Fox News personalities are attempting to rewrite history in order to shift blame for the 9/11 terrorist attacks onto former President Bill Clinton, and away from former President George W. Bush, who GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump recently blamed for the attacks. The historical record shows that the Clinton administration was the first to label terrorism "'a national security issue,'" created a special CIA unit focusing specifically on Osama Bin Laden, and ordered missile attacks against the terrorist leader, while the Bush administration was warned 36 times -- including allegedly by Clinton himself -- about the terrorist threat prior to the attacks.
Donald Trump: Jeb Bush Is “Pathetic” For Saying George W. Bush Kept The Country Safe When The 9/11 Terrorist Attacks Occurred “During His Watch”
Donald Trump: Jeb Bush Is “Pathetic For Saying” George Bush Kept The Country Safe When The 9/11 Terrorist Attacks Happened During His Presidency. In a series of October 16 tweets, Donald Trump attacked fellow GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush, writing, “you're pathetic” for saying during one of the recent GOP debates that “your brother kept us safe” when the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred during his presidency:
.@JebBush, 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.
-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 17, 2015
No @JebBush, you're pathetic for saying nothing happened during your brother's term when the World Trade Center was attacked and came down.
-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 17, 2015
Fox News Personalities Rewrite History To Shift Responsibility For The 9/11 Terrorist Attacks Onto President Clinton
Sean Hannity: I'd “Put More [Blame] On The Clinton Administration” For The 9/11 Terrorist Attacks. On the October 19 edition of Hannity, host Sean Hannity asserted, “I'd actually put more [blame] on the Clinton administration” for the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and Fox legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. added, “If you were to point to any figure” who “blew it in terms of preventing the 9/11 disaster,” then “it would be Mr. Clinton and his presidency”:
SEAN HANNITY: To me, I brought up this whole issue of what Bill Clinton said, “we could have taken him. We knew he wanted to create damage in the States.” Isn't that, when he says that very thing, isn't that an admission that - a conspiracy to commit harm against the United States, isn't that a legal basis to take him?
PETER JOHNSON JR: You know, a lot of folks over time have said that if any political figure blew it in terms of preventing the 9/11 disaster, if you were to point to any figure, then it would be Mr. Clinton and his presidency.
HANNITY: But his exact words were, “I didn't bring him here because he had committed no crimes against America. We had no basis on which to hold him, although we knew he wanted to commit crimes against America.” Doesn't that represent a conspiracy that you could bring him on that charge alone?
JOHNSON JR: And his failure to do so, that makes him complicit in it. I guess you can make that argument. I don't think that's a strong argument. A stronger argument was that they had an opportunity to kill Bin Laden, and they didn't kill him. And he should have been killed.
HANNITY: I'd actually put more [blame] on the Clinton administration myself, especially based on what Clinton himself has admitted. [Fox News, Hannity, 10/19/15]
Meghan McCain: “We Should Maybe Be Looking At The Clinton Administration's Role In 9/11.” On the October 19 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox contributor Meghan McCain defended President Bush, saying, “I do believe he kept this country safe. I think if anything, we should maybe be looking at the Clinton administration's role in 9/11”:
MEGHAN MCCAIN: Yeah, you know I'm more concerned about who is going to continue to keep us safe. I have the utmost respect for President George W. Bush. I do believe he kept this country safe. I think if anything, we should maybe be looking at the Clinton administration's role in 9/11. President Bush hadn't been president for that long, and I don't love this in-fighting right now. I think Jeb is obviously going to defend his brother, but I think we really need to look forward on how we're going to continue to keep America safe. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/19/15]
Brian Kilmeade: “You Might Be Madder ... At Bill Clinton For Not Taking A Legitimate Shot At Somebody Who Declared War On Us In The '90s.” On the October 19 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade suggested that Trump “might be madder ... at Bill Clinton for not taking a legitimate shot at somebody who declared war on us in the '90s”:
BRIAN KILMEADE: In reality though, you have to think about 2001. When we walked in to -- when the president walked into his four years in office, Al Gore and George Bush weren't even debating Al Qaeda, even though Bin Laden declared war on us in 1996. And most of those hijackers overstayed their visas, so unless he came in and the first thing that President Trump would have done is said, 'I need the CIA to talk to the FBI.'
