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The Trump-Bush Fight Over George W. Bush

National Archives ID 6176922 Creator: White House; David Valdez--HUD

The Trump-Bush feud continues:

“I’m not blaming George Bush but I don’t want Jeb Bush to say ‘My brother kept us safe,’ because September 11th was one of the worst days in the history of the country,’’ Mr. Trump said on Fox News.

Ever since he fell back on this defense during the last Republican debate, Bush has inexplicably persisted in saying that George W. Bush “kept us safe.” This has provided Trump with the easiest possible target, especially since Bush has made his blanket statement about his brother’s tenure in the same breath that he mentions the attacks that disprove that statement:

The sad thing is that this sort of nonsense was entirely common in the decade following 9/11, and for a long time it worked. Calling the previous administration to account for presiding over one of the greatest national security failures on record was something that a national candidate would not have attempted a few years ago, but as time passes it becomes easier to do this. George W. Bush’s supporters have clung to the idea that he would eventually be vindicated by the “judgment of history” in decades to come, but this suggests that his overall record may end up looking even worse as time goes by than it did when he left office.

The fight with Trump makes Bush seem to be nothing more than his brother’s apologist and cheerleader, and it shows that he is still working from an early Bush-era playbook in which national security was still an advantage for his brother and the GOP. Whether it is simply for reasons of family loyalty or for some other reason, Bush not only can’t criticize any of his brother’s many failings, but he won’t stand for anyone else criticizing him, either. Nothing could better demonstrate how much of a liability another Bush nomination would be for the GOP. The depressing thing about all this is that a real Republican reckoning with the record of George W. Bush has taken almost seven years since he left the White House, and in order to have it we have to be subjected to presidential campaigns by the former president’s brother and a ridiculous reality TV personality.

It is also true that Trump’s grasp on foreign policy is superficial and lacking, but what does it say about Republican party elites, including Jeb Bush, that he is often more in touch with reality on foreign policy issues than they are? Almost all other Republican candidates cannot bring themselves to say a word against the Iraq war, while Trump attacks it for its obvious destabilizing effects. Most other candidates this year are marching in lockstep in their support for a “no-fly zone” in Syria, and Trump has come out against starting WWIII over Syria. That certainly doesn’t make Trump a reliable voice of reason on foreign policy (he isn’t), but it demonstrates how hopeless and ideological most of his competitors are.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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