Trump Hypocrisy: Blaming Syrian Chemical Attack on Obama

In 2013, Trump tweeted—repeatedly—that Obama should do nothing in Syria.

Ken Cedeno/Zuma


After a grisly chemical attack left dozens of people dead in Syria on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was quick to blame—of course—former President Barack Obama.

“Today’s chemical attack in Syria against innocent people including women and children is reprehensible and cannot be ignored by the civilized world,” Spicer told reporters. “These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution.” Spicer also said: “President Obama said in 2012 he would establish a red line against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing. The United States stands with our allies across the globe to condemn this intolerable act.” (Later in the day, the White House issued a statement echoing Spicer’s remarks.)

It will come as no surprise at this point that the Trump White House’s position was hypocritical. First, Obama’s red line at the time was a threat of US military action against Syria should it continue to use chemical weapons. When Obama asked the GOP-led Congress to authorize the potential use of force against Syria, the Republicans, not wanting to take a firm stance, declined to hold a vote. Still, Obama’s move prompted Assad to agree to a Russian-brokered deal to give up his chemical weapons. To a degree, Obama’s threat worked.

Whether or not Obama’s policy in 2013 was successful, this much is clear: at that point, Trump had an unambiguous position regarding Syria— do nothing. Throughout this episode, Trump tweeted up a storm about Syria. Repeatedly, he declared—occasionally in all-caps!—that Obama should not be messing around in Syria. He said there was no reason to attack Syria or take any action there. Let the Arab League deal with the problem. He was asserting that Obama should not respond to the chemical attacks—a policy certainly in sync with Assad (and his Russian patrons). Stay out of this, Trump demanded, and focus on domestic issues.

Here is a sample of Trump’s tweets on the subject:

Now Trump is blaming Obama for not adopting a more forceful stance against Assad, even though Trump back then repeatedly proclaimed that Obama should ignore the conflict (and crimes against humanity) in Syria.

This is not the first time Trump has slammed Obama in this manner. During the campaign, Trump absurdly claimed Obama and Hillary Clinton were each a “co-founder” of ISIS because they had overseen the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. (Neither were in office when ISIS was created, and the troop withdrawal agreement had been signed by President George W. Bush.) Yet in a 2006 interview, Trump had called on Bush to pull all US troops out of Iraq, even if that would lead to more violence and chaos. So as a candidate Trump was excoriating Obama for a policy that Trump had actually called for at the time.

Trump’s response to the horrific Syrian attack follows this pattern: castigate Obama and hope people don’t bother to review Trump’s past positions. Such situational and brazen hypocrisy may be standard operating procedure for Trump. Yet it carries a greater sting when it concerns massacres and war crimes.

OUR NEW CORRUPTION PROJECT

The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate