Finally, some of the primary factors that led to the rise of ISIS as the force it is today were beyond the control of the United States. Chief among those factors was the political situation in Iraq itself during the time it was led by Nouri al-Maliki. Under al-Maliki’s rule, the divide between the nation’s Sunni and Shia populations grew even more bitter and divided as al-Maliki and his Shia allies used the power of the state to attack Sunni populations throughout the country. To some degree, of course, much of this was likely seen as revenge for Sunni collaboration with Saddam during his years in power, but the effect of the policies was to send the Sunnis back into the arms of the insurgents, where they have been ever since. The idea that the United States could have prevented any of this is the same kind of arrogance that has led us to believe so many times in the past that we can remake the world simply by stepping in and rearranging a few pieces on the political chessboard in the given country, The truth is far more complicated than that and, as we have found out in Iraq, and indeed as we should have already known, it’s far more likely that our influence will have a negative impact than that it will have a positive one.

None of this is to say that President Obama’s policies toward ISIS have been perfect. Clearly, they have not. Instead of a coherent policy we have a hodge podge of contradictory strategies that call for fighting ISIS and seeking to depose Syrian President Bashar Assad at the same time notwithstanding the fact that history should inform us that the chaos that would result from the fall of Assad would be more likely to help ISIS than hurt it in a significant way, He has also engaged in a policy of gradual escalation that seems to be playing right into ISIS’s already proclaimed desire to fight large western forces on the ground in Syria and Iraq, and he’s done so based solely on his own discretion without either consultation or permission from Congress despite clear legal requirements for both. His plans to arm “moderate” Syrian rebels have been abandoned, revived, and abandoned yet again as it has become clear that these groups either cannot be trusted or cannot be properly trained to use the kind of weapons America would provide them. Finally, his policy seems to be ignoring the fact that ISIS is already expanding far beyond its home in Iraq and Syria and that concentrating the fight there is likely to be a pyrrhic victory at best.

All of that is far from saying that President Obama is the “Founder” of ISIS, though, and Trump’s claim is largely based on the same kind of ignorance that has plagued Republican views on Iraq fo the better part of a decade.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. al-Alameda says:

    …., but given the fact that al Qaeda was essentially non-existent in Iraq prior to the Iraq War, it is fair to say that the roots of ISIS can be found not in any policy enacted by President Obama, but in the decision to go to war in Iraq itself. We don’t have the ability to divine what an alternate timeline without an Iraq War might look like, other than to be able to say with a high degree of certainty that thousands of Americans and Iraqis would be alive and uninjured today but for the decision to go to war.

    Dead on, Doug, exactly right.
    Our highly questionable decision in 2002-2003 to go to war in Iraq created the conditions in which ISIS flourishes today.

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  2. grumpy realist says:

    Is anyone surprised? Trump looked at the fever-swamps of the far-right crackpots and is now feeding them the crack that they demand. As long as he tells them what they want to hear, he knows he’ll always have an adoring crowd around him.

    Truth? Truth means nothing to these people.

    (By the way, we’ve got at least one Republican wanting to take a chance on Trump even though he readily admits Trump might start WWIII. These guys aren’t conservatives. They’re nihilistic teenagers who want to blow up the world because they’re bored.)

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  3. C. Clavin says:

    Trump’s claim is largely based on the same kind of ignorance that has plagued Republican views on Iraq for the better part of a decade 30 years.

    FTFY

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  4. reid says:

    @grumpy realist: Wasn’t the GOP at one time considered the party of “serious people”? It’s been so long now that I can’t even remember. What a joke it’s become.

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  5. Steve V says:

    I guarantee you that Sean Hannity has been saying this for years.

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  6. CSK says:

    This is a preview of the fall Trump “campaign”: A series of increasingly lunatic assertions geared to the liking of a rapidly decreasing base.

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  7. Pete S says:

    Doug, I think you are being too kind to Trump here. Sorry, i don’t know how to link, but Hugh Hewitt interviewed Trump this morning and gave him a chance to back down a bit and say he meant that President Obama had created the void in Iraq that allowed ISIS to develop. As you suggest above this is completely unconnected to reality. But Trump specifically said that wasn’t what he meant, that he meant the President Obama had actually founded ISIS.

