June 6 is the 72nd anniversary of D-Day. The general who oversaw that invasion, Dwight Eisenhower, was elected president in 1952—the last person in either party to win a nomination without holding elective office until Donald Trump. Now Trump is trying to follow in Ike’s footsteps by winning the presidency, too.
But whereas Eisenhower’s record of leading Americans into war vaulted him into the White House, Trump is trying to claim that he wouldn’t have led Americans to war in Libya and Iraq. The presumptive nominee skirmished with John Dickerson over whether or not he’d backed the U.S. intervention there during an appearance on Face the Nation on Sunday:
John Dickerson: Let me ask you about Libya. You have been highly critical of Libya and Hillary Clinton. You were also for military action to oust Qaddafi and military action to take care of the humanitarian situation in Libya. You supported that.
Donald Trump: When you say supported it, I supported Libya?
Dickerson: Yes, you supported the intervention in Libya.
Trump: I did? Where do you see that?
Dickerson then played video of Trump saying, “Now, we should go in. We should stop this guy, which would be very easy and very quick. We could do it surgically, stop him from doing it and save these lives.” Trump replied:
Trump: That’s a big difference from what we’re talking about.
Dickerson: But you were for intervention.
Trump tried to turn this into an argument about whether the aftermath of the intervention was handled well. (He also somewhat bafflingly boasted, “I made a lot of money with Qaddafi.”) You’d be hard-pressed to find people who would argue the aftermath was well-planned, but that’s not the question: Trump suggested that he had opposed the intervention from the start, and that turned out not to be true. The evidence shows he backed it. As Dickerson put it, “This is one of the things that confuses some people about your positions. You said you weren’t for intervention, but you were for intervention in Libya.”
It’s easy to see why Trump would want voters to believe he opposed the intervention in Libya. Not only did the maneuver turn out poorly—despite, or perhaps because, of Qaddafi’s quick toppling, the nation spiraled into civil war, with the violence killing four Americans in Benghazi in September 2012—but Hillary Clinton was a leading advocate for it, making it an alluring talking point to use against her. Needless to say, that’s a harder case to make if Trump backed the military action too.