“No one calls Sean Hannity!” Donald Trump repeatedly exclaimed when Lester Holt attempted to dig into his claimed opposition to the Iraq War in 2002. The media seized on an off-the-cuff comment he’d made to Howard Stern, Trump insisted, when he had adamantly opposed the war when discussing it in greater depth and seriousness with Hannity. Trump accused the media of bias for not following up with the Fox News host.
In the least surprising development ever, Sean Hannity followed up on it himself, corroborating his friend’s explanation (via The Hill):
In a post-debate interview between Trump and Hannity, the Fox News anchor backed up the business magnate’s account of conversations about the Iraq invasion.
“You know how many times we had conversations about that? You told me I was wrong, in fairness,” Hannity said.
“It was respectful and I understood where you were coming from,” Trump responded.
“I was against the war, I thought it would destabilize the Middle East. I didn’t realize it would be managed so badly,” he added.
Relitigating this part of the debate makes some sense, given the months-long controversy over Trump’s original position on the war. Lost in this kerfuffle is why it matters as much as Hillary Clinton’s role in the actual handling of Iraq policy. Even if Trump did offer mixed signals in 2002, he wasn’t in position to push or block it at the time. Hillary was, and then in 2009 became part of the team that eventually pulled all troops out of the country, abandoning the Sunni alliances we had built up and creating a vacuum in which ISIS metastasized. A smarter follow-up would have focused more on 2009-16 rather than 2002, and Trump’s team should have prepared their candidate to turn that question around on stage when it inevitably came up.
However, Trump also insisted on relitigating the beauty-queen attack this morning on Fox & Friends, which could have just been left as a bizarre curio of a last-minute, kitchen-sink attack from Hillary. Instead, Trump went on the attack against Alicia Machado, raising the profile of Hillary’s attack:
It was when Clinton brought up Trump’s previous comments about a Miss Universe contestant whom he allegedly called “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping.”
“When she brought up that person that became – I know that person. It was a Miss Universe person. She was the worst we ever had,” Trump said on “Fox & Friends.”
“Ultimately a winner. They had a tremendously difficult time with that Miss Universe… She was a winner, and she gained a massive amount of weight, and we had a real problem. We had a real problem with her.”
“Hillary found the girl, and talked about her like she was Mother Theresa.”
The question should be why Trump’s talking about her at all. Why keep the attack line alive? Rather than let it go, Trump actually amplifies it by criticizing her weight on national television twenty years down the road. That goes a long way toward corroborating Hillary’s version of events on an irrelevancy. Furthermore, it’s clear that Hillary hoped for exactly this kind of reaction when throwing this line out during the debate — getting under Trump’s skin, and letting him damage himself by being unable to stop talking about it. Isn’t this the kind of basic political strategy that Trump should have learned by now?
Last night’s battle was a draw, but the longer Trump draws out the damage that did get done, the more it looks like a loss.