Quotes of the day
In the latest episode of the reality show that is Donald Trump’s campaign, he has blamed my brother for the 9/11 terrorist attacks on our nation.
That Trump echoes the attacks of Michael Moore and the fringe Left against my brother is yet another example of his dangerous views on national-security issues.
This is a man who has previously stated he would prefer Hillary Clinton had led negotiations on the nuclear agreement with Iran. He has expressed a willingness to allow Vladimir Putin to dominate the Middle East by aligning with Iran and propping up the ruthless Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad — an action that would only worsen the existing refugee crisis and endanger our national-security interests and those of Israel. And he has been ignorant and dismissive of the world’s most dangerous terrorist organizations, saying that we shouldn’t have gone into Afghanistan to hunt al-Qaeda and end the safe haven for terror provided by the Taliban, only to retreat from that stance this week.
Let’s be clear: Donald Trump simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about. And his bluster overcompensates for a shocking lack of knowledge on the complex national-security challenges that will confront the next president of the United States.
In 2000, 19 months before Sept. 11, 2001, Donald Trump wrote extensively of the terrorism threat the United States was facing…
“I really am convinced we’re in danger of the sort of terrorist attacks that will make the bombing of the Trade Center look like kids playing with firecrackers,” wrote Trump in his 2000 book, The America We Deserve. “No sensible analyst rejects this possibility, and plenty of them, like me, are not wondering if but when it will happen.”…
“One day we’re told that a shadowy figure with no fixed address named Osama bin-Laden is public enemy number one, and U.S. jetfighters lay waste to his camp in Afghanistan,” The Donald wrote. “He escapes back under some rock, and a few news cycles later it’s on to a new enemy and new crisis.”
Jeb’s team increasingly seems to see W. as a feature, not a bug. After the second presidential debate, his team flagged video of Jeb defending his brother’s foreign policy record from Trump’s criticism by saying the former president “kept us safe.”…
And now, the embrace is complete. On October 18, he sent out a fundraising email with the subject line “Help defend my brother.”…
This is only the latest example of Jeb capitalizing on the W. gravy train; W.’s fundraising network has always propelled Jeb’s White House dreams. CBS reported in August that more than half of the $120 million he accrued in his war chest before announcing his bid came from donors who had previously backed his father and/or brother. W. influence is all over his foreign policy team which reads like a who’s who of the W. White House.
And that fundraiser that will draw W. back to D.C.? It’s hosted by a bevy of old W. hands, including Brad Belt, who helmed the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp under Elaine Chao; former White House chiefs of staff Josh Bolten and Andy Card; and Jack Oliver, national finance director for W.’s first presidential campaign.
Donald J. Trump spent much of his weekend needling Jeb Bush about his older brother’s record of keeping the country safe as president, suggesting that George W. Bush failed to protect the country from the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Mr. Bush mounted a vigorous defense of his brother’s record, and recent polling indicates that Republican voters are more likely to side with the Bushes on this question than with Mr. Trump – to a point…
While speaking ill of the second President Bush might pay off in a general election, New York Times/CBS News polls suggest that it might not be wise in the campaign for the Republican nomination. Support for the former president remains high among loyal G.O.P. voters. When George W. Bush left office in January 2009, 72 percent of Republicans (but only 26 percent of Americans) viewed him favorably, and in April, that number was unchanged among Republicans (and had risen a bit, to 30 percent, among all Americans)…
But some recent polls suggest that Republican voters today put more faith in Mr. Trump on foreign policy than in the third member of the Bush family to seek the presidency. A CNN/ORC survey conducted after the first Republican debate found that the party’s voters today were twice as likely to pick Mr. Trump over Mr. Bush as the candidate who can best handle foreign policy.
Former Bush flack Ari Fleischer called Trump a 9/11 “truther.” Even Stephanie Ruhle, the Bloomberg anchor who asked the question, cried, “Hold on, you can’t blame George Bush for that.”
Oh yes, you can. There’s no way of knowing for sure if Bush could have stopped the September 11 attacks. But that’s not the right question. The right question is: Did Bush do everything he could reasonably have to stop them, given what he knew at the time? And he didn’t. It’s not even close…
Given that George W. Bush’s advisers still dominate the Republican foreign-policy establishment—an establishment that has not broken with his ideological legacy in any fundamental way—his record both before and after 9/11 remains relevant to the terrorism debate today. For many years now, that foreign-policy establishment has insisted that questioning Bush’s failure to stop the September 11 attacks constitutes an outrageous slur. That’s why Fleischer is now calling Trump a “truther.” He’s purposely blurring the line between accusing Bush of having orchestrated the attacks and accusing Bush of having been insufficiently vigilant in trying to stop them. But Bush was insufficiently vigilant. The evidence is overwhelming.
If Jeb’s loyalty to his brother makes it impossible for him to confront that, fine. But he has no right to demand that the rest of the public avert its eyes.
Until this election, this has been understood to be a death knell in politics: you do not attack members of your own party using the other party’s ammunition. In 2012, Newt Gingrich catapulted himself to the lead based solely on his willngness to call out the media for their stupid attack questions on Republican candidates. Bernie Sanders and the rest of the Democrats on stage with Hillary understood the principle well when they steadfastly refused to criticize Hillary about the email scandal that has engulfed her candidacy. The understanding, prior to Trump, was that earning yourself points against your primary opponents at the expense of making your whole party look bad was a recipe for disaster.
