Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R) appeared on CBS's "Face the Nation" the other day, and is often the case, the Florida Republican fielded some questions about his brother. Jeb repeated a familiar line about George W. Bush: "My brother is not going to be a problem at all. I seek out his advice. I love him dearly. I have learned from his successes and his mistakes."
That's not bad, I suppose, but the word "successes" stood out. George W. Bush had successes? Ones that Jeb Bush has learned from and would try to duplicate? Like what?
"Well, the successes clearly are protecting the homeland. We were under attack, and he brought -- he unified the country and he showed dogged determination. And he kept us safe."And you can talk about a lot of stuff, but when you're president of the United States and you're confronted with that kind of event, to respond the way he did is admirable. And I have learned from that."
Former Vice President Dick Cheney used a similar line with the Wall Street Journal, arguing that the policies of the Bush/Cheney administration "kept us safe for 7 1/2 years."
I hate to sound picky, but if memory serves, the Bush/Cheney administration actually lasted eight years. Jon Chait added yesterday, "The 'he kept us safe' line has always been slightly tricky owing to the fact that foreign terrorist attacks killed more Americans during the Bush administration than every other presidency in history combined."
That's true, of course, but I think we can take this one step further. I've always interpreted the "he kept us safe" line to effectively mean, "Other than the one catastrophic counter-example, Sept. 12, 2001 to Jan. 19, 2009 was a period of safety and security for Americans."
Except, that's not quite right, either.
Shortly after 9/11, for example, there were deadly anthrax attacks. There were scores of terrorist attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. There was an increase in the number of terrorist attacks on U.S. diplomatic outposts around the world.
When Jeb Bush says he learned a great deal from his brother about national security, perhaps he could be more specific?
For that matter, the former governor credits his brother for having "unified the country" in the wake of 9/11. For context, it's worth noting that just a year after the attacks, when there was a disagreement over the bureaucratic structure of the newly created Department of Homeland Security, it was George W. Bush and his Republican political operation that questioned Democrats' patriotism, stirred up an ugly partisan dispute, and ran attack ads like these.
The point is not to rehash Bush's failures or fights from 13 years ago. Rather, the point is, a leading Republican presidential candidate now says he looks to that era as an example of political success, offering a model he'd follow if elected.
If that's the case, setting the record straight becomes all the more important.