As this blog wrote last night, CBS News’s John Dickerson missed a chance to perform an on-the-spot fact-check of Donald Trump’s suggestion that he warned the administration of George W. Bush not to invade Iraq back in March 2003. Trump said on the debate stage:

Who are we fighting for? What are we doing? We have to rebuild our country. But we have to — I’m the only one on this stage that said, “Do not go into Iraq. Do not attack Iraq.” Nobody else on this stage said that. And I said it loud and strong. And I was in the private sector. I wasn’t a politician, fortunately. But I said it, and I said it loud and clear, “You’ll destabilize the Middle East.” That’s exactly what happened.

Given Trump’s phrasing, any such warning would have had to precede the March 19, 2003, invasion. Yet numerous factcheckers have strained to find the supporting citations, with no luck whatsoever. Sure, Trump evaluated the war as a “mess” several days after its start; that qualifies as punditry, not visionary leadership.

On NBC News’s “Meet the Press” this morning, moderator Chuck Todd was lying in wait. A talking-point machine, Trump held forth in self-praise, “I’m the only one on the stage that said we should not go into Iraq. That the war in Iraq is a mistake. Everyone else said, ‘Oh, they’re all–‘ you know, all of the other people on the stage, I should get points for vision,” he said.

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Oh, no you shouldn’t, said Todd, in effect. “Well, let me, but actually let me pause you there,” said the moderator. After more bluster from Trump, Todd put it to him, saying that PolitiFact — indeed, “none of us” — has been able to dig up an instance in which Trump ripped the invasion before the invasion.

The risible response from Trump came, as always, with flair:

Well, I did it in 2003, I said it before that. Don’t forget, I wasn’t a politician. So people didn’t write everything I said. I was a businessperson. I was, as they say, world-class businessperson. I built a great company, I employed thousands of people. So I’m not a politician. But if you look at 2003, there are articles. If you look the 2004, there are articles.
In fact, I saw somebody commenting on it last night, that Trump really was against the war. I was against it. Look, I’m the most militaristic person. I’m going to build the military bigger, better, stronger, hopefully we’ll never have to use it, but nobody’s going to mess with us. But I will say this, the war in Iraq, it was a mistake. Anybody would have realized Iran and Iraq, they used to fight. They go back, forth. Chuck, you destabilize the Middle East. I’m the only one that called it. I was the only one that called it.

Bolding added to highlight a typical Donald Trump contradiction. Whereas last night he said that his pre-war opposition was “loud and strong,” he told Todd that “people didn’t write” what he said. Which would make it anything but “loud and strong.”

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