Jeb Bush, under fire from Republican rival Donald Trump over his brother's anti-terror policies, launched an attack on the same subject against Bill Clinton Monday night, charging that the 42nd president's administration did not pursue Osama bin Laden aggressively enough.
The comments, made in an interview on Fox News Channel, marked the latest instance of Bill Clinton or George W. Bush surfacing as an issue in a campaign featuring candidates with the same last names.
On his show, Fox's Sean Hannity played an audio clip of Bill Clinton saying in 2002 that bin Laden had "committed no crime against America" in 1996, and so he "did not bring him here," even as he "knew he wanted to commit crimes against America." Hannity said Sudan had "offered bin Laden on a silver platter," a claim disputed by a commission created to investigate the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
After playing the clip, Hannity asked the former Florida governor: "If Bill Clinton knew he wanted to commit crimes against America and was offered him and he didn't take him, isn't that in and of itself a legal basis to take the guy?"
"I think there's two ways to look at Islamic terrorism," responded Bush. "One is a threat that has to be taken out as it relates to, you know, creating a strategy that calls it a war, or we view is as a law enforcement operation where people have rights. I think the Clinton administration made a mistake of thinking bin Laden had to be viewed from a law enforcement perspective."
He added: "Similarly, President Obama's policy seemed to be focused on that as well. This is a war against Western civilization."
Bin Laden was killed during a 2011 U.S. raid during Obama's first term.
The 9/11 Commission stated in 2004 that "former Sudanese officials claim that Sudan offered to expel bin Laden to the United States. Clinton administration officials deny ever receiving such an offer. We have not found any reliable evidence to support the Sudanese claim."
In a 2006 interview with Fox News Sunday, Clinton vigorously defended his efforts to get bin Laden, saying, "at least I tried. That's the difference in me and some, including all the right-wingers who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try. They did not try. I tried."
Hannity also asked Bush about Trump's controversial and repeated claim that George W. Bush is at least partly to blame for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The former Florida governo voiced strong disagreement with Trump's comments.
"His view of history is just wrong," said Bush. "The simple fact is that when we were attacked, my brother created an environment where for 2,600 days we were safe. No one attacked us again. And he changed the laws, he did everything necessary, united the country and he kept us safe."
"Just a tip of the hat to that and moving on to what the threats are today," Bush added, "is what we ought tot be focused on. Donald Trump is not serious candidate as it relates to foreign policy."
Trump made no mention of 9/11 during a Monday night speech.