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The Bush brothers vs. Donald Trump: Guess whom the right is siding with in the latest GOP civil war

Jeb is out defending W's handling of 9/11 from Trump but which leader does the GOP rally behind in this fight?


Sophia Tesfaye
October 19, 2015 10:13PM (UTC)

If anything was going to lead to the demise of Donald Trump as the Republican presidential frontrunner in an election cycle when Republican primary voters have consistently shown a yearning for a deeply conservative, take-no-prisoners approach to selecting their next leader, it surely wouldn't have been one of the many xenophobic and boorish insults he has hurled on the campaign trail. Even his repeated attacks on Fox News golden girl Megyn Kelly hardly registered any backlash against the brash real-estate mogul, as he continued his rise in the polls. But now that Trump has targeted the last Republican to win the White House -- a man still beloved by many conservative voters -- it appears as though for at least some Republicans this latest line of attack is a bridge too far, while many others have suggested that if Jeb Bush can't take the heat, he should get out of the kitchen.

"Say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time,” Trump matter-of-factly said during an interview on Friday, setting off a weekend of attacks against former President George W. Bush and his younger brother.

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“I don’t know why he keeps bringing this up,” Jeb complained to CNN's Jake Tapper on Sunday, insisting that his brother "kept us safe."

"I’m old enough to remember when attacking Bush over 9/11 would draw indignation on the right for minimizing Bill Clinton’s failure to neutralize Al Qaeda," one conservative writer at the right-wing Hot Air wrote.

But instead of running to George W. Bush's defense, thereby backing up Jeb, many conservative media figures have thrown up their hands and declared Jeb a loser in this latest war of words with The Donald.

Conservative commentator Erick Erickson wondered if now is the time for Jeb to drop out of the race on in his Redstate blog this morning. "There is a lot more value in Bush walking away and helping remove some of the fever gripping those opposed to another coronation by those who lined up behind McCain and Romney," he argued, adding, "his continued presence in the race adds fuel to fires he did not light, but that will consume him and possibly the Republican Party."

Erickson's hypothetical was endorsed by right-wing radio host Laura Ingraham:

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On Fox News, Charles Payne bemoaned that Jeb allowed himself to be pulled into no-win defense of his brother's presidency, noting that his campaign logo (Jeb!) was meant to free him from the burden of his family name.

Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller reminded its conservative readers today that "seventy-one percent of Americans think the invasion was a failure," and that "a group far worse than Saddam Hussein ever was now controls a sizable amount of Iraqi territory and there’s little chance ISIS is going to give it up any time soon."

Brietbart.com offered their readers a "flashback" to when "Jeb Bush admitted 'leaky' immigration led to 911" over the weekend. "A review of the basic facts of the situation—and Jeb Bush’s own writings—reveals that even the Bushes admit that 'leaky' immigration enforcement was a major driving factor in leading to the terrorist attacks."

For his part, Jeb is being defended by Karl Rove on Fox News today, who denied on "Happening Now" that the Bush administration had enough intelligence to thwart the attacks and slammed Trump's assertion as "beyond the pale."

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"Either he doesn't know the facts," Rove said of Trump, "or he is twisting the facts to achieve a political purpose."

"This will hurt him with Republicans," the failed prognosticator went on to predict.

His Fox News colleague, Sean Hannity, offered this feeble defense of W but avoided mentioning Trump directly:

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Most conservative commentators have decided to stay on the sidelines of this battle, so far, opting instead to spend the weekend ignoring the back-and-forth in favor of speculating on a possible Joe Biden run, but Trump shows no signs of letting up on Jeb and the loudest voices in the fight are on Trump's side.

Here's What That Bush-Trump Casino Exchange Was About

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Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's Deputy Politics Editor and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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