There’s no way of knowing for sure if Bush could have stopped the September 11 attacks. But that’s not the right question. The right question is: Did Bush do everything he could reasonably have to stop them, given what he knew at the time? And he didn’t. It’s not even close.
When the Bush administration took office in January 2001, CIA Director George Tenet and National Security Council counterterrorism “czar” Richard Clarke both warned its incoming officials that al-Qaeda represented a grave threat. During a transition briefing early that month at Blair House, according to Bob Woodward’s Bush at War, Tenet and his deputy James Pavitt listed Osama bin Laden as one of America’s three most serious national-security challenges. That same month, Clarke presented National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice with a plan he had been working on since al-Qaeda’s attack on the USS Cole the previous October. It called for freezing the network’s assets, closing affiliated charities, funneling money to the governments of Uzbekistan, the Philippines and Yemen to fight al-Qaeda cells in their country, initiating air strikes and covert operations against al-Qaeda sites in Afghanistan, and dramatically increasing aid to the Northern Alliance, which was battling al-Qaeda and the Taliban there.
And is Condi Rice as dumb as George Bush. It boggles the mind.
But both Clarke and Tenet grew deeply frustrated by the way top Bush officials responded. Clarke recounts that when he briefed Rice about al-Qaeda, “her facial expression gave me the impression that she had never heard the term before.”
The Devil you say! Well, you've covered your ass.
Matthews also pointed out the hypocrisy of absolving Bush of any responsibility for 9/11, yet laying the blame for Benghazi squarely on the shoulders of Hillary Clinton. “[T]he Bushes and their partisans can charge Hillary Clinton for what happened in a remote building in war-torn North Africa, miles – 400 miles – from the capital of that country.”
As NBC correspondent Katie Tur points out, 17 of Jeb Bush’s 21 foreign policy advisors were also advisors to his brother, George. This, coupled with Bush’s inability to rely on the narrative of a no-fault 9/11—or Bush as America’s protector for eight years—makes it difficult to see how his campaign can make necessary gains using the pat lines it’s come to rely on. (If an interview today in which Jeb Bush essentially faults Bill Clinton for 9/11 is any indication, the flailing has already begun.)