Photo via Gage Skidmore/Flickr (CC-BY-SA)
In a tweet posted Friday morning, the Republican presidential nominee retired his pronouncements that Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Trump's Democratic challenger, literally founded the Islamic State.
Trump first made this assertion at a Florida rally on Wednesday and reiterated it in an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt on Thursday.
During Hewitt's interview with Trump, the candidate both doubled-down on his claim that Obama is “the founder of ISIS” while also clarifying that he meant U.S. foreign policy under the Obama administration failed to prevent the rise of ISIS. “If he would have done things properly, you wouldn’t have had ISIS,” Trump said. “Therefore, he was the founder of ISIS.”
Here's the relevant portion of the transcript:
Huge Hewitt: I’ve got two more questions. Last night, you said the president was the founder of ISIS. I know what you meant. You meant that he created the vacuum, he lost the peace.
Donald Trump: No, I meant he’s the founder of ISIS. I do. He was the most valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award. I give her, too, by the way, Hillary Clinton.
HH: But he’s not sympathetic to them. He hates them. He’s trying to kill them.
DT: I don’t care. He was the founder. His, the way he got out of Iraq was that that was the founding of ISIS, okay?
HH: Well, that, you know, I have a saying, Donald Trump, the mnemonic device I use is Every Liberal Really Seems So, So Sad. E is for Egypt, L is for Libya, S is for Syria, R is for Russia reset. They screwed everything up. You don’t get any argument from me. But by using the term founder, they’re hitting with you on this again. Mistake?
DT: No, it’s no mistake. Everyone’s liking it. I think they’re liking it. I give him the most valuable player award. And I give it to him, and I give it to, I gave the co-founder to Hillary. I don’t know if you heard that.
HH: I did. I did. I played it.
DT: I gave her the co-founder.
HH: I know what you’re arguing…
DT: You’re not, and let me ask you, do you not like that?
HH: I don’t. I think I would say they created, they lost the peace. They created the Libyan vacuum, they created the vacuum into which ISIS came, but they didn’t create ISIS. That’s what I would say.
DT: Well, I disagree.
HH: All right, that’s okay.
DT: I mean, with his bad policies, that’s why ISIS came about.
DT: If he would have done things properly, you wouldn’t have had ISIS.
HH: That’s true.
DT: Therefore, he was the founder of ISIS.
Placing blame for the rise of ISIS is a game one could play for eternity due to the complicated dynamics in Iraq and Syria over the past 13 years. National security experts have said the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011 made it easier for ISIS—then known in Iraq as Al Qaeda, which experts say first started in 2003, before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which Trump supported—to gain power in the region.
There is, however, no objectively factual conclusion that Obama or Clinton founded ISIS. Experts credit that to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who built Al Qaeda in Iraq, and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the group's current leader who changed the name to ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) in 2013.
In short, Obama did not create ISIS but his decision to carry out the George W. Bush administration's plan to withdrawal troops from Iraq in 2011 likely helped create the necessary power imbalance for ISIS to fill the vacuum.
If Trump says he's only being sarcastic, what does that actually mean?
On the most basic level, sarcasm means being ironic to mock someone or something. Trump saying sarcastically that Obama's policies and Clinton's actions created ISIS inherently means that he doesn't believe that to actually be true. Instead, he said it as a way to make the president and the Democratic nominee look bad.
This is politics, after all. And besides, as Trump told Hewitt, “everyone's liking it.”