    Wealthy Republican leaders, I hope you really enjoy that tax cut you will see processed if Trump gets elected. You have paid for it with the soul of your party.

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  8. gVOR08 says:

    I’ve heard it reported that before announcing Trump had staff following RW media and identifying RW memes for months. His stuff isn’t as natural and spontaneous as he would have us believe. I always assumed he’d pivot to a new set of lies for the general, but apparently this is the only game he’s got. More evidence that he never expected to get past the primaries.

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  9. Andrew says:

    The years between President Clinton and President Obama simply do not exist. This is something everyone needs to keep in mind when discussing the idiotic propaganda (redundant, I know) that is coming from Trump and the others that support him. Trump’s spin masters, Hannity, and other foaming at the mouth ignoramuses.

    Obama is to blame for everything that happened before he got into office, and everything after Clinton left it. It’s dealing with infantile, whiny babies, who want to blame everything on everyone not like themselves. Those that were having wet dreams during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and could not see how destabilizing an entire country, and region, could cause such havoc down the road.

    Now we have these same people supporting a Republican candidate that wonders why he can not nuke a country or region. Short term thinkers, or basically the people of Goldwater have turned into Goldfish. With their lack of attention spans, and ability to retain factual information in regards to history. Or simply ignore it as it does not mesh well with the fantasy land bull$hit they have built up in their own deluded minds.

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  10. Mr. Prosser says:

    @gVOR08: Here are some of the RW memes the staff probably read: http://nomoremister.blogspot.com/2016/08/where-does-trump-get-these-outrageous.html

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  11. Pch101 says:

    It doesn’t matter whether it’s true. It only matters whether it feels right.

    Incidentally, Trump doesn’t own that, either. Revisionist history has been the norm for the modern GOP, Trump is just more crude about it.

    This is the party that is passionate about “voter fraud”, a problem that essentially does not exist, while it expresses no interest in getting citizens in a democracy to, well, vote.

    This is the party that linked Iraq to 9/11 even though Iraq was not involved with 9/11.

    This is the party that tries to associate the current president with deficit spending, even though it was his predecessor who turned a surplus into a deficit and who paved the way for a crash that would require the next president — whoever that was — to embark on a massive deficit spending/ stimulus program so as to avoid a depression.

    This is a group that seems to be incapable of seeing the linkage between action (and inaction) and consequences. How can Obama be blamed in any way for a war that had been begun and lost long before he entered office?

    The Republicans take personal responsibility very seriously. Everyone else is responsible, and they take it personally.

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  12. cian says:

    I’m not sure what Trump and his staff are attempting here, but I have my suspicions. Nothing they’ve said since his ‘huugh’ economic speech has been said to attract new voters, or sooth the furrowed brow of the republican party and its billionaire donors . Rather he and his campaign have continued to ratchet up the bile and further enrage their non-sense supporters. They know they will lose and are playing now for control of the afters.

    It’s a long con. There’s a whole lot of money to be made out of 16 million Americans who hate all other’s outside of themselves. Ailes knew this, but is now gone. Fox too is in a mess, losing their audience to Trump who they’d like to keep on board but can’t reasonably do so and still pretend to be a news organisation. My guess is Trump and others will start a new station which will take over Fox’s audience. For this to succeed he needs to stay in the race and, most important, lose to Clinton while still being able to say he was robbed. For that he needs the Republican party to denounce him and for the mainstream media to continue calling him unfit.

    Remember, Fox is making a billion a year in pure profit every year. A big prize for these hucksters.

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  13. Tillman says:

    It was a set up! al-Baghdadi saw Obama smother Reagan and was a loose end, he had to be dealt with! Does the iniquity of Obama know no end!?!

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  14. grumpy realist says:

    @cian: Considering how incestuous the Republican Party/think tank/grifter/infotainment industry has been, I think it jolly good karma when it ends up swallowing up their actual presidential candidate.

    Trump’s Chumps want to be entertained. They’ll believe anything that the hirsute talking yam will tell them, and will ride off the cliff with him.

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  15. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Andrew:

    Obama is to blame for everything that happened before he got into office, and everything after Clinton left it.

    Except for the budget surplus, which (when Republicans can even remember that there was one) is because Newt and company forced welfare reform on Clinton.