ELISABETH HASSELBECK: Immediately.
KILMEADE: 'I need you to mix and match and merge lists, and find out if there's anybody here who have overstayed their visas.' That was not the talk of the country because we were on the air at that time and in 1996, he declared war on us. You might be madder, Donald Trump -- and we're going to ask him in an hour -- at Bill Clinton for not taking a legitimate shot at somebody who declared war on us in the '90s. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/19/15]
Megyn Kelly Suggests Bill Clinton May Bear Some Blame For 9/11 For “Ignoring The Threat Posed By Osama Bin Laden.” On the October 19 edition of The Kelly File, host Megyn Kelly suggested that President Clinton may bear some blame for the 9/11 terrorist attacks by “ignoring the threat posed by Osama Bin Laden prior to George W. Bush assuming his role in the Oval Office”:
BRAD WOODHOUSE: Look, the attack happened. He got 36 warnings about the possibility of an attack. And you know, the corollary to this is in the lead up to Y2K, President Clinton told his national security czar to hold daily meetings in the White House with the CIA and the FBI and we thwarted any terrorist attacks in the lead up to Y2K. The president didn't assemble a similar sense of urgency in the lead up to 9/11.
MEGYN KELLY: And you put none of that blame on President Bill Clinton for ignoring the threat posed by Osama Bin Laden prior to George W. Bush assuming his role in the Oval Office?
WOODHOUSE: Well look I think that President Clinton himself has acknowledged that he had opportunities that looking back now, that he wished that maybe he had taken. But when you're talking about this current discussion in the Republican Party between Trump and Jeb Bush over George W.Bush's role, you can't assert that he just blatantly, or kept us safe if you look at what happened on 9/11. And I think others would argue that if you include what happened after 9/11, if you include going to a war in Iraq that was prosecuted on false pretenses and what happened to the soldiers there who died and who were wounded.
KELLY: Obviously the Iraq war was very controversial and that's been proven but what Jeb Bush has been saying is that President Bush united us after 9/11 and Donald Trump seems to be saying he would have done a better job. [Fox News, The Kelly File, 10/19/15]
Bill Hemmer: “The Seeds Of 9/11 Were Already Being Sown During Bill Clinton's Term.” On the October 19 edition of Fox's America's Newsroom, co-host Bill Hemmer claimed “the seeds of 9/11 were already being sown during Bill Clinton's term.” [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 10/19/15]
Bush Was Warned About Al Qaeda 36 Times Before 9/11, While Clinton Labeled Bin Laden The “Biggest Security Problem” Facing The Nation
During The Nine Months Leading Up To 9/11 As President, George W. Bush Was Warned About Al Qaeda 36 Times. Peter Beinart reported in an October 19 Atlantic article that the CIA warned President Bush 36 times from the time he took office until the September 11 attacks about the threat of Al Qaeda. Beinart also pointed to National Security Council counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke to contrast Bush's response to the terror threat with President Clinton's, explaining Clinton showed “vigilance” when he “received word of a potential attack in December 1999,” and held daily national security meetings with the CIA and FBI, which contributed to stopping a potential attack planned on the Los Angeles International Airport:
On July 11, the CIA sent word to the White House that a Chechen with links to al-Qaeda had warned that something big was coming. On July 24, the Daily Brief said the expected al-Qaeda attack had been postponed but was still being planned. Finally, on August 6, the CIA titled its Daily Brief: “Bin Ladin Determined to Strike the US. ” The briefing didn't mention a specific date or target, but it did mention the possibility of attack in New York and mentioned that the terrorists might hijack airplanes. In Angler, Barton Gellman notes that it was the 36th time the CIA had raised al-Qaeda with President Bush since he took office.
On September 4, the Cabinet met and despite Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's insistence that Iraq represented the greater terrorism threat, it approved Clarke's plan to fight al-Qaeda. On September 9, the Senate Armed Services Committee recommended taking $600 million from the proposed missile defense budget and devoting it to counter-terrorism. According to Gellman, Rumsfeld recommended that Bush veto such a move.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, Clarke's anti-al-Qaeda plan was sitting on Bush's desk, awaiting his signature. It was the ninth National Security Presidential Directive of his presidency.
