"You remember the rubble?" asked Bush. "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."
Trump largely let the line pass -- "I don't feel so safe" -- but on social media, it was a clanger. Jeb Bush had invoked what Esquire columnist Charlie Pierce calls "the great mulligan," the idea that a responsible discussion of the George W. Bush terror record starts on September 12, 2001. For a very long time, conservatives ruled out any criticism of Bush for his actions (or lack thereof) before 9/11 as bitter conspiracy-mongering. And on the stage last night, no Republican -- not even Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) -- pushed back. That freed up Jeb Bush to emphasize his jarring argument that George W. Bush's speech from the rubble of the World Trade Center, which presaged the ongoing Afghanistan war, was exhibit A of how he "kept us safe."
On Twitter last night, all progressive critics of the Bushes could do was gawk.
The Bush tweet on Thursday sparked a fresh round of Web reaction:
And asked through a spokesman if Bush was right to say his brother "kept us safe," Paul, who is campaigning in Nevada today, declined to comment.