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.


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  • David Corn

    David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief and an on-air analyst for MSNBC. He is the co-author (with Michael Isikoff) of Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump. He is the author of three New York Times bestsellers, Showdown, Hubris (with Isikoff), and The Lies of George W. Bush, as well as the e-book, 47 Percent: Uncovering the Romney Video that Rocked the 2012 Election. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter and Facebook.

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