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George W. Bush Speaks Out Against President Trump

Former President George W. Bush was seemingly critical of President Trump on a number of fronts in an interview yesterday that is certainly raising some eyebrows:

WASHINGTON — Former President George W. Bush implicitly criticized President Trump on Monday, taking issue with his approach to immigration and the news media, and suggested that any ties between the new president’s team and Russia should be investigated.

In a television interview to promote a new book of his paintings, Mr. Bush indicated that important questions were raised by reported contacts between Russian officials and Mr. Trump’s associates during last year’s election campaign. Mr. Trump forced out his national security adviser for withholding information about a call with Russia’s ambassador.

“I think we all need answers,” Mr. Bush said on the “Today” show on NBC. He said he would defer to Senator Richard M. Burr, Republican of North Carolina and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, about how such an investigation should be conducted. He is a “really good guy, and an independent thinker,” Mr. Bush said of Mr. Burr, “and if he were to recommend a special prosecutor, then it would have a lot more credibility with me.”

Like other members of his family, Mr. Bush did not support Mr. Trump during last year’s campaign against Hillary Clinton, although in public he largely kept his views to himself. Mr. Bush congratulated Mr. Trump after his victory and attended the inauguration last month, but the interview on Monday made clear that the most recent Republican president still had serious disagreements with his party’s incumbent commander in chief.

Although he did not mention Mr. Trump by name, Mr. Bush expressed disapproval of the president’s assertion that “fake news media” organizations are the “enemy of the American people.”

“I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy,” Mr. Bush told Matt Lauer, the “Today” host. “We need the media to hold people like me to account. I mean, power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive and it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power, whether it be here or elsewhere.”

He seemed to suggest that language like Mr. Trump’s made it more difficult to press authoritarian leaders like President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to tolerate a free press. “It’s kind of hard to, you know, tell others to have an independent free press when we’re not willing to have one ourselves,” he said.

Mr. Bush also urged tolerance when asked about Mr. Trump’s efforts to temporarily ban travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries. As president, Mr. Bush made a point of visiting a mosque after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and regularly insisted that the United States was not at war with Islam.

“It’s very important for all of us to recognize one of our great strengths is for people to worship the way they want to or not worship at all,” Mr. Bush said. “I mean the bedrock of our freedom — a bedrock of our freedom is the right to worship freely.”

Asked if he supported a ban on Muslim visitors to the United States, the former president said, “I am for an immigration policy that’s welcoming and upholds the law.”

While Bush stopped short of criticizing Trump directly by name, it doesn’t take much to figure out who or what he was talking about, and the fact that this is essentially the first time he’s spoken out at all about the policies of either of his successors is certainly significant. It’s also not a secret that there’s no real love lost between Trump and the Bush family in general, especially after last year’s campaign for the Republican nomination during which Trump directly attacked not only his opponent former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s, but also Bush’s wife, the 43rd President, and family patriarch George H.W. Bush. Additionally, the Bush clan was noticeably absent from 2016 Republican National Convention despite the fact that at least one of the former Presidents has attended or delivered a message to the event each of the previous years it has occurred. To cap it all off, the public statements from Texas made it clear that not only were the last two Republican Presidents not supporting Trump in the General Election but that they were voting against him. Given this history, it seems that the grudges from the campaign trail still exist and that the younger Bush is taking no small degree of satisfaction in the fact that Trump is largely proving the family right in his first month in office.

In reality, of course, this is unlikely to change the opinion of Donald Trump very much inside the Republican Party where it counts. For the most part, the corners of the GOP where the Bush name still carries some influence are already largely opposed to the Trump agenda. Among the Trump supporters that, unfortunately, are seemingly taking over the party to a greater and greater extent every day, Bush is viewed even worse than he is by many Democrats. Nonetheless, it’s good to have someone speaking out against the current occupant of the White House and, at least to some extent, Bush has seemingly redeemed himself by being willing to speak truth to power, something that is sadly lacking in the Republican Party at the moment.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Kit says:

    In sixteen years, we’ll probably wax nostalgic for the relatively sane years of Trump. Enjoy the good times while you can.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 13

  2. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Bush 43 never, to my recollection, spoke about Obama’s policies. Striking that he has chosen to do so now…if only in a very measured tone.
    Nonetheless…he did help spawn Trump…so maybe now he is feeling a little guilty about Cheney and him spending 8 years hyping the threat of terrorism, starting a colossal blunder of a war, increasing the powers of the Executive, abridging our civil rights, and ignoring an economic disaster in the making.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 2

  3. Mark Ivey says:

    Donald Trump is gonna George W Bush look like Leonardo da Vinci in retrospect. Sad.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  4. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Please…do not watch the cry baby-in-chief tonight. The only thing he understands is ratings. Deny him that and we win.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  5. Pch101 says:

    Bush is probably thankful that he now won’t be regarded as the worst president of the 21st century.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  6. Jen says:

    People can say whatever they want to about Bush 43, but at least he understood what it meant to be president. I cannot imagine how it must have felt being in that role when 9/11 happened. For all of his faults, and there were many, I never doubted that he got that as Commander in Chief, the responsibilities of his office were serious, including that of sending young men and women into harm’s way. I have to believe that much of his post-presidency work with Wounded Warriors and the like is the recognition of his role in their injuries.

