One section of the first joint interview by the presumptive Republican ticket reveals a great deal about the man at its top.
CBS's Lesley Stahl asked Donald Trump whether he would send troops to the Middle East to fight the Islamic State. From there, the conversation shifted to the war in Iraq — and the vote that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, the presumptive vice presidential candidate, cast in support of it while he was serving in the House. In fact, Pence spoke in favor of the war from the floor of the House in 2002.
Trump's view of that? Meh.
From CBS's transcript:
DONALD TRUMP: Now look, we are going to get rid of [the Islamic State], big league. And we're going to get rid of 'em fast. And we're going to use surrounding states. We're going to use NATO, probably. And we're going to declare war. It is war. When the World Trade Center comes tumbling down, with thousands of people being killed, people are still — I have friends that are still —
LESLEY STAHL: But we did go to war, if you remember. We went to Iraq.
TRUMP: Yeah, you went to Iraq, but that was handled so badly. And that was a war, by the way, that was a war that we shouldn't have entered because Iraq did not knock down — excuse me...
STAHL: Your running mate —
TRUMP: Iraq did not —
STAHL: — voted for it.
TRUMP: I don't care.
He doesn't care. That's a remarkable comment from Trump, who is consistently cast his purported opposition to the Iraq War in opposition to Hillary Clinton's vote for it. (More on this in a second.) This, he has repeatedly argued, shows his judgment is superior to the presumptive Democratic nominee — in a number of ways.
But Pence casting the same vote? He doesn't care.
Stahl pressed on it.
STAHL: What do you mean you don't care that he voted for?
TRUMP: It's a long time ago. And he voted that way, and they were also misled. A lot of information was given to people ...
STAHL: But you’ve harped on this.
TRUMP: But I was against the war in Iraq from the beginning.
STAHL: Yeah, but you’ve used that vote of Hillary's that was the same as Governor Pence as the example of her bad judgment.
TRUMP: Many people have, and frankly, I'm one of the few that was right on Iraq.
This is the point at which we note that the only record of his having an opinion on the war in Iraq before it began was an interview in which he expressed support. Our fact-checkers have been over this repeatedly: There's no evidence he opposed the war before it began. And now, his vice-presidential pick is on record in support of it.
STAHL: Yeah, but what about he —?
TRUMP: He's entitled to make a mistake every once in a while.
STAHL: But she's not? Okay, come on —
TRUMP: But she's not —
STAHL: She's not?
TRUMP: No. She’s not.
STAHL: Got it.
Trump and Stahl chuckled a little at this response, but it seems clear that Trump essentially meant it.
"She's virtually done nothing right," Trump said during his speech attacking Clinton last month. "She's virtually done nothing good. It all started with her bad judgment in supporting the war in Iraq in the first place."
In Trump's mind, Pence gets a pass on that judgment, rooted in bad intelligence. Trump himself gets a pass on not being able to present any evidence that his judgment was any different. Clinton, however, is riddled with bad judgment because of her stance on the issue.
This will cost him zero votes.