WASHINGTON — Jeb Bush and Donald Trump traded barbs Friday over how much responsibility George W. Bush shared for the 9/11 terror attacks.
“How pathetic for @realdonaldtrump to criticize the president for 9/11. We were attacked & my brother kept us safe,” Bush tweeted.
The feud began Friday morning when Trump implied that the former president could share some blame for the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans, as he was in office at the time.
“When you talk about George Bush, I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time,” Trump said Friday morning on Bloomberg TV.
Bloomberg anchor Stephanie Ruhle interjected, “Hold on, you can’t blame George Bush for that,” before Trump stood by his comments.
“He was president, OK? … Blame him, or don’t blame him, but he was president. The World Trade Center came down during his reign,” Trump said.
On Friday evening after an event in Massachusetts, Trump doubled down on the comment, saying he had merely been polite when Bush defended his brother during the most recent Republican debate.
“At the debate you said your brother kept us safe- I wanted to be nice & did not mention the WTC came down during his watch, 9/11,” he tweeted.
Bush’s White House Press Secretary, Ari Fleischer, told CNN Friday that Trump sounds like a “truther,” slang for someone who believes the U.S. government was behind the attacks.
“When Donald Trump implies that since 9/11 took place on Bush’s watch he is partially responsible for it, he’s starting to sound like a truther,” he said. “And after all, does Donald Trump also think since Pearl Harbor happened on FDR’s watch that FDR is responsible?”
“I just think he belongs to an extraordinarily small faction of people who blame 9/11 on George Bush. Interestingly, Hillary Clinton was one of those people for short time,” he added.
Appearing in suburban Washington on Friday evening, Trump’s presidential rival Ben Carson distanced himself from Trump’s remark — though he said he hadn’t heard it.
“I would be surprised if he blamed him for it. That wouldn’t make much sense, would it?” he said. “I think it’s ridiculous to suggest that he’s responsible for it.”
Trump has previously taken aim at Bush, calling his presidency a “disaster.” And he said last week that the decision to invade Afghanistan in 2001 was a “terrible mistake.”
“We made a terrible mistake getting involved there in the first place,” Trump said. “It’s a mess, it’s a mess and at this point we probably have to (leave U.S. troops in Afghanistan) because that thing will collapse in about two seconds after they leave.”
Trump’s comments Friday came in response to a question from Ruhle about his “soft hand.” She said the world had seen his strong side, but Bush after 9/11 and President Barack Obama after the Sandy Hook massacre both had to stand in front of America and show a different side of them.
“I need to know that you will make us feel safe and you will make us feel proud,” Ruhle said to Trump.
“I think I have a bigger heart than all of them. I think I’m much more competent than all of them,” Trump said, before getting into the criticism of Bush.
He didn’t spare Obama — though he did not seem to lay the blame for the school shooting at his feet in the same way as Bush.
“If you look at Sandy Hook, those people are still begging for help. It’s a disaster, and it’s a disaster all over the place,” Trump said.
“What we need is a leader. We don’t have a leader,” he added.