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  16. gVOR08 says:

    @cian: You may well be correct. It’s possible to believe Trump is the dog who caught the car and now doesn’t know what to do. But he doesn’t seem to be making even the smallest effort to make the famous “pivot” and appeal to the general electorate, he’s just doubling down on the crazy. Your hypothesis that he’s following Palin’s lead, but on a much larger scale, does seem to fit the observed facts.

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  17. grumpy realist says:

    @gVOR08: Ripping the Republican Party into shreds so that he can carry off the Trump’s Chump’s population as the marks audience for his new TV show…

    Wonder if he’ll ask Glen Beck to start hawking gold coins and stuff for preppers?

    P.S. That’s probably the best way he can get out of this. His name is mud among the audience who used to go to his casinos and hotels. No official boycott (that I’ve heard about) so far; the people that would ordinarily go to something with the name “Trump” plastered on it …..just aren’t going.

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  18. Gustopher says:

    Are the second amendment enthusiasts really willing to let this idiot be their champion, and risk another President Clinton? Shouldn’t they be thinking strategically, and using their “influence” to remove Trump from the ballot?

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  19. gVOR08 says:

    @Gustopher: On it’s face, yes. But the NRA have their own grift going. They need to keep the hook set in the marks. Is it t better for Republicans to have banning abortion as an accomplishment or as an issue? Does the NRA really want unlimited gun rights? If they got it, what would they do next? Teach marksmanship and sportsmanship? I expect their fundraising is through the roof right now.

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  20. stonetools says:

    This right wing meme is tasty and truthy, so we’ll Trumperize it for the Trumpkins! They’ll believe it because they want to believe it!

    I’m now beginning to understand how a large, modern , “civilized” nation fell for the stylings of a racist demagogue in the 1930s.

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  21. gVOR08 says:

    @stonetools: There is the unavoidable parallel, isn’t there?

    I’ve also understood the “Guns of August” slide into WWI a lot better since watching Europe’s stumbling response to the 2008 financial collapse.

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  22. Andrew says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: Right. If it is a positive thing, it is remembered like it was the best thing since sliced bread. Does not matter Clinton was the President, it was all congress.

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  23. C. Clavin says:

    the same kind of ignorance

    I think this is critically important.
    Trump is in fact ignorant.
    He is ignorant on this topic, and on almost all topics.
    His ignorance is truly awe-inspiring.
    Yet a major political party in the most powerful nation on the planet has nominated him as it’s leader.
    GOP leaders continue to endorse him, no matter what he does or says.
    Trump is today’s Republican Party. Today’s Republican Party is Trump.
    Ignorant. Xenophobic. Mendacious. Driven by conspiracy theories. Violent.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. Grumpy Realist says:

    @gVOR08: A. J. P. Taylor does an excellent job of analysis of how everyone got into WWI in his history of the war.

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  25. Slugger says:

    I just wonder what’s next. We have heard increasingly strange remarks from Mr. Trump. There seems to be a demand for him to say one bizarre thing after another with escalating estrangement from the world most of us share. Surely his next utterance will be weirder. I predict that he accuses Obama of being in cahoots with extraterrestrials who are currently bombarding Earth with meteors.
    I acknowledge that his retreat into the realms of psychosis require all of us to be attentive to the wrongdoings that Sec. Clinton is capable of.

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  26. JohnMcC says:

    What is this “reality” that you speak of?

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  27. Dave Schuler says:

    it is fair to say that the roots of ISIS can be found not in any policy enacted by President Obama, but in the decision to go to war in Iraq itself.

    That’s right. The moral of the story is that when you kick the can down the road don’t be surprised if it goes in the direction in which it’s pointed.

    I’m having this same argument over at my place which I gather goes something like this. If McCain had been elected he would either have abrogated the SOFA George W. Bush’s administration negotiated with the Iraqis or he would have renegotiated a better one.

    I don’t believe it. I think that the only way we could have accomplished what’s being assumed is if we’d been willing to remain in Iraq in force indefinitely and dictated a constitution to the Iraqis rather than letting the Shi’ite majority come up with one. That simply wasn’t the plan and I don’t believe the American people would have stood for it.

