MSNBC's Alter Suggests Bush to Blame for Not Preventing 9/11 Attacks

Appearing as a panel member on Sunday's Up show on MSNBC, Bloomberg View columnist and MSNBC political analyst Jonathan Alter, picking up on what he called "one of Donald Trump's great contributions to this campaign," contended President Bush deserved blame for not stopping the 9/11 attacks as he recounted a vague warning from August 2001 that Osama bin Laden wanted to attack the U.S. He further accused the "Bush people" of "Orwellian, deceptive, historically amnesiatic (sic) thinking."

Host Richard Wolffe picked up on recent comments by Donald Trump similarly seeming to blame President Bush. After playing a clip from a Trump interview with Bloomberg's Stephanie Ruhle, and then recounting GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush's Twitter response, the MSNBC host wondered if "we are actually witnessing the end of 9/11 politics" as he turned to Alter and posed:

In a campaign year where outsiders are in the lead, and the usual rules of engagement don't seem to apply, does this mean that one of the golden rules of politics over the last 15 years is now obsolete? Are we actually witnessing the end of 9/11 politics? I'm going to turn to my panel here. Jon, 9/11 politics has been with us very powerfully for a long time here. Is it open season on the kinds of things Republicans campaigned successfully on before?

The MSNBC political analyst went after President Bush as he began:

Well, I hope it is, and this is one of Donald Trump's great contributions to this campaign, whatever else he's doing that we all object to. He is calling out the Bush people for Orwellian, deceptive, historically amnesiatic (sic) thinking, right? For Jeb Bush to say, "My brother kept us safe," is not true, you know. Facts are stubborn things, as other politicians have reminded us.

He then suggested that President Bush had culpability in not stopping the attacks:

Not only did it happen on his watch, but there was something called the Hart-Rudman Report -- Senators Hart and Rudman -- tried to get to the White House in early 2001 to say, "We are about to get attacked." They had been studying it for years. They couldn't even get in the door to meet with the National Security Advisor. These are two former United States Senators. Then, over the summer of 2001, Bush at Crawford, Texas, gets a report -- "Al-Qaeda Planning Attacks in the United States" -- they were warned. The idea that he kept us safe is not true.

Alter then tried to walk back his implications by claiming that he was not really trying to place blame for 9/11 on President Bush. Alter:

Now, just one other thing on this. That doesn't mean he was responsible for the attacks. so when the Republicans try to counterattack on this, they say, "Oh, you're blaming Bush," nobody is blaming Bush. they're just saying, "Stop telling us he kept us safe when it's not true."

Moments later, Wolffe turned to right-leaning guest Amy Holmes of The Blaze and tried to bolster the case against President Bush by suggesting that Republicans are no longer as inclined to defend the former President over the 9/11 attacks:

Amy, there weren't that many people jumping to Jeb Bush and George W. Bush's defense in this Republican field. ... But in this Republican field, does this mean that things have changed in the Republican Party in terms of the debate about George W. Bush's legacy?

Holmes corrected the MSNBC host as she responded:

I think it's moved on George Bush's legacy. And, if you remember in the Fox debate when Jeb Bush turned to Donald Trump and said, "Hey, I know one thing, my brother kept this country safe," that was one of the biggest applause lines of the night. The crowd burst into cheers.

She added:

The Republican Party is focusing on, "What are we going to do about Vladimir Putin and his rising threat in the Middle East and exercising Russian power there? And Crimea and Ukraine. And what about ISIS metastasizing throughout the Middle East?" Republicans are focused on what they see as President Obama's failures, not George Bush's.

Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Sunday, October 18, Up show on MSNBC:

9:45 a.m.

DONALD TRUMP: I think I'm much more competent than all of them. When you talk about George Bush, I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time.

STEPHANIE RUHLE, BLOOMBERG: Hold on, you can't blame George Bush for that.

TRUMP: Well, he was President. okay, don't blame him or don't blame him, but he was President. The World Trade Center came down during his reign.

RICHARD WOLFFE: He never holds back what he really thinks, does he? And, as we've seen, time and again, Trump isn't afraid to change his own party or the GOP's long-held principles. Like that one about the Bush administration keeping America safe. Jeb Bush, meanwhile, as the establishment standardbearer, and as a proud brother, has spent his campaign running on -- and not away from -- his brother George's national security record. The former Governor tweeting in response to Trump's Bloomberg interview, quote: "We were attacked & my brother kept us safe."

Trump doesn't seem to see a down side to picking this fight with the Republican establishment and their top candidate for President. Which begs the question: In a campaign year where outsiders are in the lead, and the usual rules of engagement don't seem to apply, does this mean that one of the golden rules of politics over the last 15 years is now obsolete? Are we actually witnessing the end of 9/11 politics? I'm going to turn to my panel here. Jon, 9/11 politics has been with us very powerfully for a long time here. Is it open season on the kinds of things Republicans campaigned successfully on before?

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I hope it is, and this is one of Donald Trump's great contributions to this campaign, whatever else he's doing that we all object to. He is calling out the Bush people for Orwellian, deceptive, historically amnesiatic (sic) thinking, right? For Jeb Bush to say, "My brother kept us safe," is not true, you know. Facts are stubborn things, as other politicians have reminded us.

Not only did it happen on his watch, but there was something called the Hart-Rudman Report -- Senators Hart and Rudman -- tried to get to the White House in early 2001 to say, "We are about to get attacked." They had been studying it for years. They couldn't even get in the door to meet with the National Security Advisor. These are two former United States Senators. Then, over the summer of 2001, Bush at Crawford, Texas, gets a report -- "Al-Qaeda Planning Attacks in the United States" -- they were warned. The idea that he kept us safe is not true.

Now, just one other thing on this. That doesn't mean he was responsible for the attacks. so when the Republicans try to counterattack on this, they say, "Oh, you're blaming Bush," nobody is blaming Bush. they're just saying, "Stop telling us he kept us safe when it's not true."

(...)

WOLFFE: Amy, there weren't that many people jumping to Jeb Bush and George W. Bush's defense in this Republican field.

AMY HOLMES, THE BLAZE: They're his competitors. Why would they?

WOLFFE: But in this Republican field, does this mean that things have changed in the Republican Party in terms of the debate about George W. Bush's legacy?

HOLMES: I think it's moved on George Bush's legacy. And, if you remember in the Fox debate when Jeb Bush turned to Donald Trump and said, "Hey, I know one thing, my brother kept this country safe," that was one of the biggest applause lines of the night. The crowd burst into cheers.

The Republican Party is focusing on, "What are we going to do about Vladimir Putin and his rising threat in the Middle East and exercising Russian power there? And Crimea and Ukraine. And what about ISIS metastasizing throughout the Middle East?" Republicans are focused on what they see as President Obama's failures, not George Bush's.

NB Daily 2016 Presidential 9/11 Bloomberg MSNBC Other MSNBC Jonathan Alter Richard Wolffe Jeb Bush Donald Trump


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