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Claims That Jeb's Brother "Kept Us Safe?" Bring 'Em On.

October 23, 2015

During the 2012 Republican National Convention, Jeb Bush proclaimed of his brother George, "He is a man of integrity, courage, and honor, and during incredibly challenging times, he kept us safe." In the face of the inconvenient truth that Dubya presided over the slaughter of 3,000 Americans on U.S. soil on 9/11, deadly anthrax and ricin attacks, the needless Iraq war that killed 4,500 American soldiers, wounded 30,000 more, converted Baghdad into an Iranian satellite and birthed ISIS, Jeb hasn't stopped making the "he kept us safe" claims since.
But of all the national security failures that made the national headlines during Bush's 43's watch, one that didn't is among the most heartbreaking of all. As a grieving Mary Kewatt told Minnesota Public Radio in the summer of 2003:

"We have some issues with the fact that President Bush declared combat over on May 1. Combat is not over. We don't even know who's firing at us right now, and all of our soldiers are at great risk of being picked off as Jim was. And that's a shame. And then President Bush made a comment a week ago, and he said, 'bring it on.' They brought it on and now my nephew is dead." [Emphasis mine.]

That's right. It wasn't bad enough that in just six short months President Bush went from declaring he wanted Osama Bin Laden "dead or alive" to announcing "I truly am not that concerned about him." As American casualties from insurgent attacks began to mount in the days he stood in front of a banner proclaiming, "Mission Accomplished," Jeb's brother offered some tough talk to the supposed "dead-enders" in Iraq:

"There are some who feel like that the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is bring them on."

Six years later in December 2009, Bush's former press secretary Dana Perino complained it was "demonstrably false" to suggest "that President Bush was too triumphant in his rhetoric when talking about war." As it turns, President Bush didn't just repeatedly tell us that his "bad language" and "gun-slinging rhetoric"about the war was a mistake. It was pretty much the only mistake he ever acknowledged.
As you might recall, back in April 2004--ten months after the death of Mary Kewatt's 2 year-old nephew Edward James Stergott in Baghdad, a stammering President Bush could not think of a single error he had made during his tenure in the White House:

"I'm sure something will pop into my head here...maybe I'm not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one."

But by January 2007, just days after he announced the surge in Iraq, Bush admitted to Scott Pelley on CBS 60 Minutes that he had made mistakes, if only semantic ones:

PELLEY: You mention mistakes having been made in your speech. What mistakes are you talking about?
BUSH: You know, we've been through this before. Abu Ghraib was a mistake. Using bad language like, you know, "bring them on" was a mistake. I think history is gonna look back and see a lot of ways we could have done things better. No question about it.

Amazingly, Bush's most profound statement of regret about his tough talk came during Dana Perino's watch in June 2008. In London as part of his final swing through Europe before leaving the White House, President Bush told The Times of London that his cowboy rhetoric was perhaps his greatest regret:

President Bush has admitted to The Times that his gun-slinging rhetoric made the world believe that he was a "guy really anxious for war" in Iraq.
[...] In an exclusive interview, he expressed regret at the bitter divisions over the war and said that he was troubled about how his country had been misunderstood. "I think that in retrospect I could have used a different tone, a different rhetoric."
Phrases such as "bring them on" or "dead or alive", he said, "indicated to people that I was, you know, not a man of peace."

Of course, many Americans struggled with the notion that George W. Bush was a "man of peace" when he had repeatedly bragged to them that "I'm a war president." Bush doubtless made matters worse by joking about bloodbath he inaugurated in Iraq. On March 24, 2004 (the same day his former Counter-Terrorism Czar Richard Clarke told the 9/11 Commission, "Your government failed you, those entrusted with protecting you failed you, and I failed you"), President Bush regaled the audience at the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association Dinner in Washington. As David Corn recalled:

Bush notes he spends "a lot of time on the phone listening to our European allies." Then we see a photo of him on the phone with a finger in his ear. But at one point, Bush showed a photo of himself looking for something out a window in the Oval Office, and he said, "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere." The audience laughed. I grimaced. But that wasn't the end of it. After a few more slides, there was a shot of Bush looking under furniture in the Oval Office. "Nope," he said. "No weapons over there." More laughter. Then another picture of Bush searching in his office: "Maybe under here." Laughter again.

This week, Dubya's former flack Perino rushed to his brother's defense, claiming that Donald Trump self-evident truth that the World Trade Center towers came down on her boss' watch was just the GOP frontrunner spouting "liberal conspiracy theories." But in the wake of the Ft. Hood shootings in November 2009, Dana Perino declared:

"We did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush's term."

Like Jeb's magical calendar, Perino's revisionist history would be hilarious if it wasn't so pathetic, dangerous and wrong. To put it another way, if Jeb Bush and his supporters want to trumpet their bogus claims that his brother "kept us safe," I have only one response.
Bring 'em on.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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