In Trump’s case, the attack is much more gratuitous because he did not even need to use it. Trump has already decisively squashed the candidacy of Jeb Bush. He is not a backbencher who is desperate to make up ground in the polls; by all accounts he is leading Bush (who has fallen to fifth or sixth place) by over 20 points. There is absolutely no political reason for Trump to pick up the ammunition of the DailyKos crazies against a guy he is already trouncing.
So what we are left with is the conclusion that Trump attacked Bush from the left, undercutting a significant core of the Republican party’s appeal – foreign policy competency, relative to the Democrats – for no other reason than that he childishly enjoys getting a reaction out of Jeb Bush.
Blaming George W. Bush for the 9/11 attacks is like blaming President Obama for the recession that followed the 2008 financial panic. The rise of al Qaeda had been going on for years, and its first attack on U.S. soil was its bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. Attacks on American targets overseas followed in 1996, 1998 and 2000.
Mr. Bush didn’t take office until 2001, after the 9/11 plot was underway and some of the hijackers were already in the U.S. Mr. Trump tries to blame immigration for the presence of the hijackers, but several arrived here legally on tourist or other visas.
The real U.S. failure was of intelligence and policy imagination during the Clinton years. Despite the growing evidence, U.S. officials refused to believe that Islamist terrorism posed much of a threat to Americans. Mr. Trump could bone up on this by reading the 9/11 Commission Report. Start with Chapter 4: “Responses to Al Qaeda’s Initial Assaults.”
Asked whether Bush should even get credit for keeping the country safe after 9/11, Trump says, “I’m not sure that anybody can answer that question. Because you don’t know.”
Yes, we do. What does Trump think — that after 9/11 al-Qaeda simply gave up trying to attack the United States? Of course it didn’t. It was stopped.
Bush made a lot of mistakes, especially in his prosecution of the war in Iraq. But this much is indisputable: Thanks to the actions he took, the institutions he built, the doctrines he established, the United States went 2,688 days on his watch without another attack on our soil. That is an achievement few thought possible when the rubble of the World Trade Center was still burning.
He’s asking Americans to believe that he would have brought a post–September 11 mindset to a nation that had not suffered a catastrophic foreign attack on the mainland since the War of 1812 and that he would have been able to draft, pass through Congress, and fully enforce a comprehensive new approach to immigration by the summer of 2001. He’s asking us to believe that he would have then caught the terrorists who had already been let in the country under the old immigration regime. He’s asking us to believe that his mere presence alone would have caused the State Department bureaucracy to suddenly become competent…
After September 11, President Bush did, in fact, keep us safe — in part by pursuing an aggressive military strategy that put our troops front and center in the Middle East, striking terrorists where they live. He also implemented surveillance measures of extraordinary breadth and depth — measures President Obama continued and expanded. But if we pull back from the Middle East, if we roll back our electronic surveillance, and if our border remains laughably insecure, then how will we defend our nation? Through magical thinking, happy thoughts, and festive Ramadan meals at the White House?
Yes, the Bush administration failed on September 11. No, there’s no real evidence a President Trump would have fared any better. And neither of those statements should be the least bit controversial or relevant for the 2016 election. The real issue is far more practical: Which candidate is best equipped to drag the entire national-defense apparatus — including (but not limited to) our immigration system — into the post–September 11, post-ISIS reality? Which candidate is best equipped to learn from the undeniable mistakes of the past and change the unjustifiable foolishness of the present?
But what’s astonishing about Trump’s attack in this case is that even after the fact he can’t pinpoint anything he would have done differently that would have prevented the attack. The only solution that he’s offered so far is that his immigration policies would have been different from Bush’s and this would have prevented the attacks.
When Trump talks this way, he reminds me of the gun control idiots who go on TV after a tragedy and propose a solution that, by their own admission, would not have prevented the tragedy they are trying to capitalize on. The 9/11 hijackers would not have been prevented from entering the country by a giant wall on the Mexican border, or any other hardcore immigration policy. They all entered the country legally (not even via Mexico) on temporary student, travel, or business visas.
Also, the suggestion that Bush’s personal immigration policies played a role in the hijackers’ presence in the country shows that Trump is simply not very conversant with recent history. In the first place, the hijackers were granted entrance to the country by Bill Clinton’s state department, who processed their visa applications before Bush had even won the election. In the second place, whatever you think of Bush’s ideas about immigration policy, he had not even attempted to implement them by September of 2001 when the attacks happened; his push for comprehensive immigration reform (which failed, rendering it irrelevant) did not come until much later.
As much as I respect Donald Trump for his formidable genius and rock-hard analytical foresight, as a top supporter of his campaign I must express disappointment at Trump’s failure to prevent the 9/11 attacks. Normal citizens, especially RINO dopes like the Bushes, whose brains weren’t expertly forged in the high-stakes world of billion-dollar deals—and who did NOT go to Wharton—simply are not capable of envisioning terrorist attacks before they happen.
With great power comes great responsibility. Instead of writing about it in a book, Trump could have brought some of his considerable financial resources to bear against al-Qaeda, and destroyed them with tremendous capability. Perhaps he could have run for president in 2000 and won? That would have shown real leadership. Donald Trump is a very wealthy man, with many thousands of employees, and a global brand, and a bully pulpit that is, if anything, more effective than the one occupied by any non-Trump president of the United States.
The only possible conclusion: If Trump had been more aggressive in warning the United States about Bush’s vulnerability to terrorism, it’s highly likely Osama bin Laden would have failed.