When the Clinton administration received word of a potential attack in December 1999, [National Security Council counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke] notes, President Clinton ordered his national-security adviser to “hold daily meetings with the attorney-general, the CIA, FBI.” As a result, the leaders of those agencies instructed their “field offices to find out everything they can find. It becomes the number one priority of those agencies.” This vigilance, Clarke suggests, contributed to the arrest on December 14of an Algerian named Ahmed Ressam, who was arriving from Canada with the aim of detonating a bomb at Los Angeles International Airport.
The Bush administration could have done similar in 2001. “Buried in the FBI and CIA,” Clarke notes, “there was information about two of these al-Qaida terrorists who turned out to be hijackers [Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi]. The leadership of the FBI didn't know that, but if the leadership had to report on a daily basis ... to the White House, he would have shaken the trees and he would have found out those two guys were there.”
Would that have foiled the 9/11 attacks? “There was a chance,” Clarke argues, but top Bush officials “didn't take it.” [The Atlantic, 10/19/15]
The Clinton Administration's CIA Created A Special Unit Focusing On Bin Laden, Called Him “The Biggest Security Problem” Facing U.S. ThinkProgress' Josh Israel explained that the Clinton Administration “issued the first ever Presidential Decision Directive labeling terrorism 'a national security issue,'” “created a special [CIA] unit focusing specifically on Osama bin Laden. And in 1998 Clinton ordered missile attacks that narrowly missed bin laden in Sudan.” According to ThinkProgress, Clinton also warned Bush that "'the biggest security problem' facing the nation was bin Laden, rather than Iraq," but “Bush was not convinced”:
But it was Clinton, in 1995, who issued the first ever Presidential Decision Directive labeling terrorism “a national security issue,” rather than a law enforcement matter (as it had been under all prior administrations, including President George H.W. Bush's). In 1996, Clinton's CIA created a special unit focusing specifically on Osama bin Laden. And in 1998 Clinton ordered missile attacks that narrowly missed bin Laden in Sudan and authorized covert action against bin Laden and his al Qaeda network.
At the time, congressional Republicans slammed Clinton's attempt to kill bin Laden as merely an attempt to distract from his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Many of them liked it to Wag the Dog, a 1997 film about a fictitious president who creates a diversionary war to change the subject of conversation from his own sex scandal.
Indeed in 2000, one week after the U.S. Supreme Court declared George W. Bush the president-elect, President Clinton invited him to the White House for an exit interview. Clinton has said he told his soon-to-be-successor that “the biggest security problem” facing the nation was bin Laden, rather than Iraq, but that Bushwas not convinced. (Bush told the 9/11 Commission that while he “felt sure President Clinton mentioned terrorism,” he did not recall "much being said about al Qaeda).
In 2001, the George W. Bush administration removed the terrorism czar from cabinet access, rejected his request for a cabinet-level meeting on bin Laden, and took no apparent action on an August 6 Presidential Daily Brief entitled “Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in U.S.” [ThinkProgress, 10/20/15]
Fox's Hannity Previously Attacked Clinton For Launching Strikes Against Bin Laden
Sean Hannity Previously Criticized Clinton Administration Strikes Against Al Qaeda. Sean Hannity previously criticized Clinton in 1998 for launching missile strikes against Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, which may have only narrowly missed killing Bin Laden. At the time, Hannity suggested that the timing of the strikes was due to “political motivation” and meant to be a distraction from the Monica Lewinsky scandal:
SEAN HANNITY: Congressman, FOX News has learned that the president was presented with the military option going back to August the 12th. The president did not take that option at that time. As a matter of fact, it been done for political motivation.
And I only raise the question because, in part, look at what the president put the nation through for seven and a half months. Look at the president that let his wife and all his supporters lie for him. Look at a president who looked the American people in the eye -- and who could imagine a scenario like this -- wagging their finger at them and said, “I want you to listen to me. I did not have sex with that woman, Monica Lewinsky.”
There is no moral authority any longer, Mr. Congressman. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show, 8/20/98]