Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is so associated with the 9/11 attacks that it’s almost difficult to see his name in print without those numbers taking their place before or after it. So it was somewhat ironic that Giuliani, in his current and much less successful role as a surrogate for #Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, would commit a 9/11-related gaffe.
Speaking Monday in Ohio prior to Trump’s foreign policy speech, Giuliani appeared to suggest that there were no terrorist attacks in the United States during the George W. Bush presidency. "Under those eight years before Obama came along, we didn't have any successful radical Islamic terrorist attack in the United States,” the former mayor said. “They all started when (Hillary) Clinton and Obama got into office.”
Now in fairness to the former mayor he did not, as numerous media outlets reported, “forget” 9/11. Giuliani, perhaps unsurprisingly, had addressed that particular attack at length earlier in the speech. But what Giuliani did say is troubling, for a whole host of reasons that are way worse than supposed forgetfulness.
“The Great Mulligan”
The “eight years before Obama came along” are also known as the eight years that George W. Bush was president of the United States. The 9/11 attacks, of course, happened while George W. Bush was president. To state that George W. Bush “kept us safe,” as admirers of the former president did throughout his presidency, implies that he kept us safe starting on September 12, 2001, and that “keeping us safe” wasn’t part of his job description until after the one time he very much did not “keep us safe.”
True, it was a talking point during the Bush Years that the 9/11 attacks were the fault of the Clinton Administration and that nothing the Bush Administration could have possibly done in its first nine months to prevent the attacks, specific intelligence briefings be damned. Journalist Charles Pierce has called this “the Great Mulligan.” This talking point, self-evidently wrong as it was, has since been retired, mostly because no one in the Republican Party whose first name isn’t “Jeb” has the slightest bit of interest in defending George W. Bush or even acknowledging that his presidency happened.
“Keeping Us Safe” has its limits
There are numerous other problems with what Giuliani said: There’s the questionable notion that attacks by “radical Islamists” count as “terrorism” and that other mass killings don’t. And there were, in fact, other Islamist terrorist attacks during the Bush presidency, from the LAX shooting in 2002 to the Chapel Hill attack in 2006 to the numerous, deadly attacks on soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The other major flaw here is that it sets a standard that presidents are wholly responsible for domestic terrorist attacks on their watch, or a complete elimination of terrorism, or of crime, is something that any political figure can ever realistically promise. Both concepts are obviously false.
And finally, do you know who else disagrees with the notion that we were safe for the eight years prior to Obama’s presidency? The man Giuliani was introducing that day, Donald Trump:#Election 2016