WASHINGTON -- Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) has been going all out to defend his brother's national security record in recent days, responding to Donald Trump's assertions that former President George W. Bush should assume more responsibility for the 9/11 terrorist attacks that took place during his term.
Jeb Bush has insisted that his brother bears no blame for 9/11; it's how he reacted that matters. At the same time, however, Republicans continue to blame Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, which occurred while she was secretary of state.
CNN "State of the Union" host Jake Tapper pressed the presidential candidate on this contradiction on Sunday, asking him, "[If] your brother and his administration bear no responsibility at all, how do you then make the jump that President Obama and Secretary Clinton are responsible for what happened at Benghazi?"
Bush replied that the State Department had a duty to ensure that there was proper security at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.
"There were calls for security. It looks like they didn't get it," Bush said. "And how was the response in the aftermath of the attack? Was there a chance that these four American lives could have been saved? That's what the investigation is about. It's not a political issue."
There have already been seven investigations of the 2012 attack in Libya, aside from an ongoing inquiry by the House Select Committee on Benghazi. They all found that no one in the government was at fault for gross negligence, although the Obama administration's response could have been improved.
Trump has repeatedly said that he doesn't blame George W. Bush for 9/11. Yet at the same time, he argues, it's dishonest for the former president's backers to say he "kept us safe," but only look at his record after the disastrous attacks.
Jeb Bush has pushed back against that criticism. "Mr. Trump is probably going to say that FDR was around when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor," he said Sunday on CNN. "Does anybody actually blame my brother for the attacks on 9/11? If they do, they're totally marginalized in our society."
But, as Peter Beinart wrote in The Atlantic, "There’s no way of knowing for sure if Bush could have stopped the September 11 attacks. But that’s not the right question. The right question is: Did Bush do everything he could reasonably have to stop them, given what he knew at the time? And he didn’t. It’s not even close."
Early in the George W. Bush administration, intelligence officials warned top aides that about the threat of al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, but they felt like they weren't being listened to. According to Richard Clarke, the National Security Council's counterterrorism coordinator, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said he didn't understand why officials were focusing so much on bin Laden, since "Iraqi terrorism" posed just as much of a threat.
Former White House National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice testified in 2004 that Bush understood the threat of al Qaeda, but he "did not want to respond to [al Qaeda] one attack at a time."
"He told me he was 'tired of swatting flies,'" Rice said at the time.
And on Aug. 6, 2001, Bush received the now-infamous document from intelligence officials entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S."
Trump continued to go after the former president on Monday, pointing to articles that questioned his record.
George W. Bush continues to be incredibly popular among Republicans, with 85 percent saying he kept the U.S. safe during his presidency, according to a HuffPost/YouGov poll.
And Jeb Bush has been doubling down on defending that legacy, fundraising off his feud with Trump. On Monday, the presidential hopeful announced that he will be holding a fundraiser with his brother and parents in Houston.
This story has been updated to include a 2004 quote from Condoleezza Rice.