Donald Trump kicked his ongoing battle with the Bush political dynasty into high gear Sunday morning, not only repeating his suggestion that former President George W. Bush failed to keep the country safe ahead of the September 11 attacks in 2001, but asserting that if he had been president himself, the attacks wouldn’t have happened.
In an interview with Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, Trump said that his statements about the 9/11 attacks were a reaction to former Florida governor Jeb Bush, one of his opponents in the Republican presidential primary, insisting that as president his brother had kept the country “safe.”
“The World Trade Center just fell down,” Trump said. “Am I trying to blame him? I’m not blaming anybody, but the World Trade Center came down, so when he said we were safe? That’s not safe. We lost 3,000 people. It was the worst catastrophe in the history of this country.”
Pressed by Wallace on whether it was reasonable to blame Bush for the attacks, and on whether it would have been different under a Trump presidency, the billionaire was adamant that his policies could have prevented the attack in the first place.
“I would have been much different, I must tell you,” he said. “Somebody said, ‘Well, it wouldn’t have been any different.’ Well, it would have been. I am extremely, extremely tough on illegal immigration. I’m extremely tough on people coming into this country. I believe that if I were running things, I doubt that those people would have been in the country. So, there’s a good chance those people would not have been in our country.”
Trump has been in a battle of words with the former Florida governor over the question of responsibility for 9/11 for the past few days. Over the weekend, Bush called the real estate mogul and former reality television star “pathetic” on Twitter for even raising the issue.
On Sunday, a plainly exasperated Bush appeared on CNN, and again went after Trump.
“Look, my brother responded to a crisis and he did it as you would hope a president would do,” he told host Jake Tapper. “He united the country, he organized our country, and he kept us safe. And there’s no denying that. The great majority of Americans believe that. And I don’t know why he keeps bringing this up. It doesn’t show that he’s a serious person as it relates to being commander in chief and being the architect of a foreign policy.”
He went on to mock Trump’s vague pronouncements about how he would handle the ongoing three-way civil war in Syria, saying “He talks about things like he’s still on The Apprentice,” he said, referring to the television show on which Trump starred for several years.
Tapper led Bush back to the 9/11 question, and asked if Bush, out of family loyalty, might be unable or unwilling to admit to mistakes his brother might have made.
“Does anybody actually blame my brother for attacks on 9/11?” he asked. “If they do, they’re totally marginalized in our society.”
Bush segued in to a critique of Trump’s capacity to lead U.S. foreign and military policy: “It just calls into question Mr. Trump’s credibility as a commander in chief and the architect of the next generation foreign policy, which we desperately need in this country right now,” he said.
Trump’s readiness to lead the country was the topic of a hard-hitting web ad the Bush campaign released Sunday. The spot, complete with circus music, slams Trump for a lack of understanding and good judgment on various issues.
Trump, of course, did what has become second nature to him when he comes under attack – he fired up his Twitter account and started blasting Bush.
Jeb Bush should stop trying to defend his brother and focus on his own shortcomings and how to fix them. Also, Rubio is hitting him hard!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2015
Jeb, why did your brother attack and destabalize the Middle East by attacking Iraq when there were no weapons of mass destruction? Bad info?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2015
The exchange between Bush and Trump over the weekend highlighted one of the big differences between the Republican and Democratic campaign. Trump’s instinct is to lash out whenever he feels challenged, and that has had an impact on the tone of the GOP race, where personal attacks are becoming increasingly common.
It was a marked contrast to the Democrats. On Sunday, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, in a taped interview with Tapper, discussed the high regard in which she holds her top challenger, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and tried to downplay their policy differences.