by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Donald Trump swept away the entire GOP primary field in 2016 partly because of his willingness to speak plainly about issues like the Iraq War, trade, and immigration—even if they went against the views of the Republican establishment or appeared to be at odds with the GOP base. When Trump lambasted the decision to invade Iraq during a primary debate in early 2016, for example, calling the war a “big, fat mistake” and blaming it on George W. Bush, he was saying out loud what most Americans by then had concluded but no other Republican would say—certainly not Jeb Bush, who was left fumbling.
The lesson of 2016, then, is that if you’re running for the Democratic nomination in 2020 and Trump takes out a major terrorist, just say it’s a good thing but look, Trump doesn’t have a broader strategy to deal with Iran, or he isn’t consistent on foreign policy, or it’s not that big of a deal compared to his impeachment—say anything, just don’t hem and haw and downplay what a bad guy Suleimani was because you want to score political points with the radical left wing of your party.