In one of his biggest moments of Wednesday night's Republican presidential debate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said his brother, former President George. W. Bush, "kept us safe" from terrorism during his years in the White House. The retort drew raucous applause from the audience at the Reagan Presidential Library in California, but the line was not as well-received in cyberspace, or in the homes of families who lost loved ones on 9/11.
Critics flooded Twitter with reminders that the 2001 terrorist attacks that took nearly 3,00 lives occurred on his brother's watch. But if Jeb Bush or his team noticed the reaction, they weren't deterred from trying to get even more mileage out of the line.
On Thursday, the GOP candidate posted a photo on Twitter of the second President Bush atop a pile of World Trade Center rubble, along with his own line from the GOP debate.
He kept us safe. pic.twitter.com/Plq9Hm7caE
— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) September 17, 2015
Several families of 9/11 victims condemned the presidential candidate and accused him of trying to rewrite history.
"Jeb Bush's revised version of history is pure fiction," said Nancy Meyer, a member of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, in an email to International Business Times. "If we were so safe during the GW Bush administration, why did 9/11 happen at all? Richard A. Clarke of the Clinton White House tried to warn the incoming Bush administration months before the attacks, and he was turned away. The NSA [National Security Agency] briefing warning of imminent attacks that GW Bush refused to read was entitled, 'Terrorists Determined to Strike in US.' "
Jim Fyfe, who lost his 31-year-old son on 9/11, said he considered Bush's remarks Wednesday evening to be "warped." His son, Karleton Douglas Beye Fyfe, died aboard American Airlines Flight 11, which crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center after being hijacked.
Fyfe criticized Bush for invading Iraq in 2003 and pointed to the casualties suffered during the war. "Safe? Only if one ignores the hugh toll on our military personnel and the costs to programs that would make our lives safer against hunger, lack of education and joblessness, programs to make our infrastructure sound, and if one ignores long-term generation of hatred for the U.S. in the Middle East," he wrote in an email to IBT.
Bush's comment was prompted at the debate by Republican front-runner Donald Trump, who blamed the 43rd president's missteps for the election of President Barack Obama, as the two candidates sparred over the war in Iraq.
"You remember the rubble?" Bush asked. "You remember the firefighter with his arms around it? He sent a clear signal that the United States would be strong and fight Islamic terrorism, and he did keep us safe."
Critics swiftly responded to the statement Wednesday evening, including New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and Pulitzer Prize winner Glenn Greenwald.
The problem with Jeb Bush saying his brother "kept us safe" is that more Americans died in Iraq & Afghanistan than in 9/11.
— Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof) September 17, 2015
Bush was also President on 9/11 itself, but for some reason, it doesn't count. https://t.co/xtmtlKl2i4
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) September 17, 2015
Bush's campaign tweet Thursday then provoked a new wave of reactions.
"He kept us safe." Except of course those who died on 9/11, in the war of choice in Iraq, and in the mishandling of Katrina.
— Jeet Heer (@HeerJeet) September 17, 2015
Others responded with memes:
— Matt Bors (@MattBors) September 17, 2015