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A Question That Matters More Than Ever: Did Bush Keep Us Safe on 9/11?

05/22/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I appeared on CNN yesterday to discuss President Obama's CIA speech, and his decision to release CIA torture memos. You can watch the clip here - and make sure to watch all the way to the end, because the debate gets into a historical question about 9/11 that now has more relevance for American foreign policy than ever.

As you'll see, GOP strategist Cheri Jacobus claims that President Bush "kept us safe for nine years," and President Obama is "a very popular president whose popular personally going in and sort of riding that wave of optimism." Yes, that's right - according to the GOP, Barack Obama is "riding a wave" created by George W. Bush.

Jacobus, of course, refuses to answer my question about whether Bush "kept us safe" on 9/11. That was a day that saw the worst terrorist attack in American history - an attack that the Bush administration was pretty explicitly warned about in memos and warnings. And it's not just 9/11. The Bush administration didn't keep us safe during the anthrax attacks, and it's Iraq invasion didn't keep us safe, either (and that's according to our intelligence agencies).

I'll admit I was a bit incessant with my question, but I just feel we can't let the Right try to fabricate a storyline and revise history about the Bush administration - and more generally, Bush administration policy - "keeping us safe," especially not right now. With Obama trying to rebuild our diplomatic ties with the rest of the world and trying to engage some of our adversaries, the Right is already mounting a fearmongering campaign claiming that such a shift from Bush-ish isolationism will endanger America. And to validate their hysteria, they insist that Bushism made us safe - and any deviation from Bushism will endanger us.

That's why it is so important to constantly inject facts into these foreign policy debates: Because if Obama keeps trying to fundamentally reshape American foreign policy on more progressive terms, the right-wing hysteria is only going to get more intense. We've got to prevent that hysteria from getting traction.