The loudest boos of the Republican presidential debate in South Carolina on Saturday night came as billionaire real estate mogul and media personality Donald Trump reminded the audience that President George W. Bush, in fact, did not "keep us safe" on 9/11 and that when talking about the 2003 invasion of Iraq it's important to remember that the central premise used by his administration was a lie.
"Obviously the war in Iraq was a big, fat mistake, all right?” said Trump. "George Bush made a mistake, we can make mistakes. But that one was a beauty."
The crowd didn't like that one.
But Trump continued. "They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction – there were none. And they knew there were none. There were no weapons of mass destruction."
And the boos got much louder. Watch:
Given that George W. Bush is his younger brother, Jeb was given a chance by the moderator to respond.
"I'm sick and tired of Barack Obama blaming my brother for all of the problems that he's had. And frankly, I could care less about the insults that Donald Trump gives to me." But, Bush continued, "I am sick and tired of him going after my family. My dad is the greatest man alive, in my mind. And while Donald Trump was building a reality TV show, my brother was building a security apparatus to keep us safe and I’m proud of what he did."
And then Trump interjected: "The World Trade Center came down during your brother's reign, remember that."
The boos from the conservative Republican crowd rose once more.
"That's not keeping us safe," Trump added.
And Bush continued, "He's had the gall to go after my mother.... My mom is the strongest woman I know—"
To which Trump said, "Maybe she should be running."
According to journalist and political commentator Glenn Greenwald, Trump's attack on Bush was remarkable:
What Trump just said was easily one of the most scathing denunciations of Bush & GOP on Iraq of any major presidential candidate ever.
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— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) February 14, 2016
Al-Jazeera's Mehdi Hassan, meanwhile, said the exchange was telling for those trying to understand just how factional and bizarre the contemporary Republican Party has become:
You want to understand why GOP so screwed? The only 2 candidates on stage tonight who opposed Iraq are the two nuttiest, Trump and Carson.
— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) February 14, 2016
And while anti-war activists also said the Trump/Bush exchange was telling...
Trump gets booed for telling truth that Iraq war was a lie and disaster, and that 9/11 happened under Bush. #GOPdebate
— Medea Benjamin (@medeabenjamin) February 14, 2016
Executive editor at Gawker, John Cook, wondered aloud what will come of Trump's comments on the Iraq invasion, given her vote in favor of it, when they are inevitably presented to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton:
can't wait until someone asks hillary if she agrees with donald trump's analysis of the events leading to the invasion of iraq
— John Cook (@johnjcook) February 14, 2016
And, of course, as columnist Jeb Lund argued at the Guardian in Sunday's edition, the whole night could be considered by any sane person as just the most bizarre political spectacle imaginable. Lund writes:
What the hell happened on Saturday night?
The umpteenth (or penultiumpteenth) Republican Debate was an ecstasy of noise in which everything was indistinguishable. We are long past you-can’t-do-that-on-television. We are long past manufactured controversy. We are fully into clown slapfight.
You should be forgiven if you can remember almost nothing of this evening, or if you do but cannot make heads or tails of your own memories.
If Jack Donaghy were real, he’d brand Saturday’s debate the Third Kind of Noise: the first two kinds of noise are meant to turn your brain off, and the third is uncategorizable by a rational mind.
And in the end concludes: "It’s hard to tell which is sadder: that millions of people are stuck with these jerks; or that millions of people want to be. Even wrestling with the question for a few seconds makes you want to tune it all out – and, one assumes, plenty of voters already have."