It was one of those moments during last night’s GOP debate when I had to stop and ask: Did he really say that? OK, fine, there were a lot of those kinds of moments, but this one was … special.
In response to Donald Trump’s goading criticism of his brother’s administration, Jeb Bush responded with this:
You know what? As it relates to my brother, there is one thing I know for sure, he kept us safe. I don’t know if you remember, Donald. You remember the rubble? You remember the firefighter with his arms around him?
Yeah, I remember. That would be the rubble of the World Trade Centers. That would be the rubble of the World Trade Centers that were destroyed by terrorists in hijacked airliners on 9/11. That would be Sept. 11, 2001. When George W. Bush was president.
So, according to Jeb, George kept us safe from terrorism by presiding over the country on the day it suffered the single worst terrorist attack in its history.
Now we have to acknowledge that Jeb was going off-script in this moment of the debate, and while he’s had some nine months now to prepare any number of effective responses to criticisms of his brother’s (or his dad’s) presidencies, every time he gets one of these he stumbles and fumbles his way into some awkward statement or other.
You’d think that in the clear light of the next day, Jeb would find a way to walk that bit of gross misstatement of the historical record back. Maybe emphasize that W kept us safe after 9/11, or something. But nope. Today he doubled down, sending out the tweet above.
Maybe there’s some signal of steely resolve that Jeb is trying to send here, I don’t know.
What I do know is that the families of some 3,000 Americans who lost their lives that day, and the families and friends of the thousands more service men and women who gave their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan in the Bush years that followed, might beg to differ.