It is one of the memorable lines from last week’s Republican presidential candidates‘ debate. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush said his brother, George W., kept America safe during his presidency. Liberals gladly seized on the statement , mocking Jeb. They immediately pointed to 9/11, featuring it in a TV ad by liberal group Americans United for Change. Now as much as I despise Bush’s record, whether domestic or in foreign policy, this is a disgraceful low blow.
It is absolutely impossible to say whether a different president – Al Gore, for instance – could have prevented the terror attacks. And while there is credible evidence that the US intelligence community was aware of a vague terrorist threat to the United States in the summer of 2001, this does not automatically make him responsible.
There are many things for which one can – and should – blame the Bush administration: the catastrophic post-Katrina emergency response that failed the people of New Orleans, the creation of an out-of-control, totalitarian surveillance state or a war based on lies that destabilised an entire region and killed thousands of US soldiers alongside Iraqi civilians. But the name of the dead of September 11 should not be used for cheap shots at anyone. It is dirty play, and fair-minded politicians should keep their fingers off it.
September 11 was a historic tragedy and nobody – whether Republican or Democratic – should be exploiting it in this tasteless way.