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Donald Trump, Necessary Truth-Teller

I have officially moved from the camp of “why not?” to the camp of “Forza!” when it comes to Donald Trump, and all it took was saying that 9-11 was somebody’s fault.

Jeb Bush has come in for plenty of ridicule, including here at TAC, for his defense of his brother’s record in “keeping us safe” – but it is worth recalling that essentially nobody has gotten any traction in the past 14 years with the attack that the 9-11 attacks were a failure of the Bush Administration. Indeed, not only has there been no criticism from within the Republican Party for that failure, there has been virtually no criticism from the Democratic Party. Criticism has been limited to the loons of the 9-11 Truther “movement.”

So Trump is performing an essential service – vital for the health of our democracy – in using his perch as Republican front-runner to point out the obvious: that George W. Bush was president on September 11, 2001, and that this means the attacks of that day are part of his record.

This service is essential not primarily because we still need to talk about the specific operational or policy failures of the early Bush Administration – a great deal has changed about the way the government is organized since 9-11, so at this point it’s more important to look at that structure as it is than as it was. And, although it is vital that we have a more serious debate about the overall orientation of our foreign policy and how it may contribute to feeding the fires we keep trying to put out, I don’t expect Donald Trump to provide that.

No – the service Trump is providing is in simply reminding America that facts are stubborn things. The striking thing about Jeb Bush’s defense of his brother is not that it’s false but that it is utterly divorced from reality. That his brother “kept us safe” is simply stated as a fact – not a conclusion derived from an analysis of facts, but a primary fact itself. And, since it’s absurd to use one fact to refute another fact, Jeb can honestly say that it’s ridiculous for Trump to say that the fact of 9-11 raises some little problems with the narrative that says George W. Bush “kept us safe.” And can honestly believe that saying it’s ridiculous is some kind of refutation.

Americans of all ideological persuasions have gotten alarmingly good at that kind of Orwellian “thinking.” So while I still don’t want him to be President, I will affirm that if Trump makes even a little crack in that psychological wall, he’ll have done a great service to his country.


about the author

Noah Millman, senior editor, is an opinion journalist, critic, screenwriter, and filmmaker who joined The American Conservative in 2012. Prior to joining TAC, he was a regular blogger at The American Scene. Millman’s work has also appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Week, Politico, First Things, Commentary, and on The Economist’s online blogs. He lives in Brooklyn.

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