Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump revealed holes in his knowledge of world affairs Thursday in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, appearing to conflate the Kurdish people with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s overseas force as well as confusing the names and leaders of various Islamist extremist groups.
The interview with Hewitt, who will co-moderate this month’s CNN debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, showed that there is thus far little substance behind the businessman-turned-presidential-candidate’s bluster. Trump repeatedly claimed that Hewitt’s questions were of the “gotcha” variety, a reference to 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s frustrations with media questions she deemed as designed embarrass her.
“Well, that is a gotcha question, though,” Trump protested to Hewitt when asked whether he was familiar with the leaders of Hamas, Hezbollah and the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS). “I mean, you know, when you’re asking me about who’s running this, this this, that’s not, that is not, I will be so good at the military, your head will spin.”
When Hewitt asked Trump whether he was familiar with Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the leader of the Iranian Quds Force, Trump replied he was, before referencing the Kurds, the U.S.-allied people that resides in northern Iraq, and adjacent territory in southern Turkey, parts of Syria and Iran. “The Kurds, by the way, have been horribly mistreated,” he continued.
Hewitt replied with a simple simile for the man who now leads the Republican field nationally and in early states. “Well, Soleimani is to terrorism sort of what Trump is to real estate,” he said.
Trump said he was unconcerned by the personalities in the turbulent region since he claimed many would not remain in power in six months, and that he would recruit experts to guide his efforts in office. “I’ll have, I’m a delegator,” he told Hewitt. “I find great people. I find absolutely great people, and I’ll find them in our armed services, and I find absolutely great people.”
Trump appeared unable to distinguish between Hamas, the U.S.-designated Sunni terrorist group that controls Gaza, and Hezbollah, the Shiite group that operates in Lebanon and parts of Syria. Asked when he would spend the time to learn the difference, Trump replied “when it’s appropriate.”
“I will know more about it than you know,” Trump said. “And believe me, it won’t take me long.”
Trump’s Republican allies wasted little time pouncing on his rough performance, with Carly Fiorina appearing on Hewitt’s show an hour later and answering the same questions to Hewitt’s satisfaction.
“Hamas is focused in Palestinian territories,” Fiorina said. “Hezbollah focuses in Beirut and other places, but the truth is, both of them are proxies of Iran. Both of them threaten Israel. Both of them are going to be benefitting from the agreement which Obama and Kerry have struck with Iran.”
And former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has engaged in a war of words with Trump of his conservative credentials, seemed to pity his rival Thursday, telling reporters he had read the transcript of the exchange with Hewitt. “You gotta know who the players are,” he said. “I’m sure, I’m sure he’ll bone up on this now.”