Bush’s record on terrorism

BUSH’S RECORD ON TERRORISM…. As part of the apparent Bush Legacy Project, we’ve been hearing quite a bit — from the president on down — about Bush’s record of keeping America safe from terrorist attacks since 2002.

The latest comes by way of Ed Gillespie, a White House aide and former RNC chairman, who wants Americans to remember a key “fact”:

Our homeland has not suffered another terrorist attack since September 11, 2001. That, too, is part of the real Bush record.

First, this is plainly false. In the fall of 2001, someone (presumably scientist Bruce Ivins) launched an anthrax attack on the country using the U.S. postal system. Five people were killed, 17 were injured, and millions had the bejesus scared out of them. Why so many like to pretend this didn’t happen is a mystery to me.

Second, Gillespie focuses on “our homeland,” but it’s worth noting that U.S. troops have been subjected to terrorist attacks overseas, as have our allies.

And third, this notion that evaluating Bush’s legacy on counter-terrorism should start on Sept. 12, 2001, is just odd. Gillespie and others seem to be arguing, “Just so long as one overlooks the terrorism that killed 3,000 people in 2001, Bush’s record on domestic security is excellent.”

But that’s absurd. As Yglesias explained:

The vast majority of Americans to have ever been killed by foreign terrorists were killed under George W. Bush’s watch. As Gillespie says, whether or not a president succeeds in preventing foreign terrorists from murdering thousands of American citizens is an important part of that president’s record. And Bush took office on January 20, 2001. Nine or so months later by far the largest terrorist attack on American soil was perpetrated. That’s a fantastically enormous failing. If you only look at Bush’s final seven years, you’ll see that he was as good as every other president at preventing terrorist attacks. And if you include his entire presidency, you’ll see that he was by far the worst.

Washington Monthly - Donate today and your gift will be doubled!

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.