Donald Trump has dismissed Jeb Bush’s claim that his brother “kept us safe” from terrorist attacks. After all, Trump said, “The Twin Towers fell on his watch.” That’s true. But could George W. Bush have done anything in the first eight months of his presidency that would have prevented the attack?
A day later Trump added a more serious charge, that Bush and his CIA director George Tenet “knew it was coming” and didn’t stop it. Now, that’s a serious charge, if supported by the facts.
It was Bush’s failures AFTER 9-11 that were far more damning than anything that happened before 9-11. For example, Bush’s immigration policies not only did not improve our nation’s security, they increased our vulnerability to terrorist attack—a vulnerability that is still rising, not receding.
As everyone knows, I have never been a fan of George Bush’s presidency. In 2002, a year after 9-11, as a Congressman I was banned from the White House by Karl Rove because I told the Washington Times that if there is another terrorist attack on our homeland, and we have done nothing more than Bush has done to date, “Bush will have blood on his hands.” But that indictment was aimed at his immigration policies and open borders attitude, not the faulty intelligence prior to 9-11.
Blaming Bush for the events of September 11, 2001 distracts from a much bigger problem under Bush and then under a Republican Congress – our complacent response to Islamist jihad. That complacency goes back to the Bill Clinton years, and it continues to this day.
So, there are more culprits in this story than George Bush, and at the head of that list is the U.S. Congress—a Congress that has been under Republican control for at least half of those 14 years since 9-11. Republican leaders in Congress – including Speaker-to-be Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), have spent more time promoting amnesty bills than trying to plug the loopholes in our immigration laws that allow terrorists safe haven in our homeland.
Looking ahead to 2016, we need more than “hope for change,” we need a plan for a radical reset, beginning with a moratorium on Muslim immigration.
It is true that in 2001, our intelligence agencies had warnings that al-Qaeda terrorists were planning “something big” and that it might involve the U.S. homeland. But there is no evidence that the CIA or any other government agency knew the Twin Towers were a target or that commercial airliners would be the chosen weapon.
- The truth is, the failures of the FBI and our intelligence agencies to “connect the dots” and prevent the attack was due as much to decades of congressional malpractice since the 1965 immigration reform as any shortcoming in CIA intelligence assessments under President Bush.
- It was President Clinton who had the opportunity to kill Osama bin Laden years earlier and didn’t do it—not George Bush.
It’s great that Trump has engendered a heated debate over illegal immigration and our open borders. Yet, neither Trump nor any other candidate has been talking about the problem of radical Islamists arriving legally via our international airports, passing undetected among the 173,000,000 foreigners who arrive ANNUALLY on tourist visas, student visas and as business travelers.
Terrorists are arriving from Muslim countries via tourist visas and burrowing into our communities, yet our Department of Homeland Security sees any concern about radical Islam as a “civil liberties issue.” This unwillingness to “connect the dots” is as serious as any failure of Bush’s CIA prior to September, 2001.
- Is Donald Trump or any of the 14 Republican candidate talking about changes in the immigration policies that allowed 16 of the 19 terrorists to enter the United States legally by way of tourist and student visas?
- Is any presidential candidate advocating a crash program to implement a tracking system to identify and remove visa overstays—a program explicitly authorized and mandated by the 1996 immigration reform legislation?
- Is Trump or any candidate willing to undertake a total overhaul of our State Department policies and tools for vetting the over 100,000 foreign students who arrive in our country annually, including thousands from the Middle East?
We must give Trump credit for asking many politically incorrect questions and challenging mainstream Republican dogma on immigration. But we need to ask, does Trump have concrete plans to totally overhaul our visa admissions program in the first eight months of his administration? Will he close down the easy access which thousands of Islamist tourists, “refugees” and foreign students now have to our shores? Let’s ask the questions that need to be asked today, based on the lessons of the past 15 years.
Trump’s dissent from “conventional wisdom” on immigration, sanctuary cities and refugee admissions has forced a major change in the political climate. We hope those challenges are an indication of his willingness to tackle other sacred cows as well.
Yet, when it comes to confronting and defeating radical Islam and its terrorist plans and ambitions for world domination, we need to hear more detailed proposals that address all dimensions of the Islamist threat.
Tom Tancredo is the founder of the Rocky Mountain Foundation and founder and co-chairman of Team America PAC.
Tom represented Colorado’s sixth congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 1999 to 2009, and he is a former presidential candidate.
He is the author of In Mortal Danger: The Battle for America’s Border and Security.