Biden Team, GOP Rivals Wonder What Trump Sees in Hezbollah

Pence, DeSantis join criticism of front-runner for calling terrorist group 'smart'
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 12, 2023 4:55 PM CDT
Biden Team Wonders What Trump Sees in Hezbollah
United Nations peacekeepers patrol on the Lebanese side of the border with Israel in the southern village of Marwahin on Thursday. Following days long shelling and clashes along the Lebanese-Israel border between Hezbollah militants and Israeli troops, Lebanon's southern border area has turned into...   (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

White House and Biden campaign aides expressed disgust and bafflement Thursday for Donald Trump's expressed admiration for Hezbollah. "Sickening rhetoric," Kevin Munoz, a campaign spokesperson, posted on X, in response to the former president's remarks to supporters in Florida on Wednesday night. Trump's comments were in response to a public warning by Israel's defense minister that Lebanon's Hezbollah, which the US has designated a terrorist organization, should not attempt to attack Israel from the north. That prompted an attack, Trump argued. "You know, Hezbollah is very smart," he said. "They're all very smart. The press doesn't like when I say it … but Hezbollah they're very smart."

That's a "dangerous and unhinged" thing to say, a White House deputy press secretary said in a statement. "It's completely lost on us why any American would ever praise an Iran-backed terrorist organization as 'smart,'" said Andrew Bates. Mike Pence, once vice president under Trump and now a GOP presidential candidate, was among those taking issue with the "smart" assessment, per the Hill. Hezbollah "aren't smart, they're evil," Pence said in New Hampshire. He also brought up Trump's praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin as a "genius" after the invasion of Ukraine. "All the blame here lies at the feet of the Hamas and the Russian military in these unprovoked invasions, and they need to be held to account," Pence said.

There also was GOP reaction to Trump's criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis posted a response on both counts on X: "Terrorists have murdered at least 1,200 Israelis and 22 Americans and are holding more hostage, so it is absurd that anyone, much less someone running for President, would choose now to attack our friend and ally, Israel, much less praise Hezbollah terrorists as 'very smart.'" A response on X from Trump's campaign said he was misunderstood. "President Trump was clearly pointing out how incompetent Biden and his administration were by telegraphing to the terrorists an area that is susceptible to an attack," it said. "Smart does not equal good." The argument wrapped up by saying Biden and DeSantis are the "stupid" ones. (More Israel-Hamas war stories.)

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