During the extremely weird #GOPDebate last Saturday night, the most intense I-live-on-a-different-planet-from-these-people-moment for me came when Marco Rubio, after Trump’s mostly accurate slam on George W. Bush over 9/11 and Iraq, rallied to Bush’s defense and proclaimed emphatically how GLAD he is that Al Gore was not president on Sept 11, 2001! This happens to be the exact opposite of how I feel about the past 15+ years of our history. Though a counter-factual can’t be proven, I have long believed it possible that if Gore had become president after the 2000 election, with the Clinton administration’s counter-terrorism team still in place headed up by Richard Clarke—whose vigorous but futile efforts to get the new Bush administration focused on Al Qaeda are helpfully reprised by Peter Beinart in an Atlantic column today, headed “Trump is Right”—the country may well have averted the terrible attacks on 9/11, the excessive homeland security apparatus that was installed afterward, the invasion of Iraq, and all that has flowed since from the Al Qaeda plot.
Although I shudder at the thought of Trump becoming president, I do think his critique of the Bush presidency could be a salutary thing for the Republican party, finally persuading some of its rank and file that George W Bush and his administration failed to heed numerous warning about Al Qaeda, and that he does bear a large share of responsibility for failing to prevent the attacks on 9/11. For a good analysis of Trump’s position, unheard within the Republican party until now, I also recommend Paul Waldman’s Washington Post column, “Why Donald Trump’s 9/11 heresy won’t cost him any primary votes.”