Let us also state that a successful con artist is not only a good liar, he knows how and when to mix in a troubling fact (more than truth) in order to convince his audience he's not (always) a liar. It helps to make that truth-based-on-facts statement even when it costs him nothing to say it, or that it could cost him something (that he's willing to trade off for a bigger scam later). The suckers would view it as a sign of integrity.
Hence, Trump's weekend endeavor to undermine his primary opponent Jeb Bush's foundation. Jeb had been campaigning - haphazard and unconvincing - about being the legacy heir to his older brother George W. Bush's administration. Jeb is trying to trade off on the meme that Dubya "kept us safe" during and after the terror attacks on September 11, 2001.
During a discussion about foreign policy with Bloomberg News, Trump nuked Jeb's position from orbit (via Digby at Salon.com):
This past weekend, the Donald finally pushed a button that was too much for Jeb to bear: He made the factual observation that Jeb’s brother had been president on 9/11. Well, all hell broke loose, as every GOP establishment figure rose up in untamed fury that Trump would be rude enough to bring such a thing up. Why, that’s sacrilege...
For a day, Trump ignored the follow-up questions and Twitter outrage over his statement. And then Trump swung around with another punch saying (link to CNN):
...He took another shot at Jeb Bush for claiming that Bush's brother, the 43rd president, kept the nation safe.
"I'm not blaming George Bush," Trump said. "But I don't want Jeb Bush to say, 'My brother kept us safe,' because September 11 was one of the worst days in the history of this country."
It wasn't just on the Sunday shows that Trump attacked Bush over his brother's tenure.
On Twitter, as the "Fox News Sunday" interview aired, Trump tweeted: "Jeb, why did your brother attack and destabalize the Middle East by attacking Iraq when there were no weapons of mass destruction? Bad info?"
Here's the thing: Trump's attacks are not only against Jeb and not only against George W., the attacks are against the entire neoconservative narrative surrounding 9/11.
The neoconservative movement had been wounded by the reality of their failure of policy covering Iraq, Afghanistan, the mistreatment of our allies, and their inability to stop or even contain remaining rogue nations like North Korea and Iran. They still had their media allies, however, and those neocons kept arguing their points based on the Narrative that the neocons were the only strong and smart foreign policy experts on the market.
That Narrative is why the likes of Wolfowitz and Cheney still get invites to talk shows and private speaking events. That Narrative is why the Republican Party itself is still dominated by neocons on foreign policy matters, to the point where the neocons are the party Establishment.
And the modern Republican Party is more about Narrative - the outrage, the disconnect about fear-mongering and war-mongering, sticking to their talking points instead of enacting policy - than anything. Unravel the Narrative for the lies that make it, and you unravel the party.
As noted over on The Atlantic by Peter Beinart, the neocon Narrative about 9/11 has always hidden the real disasters and miscues that happened under George W.:
(Trump's) latest ugly truth came during a Bloomberg TV interview last Friday, when he said George W. Bush deserves responsibility for the fact that “the World Trade Center came down during his time.”
Politicians and journalists erupted in indignation. Jeb Bush called Trump’s comments “pathetic.” Ben Carson dubbed them “ridiculous.”
Former Bush flack Ari Fleischer called Trump a 9/11 “truther.” Even Stephanie Ruhle, the Bloomberg anchor who asked the question, cried, “Hold on, you can’t blame George Bush for that.”
Oh yes, you can. There’s no way of knowing for sure if Bush could have stopped the September 11 attacks. But that’s not the right question. The right question is: Did Bush do everything he could reasonably have to stop them, given what he knew at the time? And he didn’t. It’s not even close...
...During that same time period, the CIA was raising alarms too. According to Kurt Eichenwald, a former New York Times reporter given access to the Daily Briefs prepared by the intelligence agencies for President Bush in the spring and summer of 2001, the CIA told the White House by May 1 that “a group presently in the United States” was planning a terrorist attack. On June 22, the Daily Brief warned that al-Qaeda strikes might be “imminent.”
But the same Defense Department officials who discounted Clarke’s warnings pushed back against the CIA’s. According to Eichenwald’s sources, “the neoconservative leaders who had recently assumed power at the Pentagon were warning the White House that the C.I.A. had been fooled; according to this theory, Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as a greater threat...”
...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...
This is the real scandal - not Trump hitting Jeb and George - in all of this: we still haven't resolved the glaring failure of leadership of the previous Bush administration when it came to handling legitimate terror threats. And now Jeb is touting that failure as a success he can build on to be President himself.
It's already had an effect: Jeb has gotten questions about his attempts to compare 9/11 to Benghazi - trying to paint his brother George as effective and triumphant and Obama/Hillary as complicit criminals - and was unable to reply well. As noted by Amanda Marcotte, also at Salon:
...Bush’s weakness on this front was embarrassingly evident in a weekend interview on CNN with Jake Tapper, where he tried to blame Hillary Clinton for the four deaths in Benghazi because “had a responsibility at the Department of State to have proper security” but then denied that his brother had any responsibility for the 3,000 deaths on 9/11, because, “It’s what he did afterwards that matters.”
In other words, if you’re a Democrat, you are obligated to prevent violence, but if you’re a Republican, there is no obligation to maintain security so long as you wear flight suits after thousands of people die horrible deaths on your watch. Tapper pointed out that this is a double standard, but Bush’s response seemed more petulant that somber in the face of so much tragedy...In short: Jeb can't defend his brother's mishandling of 9/11 and attack Hillary - the likely Democratic nominee in 2016 - about Benghazi (and the Republican obsession about that is another scandal backfiring on them, but I digress) without coming across as a hypocrite or an idiot.
This is in some respects a brilliant move by Trump. He's in the lead in polling by comfortable margins. Fox Not-News CAN'T ignore him, nor any other media outlet right now. He can afford in some respects to take the hit from outraged neocons: partly because the neocons are themselves more discredited in the reality-based world than he is, but mostly because at this moment the GOP primary base is more aligned to Trump than to the neocons who are viewed as the Establishment wing.
Trump's own foreign policy stances are troubling, if not insane and offensive: He himself argues that 9/11 wouldn't have happened on "his" watch because his anti-immigrant policies would have stopped the terrorists from even being here. But he can attack Jeb and his neocon allies on this matter and - so far - get away with it, because as a true Outsider of the GOP he's not tainted by their disasters. He's able to critique the failures of Bush the Lesser - as a means of kicking the platform Jeb is standing on to knock his likeliest opponent out of the game - because he was never part of them.
This is a fight long overdue, not because it hadn't been happening - Democrats have been attacking the Republicans and the neocons in particular for these failures for years - but because this is now a fight within the Republican ranks itself. Republicans and their media partners could shrug off Democratic complaints as mere rants by conspiracy-driven hippie libruls. Not now, not with the top-polling candidate for 2016 breaking out the "Truther" chainsaw on themselves.
Thing is, going after the neocons is a risky move. These guys do not play fair or selective: we're talking about a group of know-nothings who bullied every critic they had between 2001 to 2006 out of office and ruined reputations of anyone who crossed them. They even broke laws and scuttled CIA covert ops doing so. Granted, Trump is shameless enough and rich enough that he may be untouchable, but I guarantee you that the knives are coming out for this alley fight. Trump is pissing on neocon turf, and they don't take kindly to that level of disrespect.
This is going to get messy.