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  28. CSK says:

    @stonetools:

    @gVOR08:

    The parallels are indeed significant, but there’s one significant difference: Trump isn’t going to win. Even he knows that. He admitted as much this morning in an interview with CNBC.

    According to Politico, the Trump campaign is being sued because its North Carolina state director had an unpleasant habit of pulling a gun on his staff member.s.

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  29. Rafer Janders says:

    but given the fact that al Qaeda was essentially non-existent in Iraq prior to the Iraq War, it is fair to say that the roots of ISIS can be found not in any policy enacted by President Obama, but in the decision to go to war in Iraq itself.

    Correction: we didn’t go to war “in Iraq.” We went to war ON Iraq. The “war in Iraq” formulation, which I see time and again, seems like a linguistic dodge to somehow absolve us of blame for starting the war in the first place. We didn’t join an ongoing conflict — we created it.

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  30. C. Clavin says:

    For a far less ignorant view of what happened…
    http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/08/11/magazine/isis-middle-east-arab-spring-fractured-lands.html?_r=0

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  31. Facebones says:

    Trump ignored history AND reality, you say? Shocked! I am shocked!

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  32. grumpy realist says:

    @Facebones: Yeah, how surprising for someone who regularly ignores rules, law, promises he’s made, contracts….

    And his only way of handling any of it is a) sue b) huff and puff, c) deny, dodge, and obfuscate.

    And Republicans are in a hissy fit about Clinton and his “it depends what “is” is.” Look at the man you have chosen as your flag-bearer, you idiots.

    Trump’s Chumps. Like usual.

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  33. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Wonder if he’ll ask Glen Beck to start hawking gold coins and stuff for preppers?

    Only if he’s managed to convince the company to change it’s name to “Trump Goldline.”

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  34. Mister Bluster says:

    Rambo (Paul) Ryan:

    I heard about the second amendment quote. It sounds like just a joke gone bad. You should never joke about that. I hope he clears it up quickly.
    I didn’t actually hear the comments I only heard about those comments.

    Now if I were to say that I heard that Paul Ryan smells like a dead skunk in the middle of the road. That would not mean that I actually ran over him. Or that he even smells like a dead skunk!
    Just that I heard about him smelling like a dead skunk.

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  35. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    . I think that the only way we could have accomplished what’s being assumed is if we’d been willing to remain in Iraq in force indefinitely and dictated a constitution to the Iraqis rather than letting the Shi’ite majority come up with one. That simply wasn’t the plan and I don’t believe the American people would have stood for it.

    My impression from what McCain was saying at the time is that your analysis is on point with what McCain’s plan actually was. Whether the public would have gone along with it is another story, but McCain was pretty committed to occupying Iraq for as long as was necessary–I believe he mentioned (ironically enough) 1000 years.

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  36. CSK says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker:

    In which case it will promptly go belly-up.

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  37. Mikey says:

    @Mister Bluster: Lots of people–very smart people–are saying he smells like a dead skunk. I’m not saying that, it’s what I’ve heard, but people are saying it.

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  38. Mister Bluster says:

    @Mikey:..Lots of people–very smart people–are saying he smells like a dead skunk.

    I hope he clears it up quickly!

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  39. Argon says:

    “Reboot week” is not working out well…

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  40. Concerned UK Citizen says:

    Two questions:

    1. Why are the RP allowing this to continue? Almost every time he opens his mouth someone has to found to explain what he meant or didn’t mean

    2. Could this all lead to a change in RP rules (if any) as to who can run on behalf of the party for the Presidency? ie must be registered party member for at least x years?

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  41. Tyrell says:

    No, President Obama did not start ISIS. There were grievous errors made years ago that set the stage for this group of murdering terrorists to exist.
    Now the administration is admitting that they underestimated them. One thing for sure is that the next president, Hillary or Donald, will not sit around drawing lines in the sand and trying to “control” ISIS. The next president will make short work of that bunch of murderers.
    Meanwhile, Turkey issues an ultimatum to US leaders. If Turkey falls into turmoil, there is not much to stop hordes of terrorists flocking into Europe.
    “Silver wings upon their chest,
    these are men, Americas best
    100 men will test today
    only 3 win the Green Beret” (“Ballad of the Green Berets”, Sgt. Sadler)

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  42. Matt says:

    @Tyrell: Daesh is a fucking joke and we’ve done a fantastic job of ensuring the shrinkage of their territory while sustaining little in the way of losses in the field.

