Why Donald Trump is attacking George W. Bush about 9/11

In a Sunday interview, Donald Trump suggested that George W. Bush, brother of Republican presidential contender Jeb Bush, failed to protect the United States on 9/11.

Mark J. Terrill/AP
In this Sept. 16, 2015 file photo, Republican presidential candidates, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, right, and Donald Trump both speak during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, Calif.

Sunday saw a lot of jabs back and forth between Republican presidential hopefuls Donald Trump and Jeb Bush, who are currently 1st and 5th in the polls, respectively. 

I’m not blaming George Bush,” Trump said in an interview with ‘Fox News Sunday.’ “But I don’t want Jeb Bush to say, ‘ My brother kept us safe,’ because September 11 was one of the worst days in the history of this country,” 

“Look, my brother responded to a crisis, and he did it as you would hope a president would do,” Bush told CNN’s Jake Tapper in a Sunday interview on ‘State of the Union.’ “The great majority of Americans believe that. And I don’t know why he [Trump] keeps bringing this up.” 

Then in a Sunday tweet, Trump criticized Jeb Bush for coming to his brother’s defense. “Jeb Bush should stop trying to defend his brother and focus on his own shortcomings and how to fix them.”

Pinning Jeb Bush to his brother's record may be a winning tactic for Trump.

If Jeb defends his brother’s foreign policy and political decisions, as he has done, he opens the door for criticism from not only Democrats, but also serious Republican competition. 

Fellow Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is currently polling 3rd in the GOP race, is one of many competitors already using Jeb’s family name against him. Rubio says it’s “time to turn the page” and replace family legacy with fresh political leaders.  

But if Jeb ignores Trump’s jabs at his brother, then he risks alienating a distinct population of voters. After the last Republican debate, a YouGov/Huffington Post poll suggested that more than 80 percent of Republicans believe George W. Bush did a ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ job ‘keeping the US safe while president.’ 

“It’s a huge miscalculation, on Donald Trump’s part, of the appetite of Republican primary voters, to believe that somehow [Bush] is to blame for 9/11,” Katie Packer Gage, who directed advertising for George Bush’s reelection campaign, told the Washington Post. “To Republican primary voters, it’s simple: He kept us safe because he was tough, he had an immediate response.”

And Trump initiated this feud at a weak point in Jeb’s campaign.

In a CBS poll last week, Bush’s favorability rating has slipped 11 points since August, and 38 percent of Republicans hold an ‘unfavorable’ view of the presidential candidate.

But Trump also uses the accusations to advance his own campaign and ask the question: How would President Trump have prevented 9/11? 

He cites his immigration policy, of course.

“Somebody says ‘well it wouldn’t have been any different’ – well it would have been. I am extremely, extremely tough on illegal immigration,” Trump said Sunday. “I believe that if I were running things, I doubt those families would have – I doubt that those people would have been in the country.”

Although all 19 hijackers in the 9/11 attacks were in the US legally on temporary visas, a 9/11 commission report acknowledged serious flaws in the system that granted their applications. 

During his interview, Trump continued to reiterate that he’s “extremely, extremely tough on immigration,” while sidestepping direct accusations.

Do I blame George Bush?” He asked Sunday. “All I know is that the Twin Towers came down, and I was there.”

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