The popular conservative argument that George W. Bush "kept us safe" from terrorism has always been somewhat undermined by the fact that the vast majority of domestic terrorism deaths in American history occurred while Bush was in office. But it turns out that it took Donald Trump to offer an argument that Democrats have always shied away from, telling Bloomberg TV, "When you talk about George Bush, I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time."
How pathetic for @realdonaldtrump to criticize the president for 9/11. We were attacked & my brother kept us safe.— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) October 16, 2015
As phrased by Trump, the argument is provocative to the point of poor taste, but in attempting to rebut it, Jeb Bush went and made exactly the explicit claim that the doctrine of "Bush kept us safe" has always avoided — that the period of time during which Bush kept us safe includes 9/11 itself.
Pre-Jeb, nobody made the argument in that way, because it's obviously ridiculous.
Instead, kept-us-safe-ism has tended to indulge in the fantasy that Bush was inaugurated in mid-September 2001 rather than early late January. Through this metaphysical sleight of hand, the events of 9/11 themselves neither refute nor bolster the notion that the Bush years were a time of safety. With his clumsy effort to parry Trump, however, Jeb has given away the whole game.
After all, "we" clearly were not safe on 9/11.