    You’re delusional…

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  43. Turgid Jacobian says:

    @Tyrell: Christ you’re a moron.

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  44. stonetools says:

    @Tyrell:

    Best troll on OTB? The guy CAN’T be serious…can he?

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  45. stonetools says:

    Instead of a coherent policy we have a hodge podge of contradictory strategies that call for fighting ISIS and seeking to depose Syrian President Bashar Assad at the same time

    Time for Doug to answer Michael ‘s standing challenge of coming up with a better anti-ISIS policy than Obama’s. Joyner or Schuler can chime in too, since it’s obviously so godd@mn easy:

    1.
    2.
    3.

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  46. CSK says:

    It should be noted that now Trump is claiming that he was only being sarcastic.

    His supporters are also claiming that he played the press beautifully.

    These people are well beyond delusion.

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  47. sherparick says:

    @gVOR08: Unfortunately, I think he, like much of the right wing have really convinced themselves that they are the overwhelming majority of the country, that white people who don’t vote like they do are liberal, power hungry, hippie traitors, and that single women, Blacks, Hispanic, and Asian votes should not count since these people are not “really human,” and certainly not real Americans, and that Obama was elected twice by the votes of these people against the votes of 3/5ths of the white population is by definition a “fraud” since the wrong kind of voters supported him. I listened to Rush Blowhard for 12 years (could not help it, I was in Germany and he was on Armed Forces Radio 5 times a week), and I know what these people want to hear and what they believe is the “truth” as proclaimed by Rush Blowhard. This is what the people in the “Bubble” believe, and if you tell them different, then you are a traitor.

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  48. J-Dub says:

    @CSK:

    It should be noted that now Trump is claiming that he was only being sarcastic.

    He noted “they don’t get sarcasm!”, speaking about CNN. What’s funny is that he accuses them on not getting sarcasm but it doesn’t seem that he knows the definition of sarcasm and thus, he is the one that doesn’t get sarcasm.

    It’s one thing for him to proclaim that he was speaking figuratively and not literally, but there is no sarcasm in any of his statements in that he did not mean the opposite of what he was saying as in “elect Trump? Now that’s a brilliant idea”.

    If he said “Obama is the founder of ISIS” and was being sarcastic, does that mean he really believes that Obama is not the founder of ISIS?

    Me thinks he is not so bright, despite that Wharton education.

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  49. CSK says:

    @J-Dub:

    Oh, he’s not that bright, though he does have an unusually well-developed lizard brain. The thing is, his fans are even less bright.

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  50. Pch101 says:

    @Concerned UK Citizen:

    Political parties in the US can’t just prevent someone from running. Yes, they can (and do) make things difficult for those who they do not want and they do erect various barriers in order to influence the outcome, but they can’t explicitly bar someone from trying.

    If I wanted to seek office as a Republican, nobody in the party could stop me. I probably wouldn’t get very far and they certainly would not cooperate. But the GOP would not be able to prevent me from giving it a go, either.

    The party does have a generic “Rule 9” that allows the RNC to replace a nominee. But Rule 9 was obviously intended to deal with death, illness, etc.. I doubt that one could find consensus among Republican leaders that Rule 9 can be invoked merely because they dislike the winner of the primary; at the very least, its use would be controversial.

    The Republicans set up their delegate system in order to reduce the influence of the South on the nomination process. Normally, that would have a moderating effect, but that was obviously not the case this time. They are probably feeling envious that they didn’t have their own superdelegate system as did the Democrats.

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  51. Joe says:

    @J-Dub:

    It should be noted that now Trump is claiming that he was only being sarcastic.

    “You keep using that word. I don’t think you know what it means.”
    – Inigo Montoya

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  52. Tyrell says:

    Reports now that ISIS is humans as shields and torturing people. Secretary Kerry needs to do something, now !

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  53. Matt says:

    @Tyrell: Like what bomb them even more?

    http://www.defenseone.com/threats/2016/05/us-raiding-its-global-bomb-stockpiles-fight-isis/128646/

    We’re actually running out of bombs because we’ve been bombing ISIS so much….

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