Donald Trump says it is ridiculous for Jeb Bush to claim that his brother, President George W. Bush, “kept us safe.” “The World Trade Center came down during his reign,” Trump says. “He was the president at the time, and you know, you could say the buck stops here.”
When Bush took office on Jan. 20, 2001, planning for 9/11 was well underway. Bush inherited a world where terrorists had safe havens in terrorist states and were engaged in a virtually unimpeded offensive. Under his predecessor, they had launched a string of attacks against the United States.
In none of these cases was there a forceful U.S. response. As a result, al-Qaida was convinced that the United States was soft and that if they hit us hard enough, we could be forced to retreat and withdraw as we had in Beirut and Somalia.
They miscalculated. Within weeks, U.S. special operations forces were in Afghanistan, and in less than a month they had destroyed the Taliban regime and driven al-Qaeda from its sanctuary there. After Afghanistan’s liberation, the United States and its coalition partners captured or killed hundreds of al-Qaida leaders, managers and top operational commanders responsible for day-to-day planning of the terror group’s activities across the globe, including 9/11 mastermind Khalid SheikMohammed.
Bush established a program at the National Security Agency to monitor terrorist communications. He built programs at the Treasury Department to deny extremists state-of-the-art banking and financial tools. He established the CIA program to detain and question top terror leaders - an effort that doubled our intelligence on al-Qaida. He created the Department of Homeland Security and a new director of national intelligence and transformed the FBI and the Justice Department to fight terror.
Using these new tools and doctrines, the Bush administration disrupted a series of planned al-Qaida attacks on our homeland and on U.S. interests and allies abroad.
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.”
Does Trump think that after 9/11 al-Qaida simply gave up trying to attack the United States? Of course not. It was stopped.
Bush made a lot of mistakes. 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.
Even more ridiculous is Trump’s claim that he would have stopped 9/11 because under his immigration policies “these terrorists wouldn’t have been in the country” and because “a good leader would’ve made sure that the CIA and FBIwould get along and talk.” Trump seems unaware that several of the 9/11 hijackers were already in the country when Bush took office and that most were here legally on tourist visas. He also seems oblivious to the fact that there was a legal wall between the intelligence and law enforcement communities that prevented them from sharing information - a wall Bush broke down when he signed the Patriot Act.
According to a recent poll, more than 80 percent of Republican voters agree that Bush kept us safe. Blaming Bush for 9/11 and denying him credit for his actions to stop al-Qaida from striking us again are things one would expect from the Democratic presidential nominee – not someone vying for the Republican presidential nomination.
Thiessen was a speechwriter for Bush from 2004 to 2009.