    Please compare that to…this behavior. The buck stops somewhere else, anywhere else, with Trump.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  7. Moosebreath says:

    The advantage of not having to worry about a primary challenger.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  8. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Keep in mind that every single living ex-President…the only people in the world who know what the job really is like…is positive the current so-called president in un-qualified for the job.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  9. Rick Zhang says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:
    This reminds me of Tyler Cowen’s comment a while back that if you truly dislike Trump you would have preferred Romney to beat Obama in 2012. It makes a sort of twisted sense that would only appeal to a rational economist like Cowen, but if Romney were able to win and steer the Republicans to the center, Trump would not have emerged as a phenomenon, at least not in a way that could hijack one of the two main parties.

    Granted, it wouldn’t have solved the underlying causes for Trumpism and Bernie-ism, both of which I think are closely related (and far closer to each other politically than they are to the center). The country desperately needs answers to the “feeling” that many Americans have in the heartland that their lives are not getting better.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  10. Erik says:

    @Jen:

    The buck stops somewhere else, anywhere else, with Trump

    Well, not all buck$….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. Hal_10000 says:

    @Jen:

    Agreed. I disagreed with Bush 43 a lot. He was basically the reason I left the Republican Party. But he understood the importance of the office. You contrast the way Trump responded to the Khan family with the way Bush respectfully and compassionately disagreed with Cindy Sheehan. No comparison.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  12. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Kit: Ah, Nixon! There was a statesman!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  13. CSK says:

    Bush represents something that Trump will never be, and has always desperately wanted to be: a genuine blueblood, welcome in the highest ranks of society. Bush is, as they say, comfortable in his skin; Trump isn’t.

    Trump is president today because he thought that getting his name in the tabloids by encouraging a catfight between his wife and his mistress on a ski slope was either the way to get accepted by the Livingstons and the Van Rennselaers, or get revenge on them because he wasn’t.

    A very stupid man.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  14. David M says:

    I’m not sure I’m ready for a world where George W Bush isn’t the worst President while I’ve been alive.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  15. MarkedMan says:

    I respected H.W. although I often disagreed with him in terms of policy. I didn’t have much respect for W because he was so far out of his league that he conceded his presidency to Cheney, or at least the first five years of it. But I always thought he was a decent human being. In Trump you have someone who is less competent than W, isn’t capable of realizing that and of course, as a sociopathic, narcissistic con man, has no decency.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  16. Ben Wolf says:

    George W. Bush defending media from “fake news” attacks is the world turned upside down. His administration not only systematically planted false stories (Judy Miller et al) to drum up support for a war; it paid the plethora of retired generals that were ubiquitous at the time on network news to advocate for war based upon their professional credibility. This president also successfully pressured the New York Times to withold revelations of illegal mass surveillance so it would not affect his re-election campaign in 2004.

    Oh, and his people were behind the swift-boating of John Kerry in media. That alone was more disgusting than anything Trump has done yet and it’s the real revelation of the 2016 election: Republicans were already so vile that even a villainous toad like The Donald hasn’t yet sunk so low.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  17. MBunge says:

    You know, there’s been a lot of Hitler talk recently but I’m not sure it’s ever been more applicable than this thread, because the attitudes being expressed here play a big part in how you end up with a Hitler.

    Put aside leading us into the worst economic crisis since The Great Depression, the aftermath of Katrina, spying on Americans without warrants, the anti-gay marriage campaign waged in 2004 to help his re-election and all the rest. Beyond all of that, there remains one big difference between Donald Trump and George W. Bush. Only one of them can fairly be described as a war criminal responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and a thoughtless, vicious disruption of the international order from which our children and even our children’s children may still suffer.

    Now, I suppose Trump is more than capable of changing this but as of right now, George W. Bush stands as a vastly more evil and more destructive figure than Donald Trump has even threatened to be at his worst. If Trump used the military to round up and expell every illegal immigrant within America’s borders, the immense misery and turmoil of that would still pale in comparison to the legacy of George W. Bush in Iraq.

    A serious, mature, truly adult critic of Trump would be aghast at seeing George W. Bush try to creep over to their side. They would not be consumed by the flattery of the moment. And it is in the prison of the moment where Hitlers or Stalins or Idi Amins are born. It is in that ego-stroking obsession with the moment that monstrous horror gets its footing.

    After all, if your adolescent abhorrence of Trump leads you to welcome the comradeship of George W. Bush, what won’t you do?

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 9

  18. Paul Hooson says:

    While I did not agree with his politics and especially Iraq War, more and more I see George W. Bush and the Bush family as very decent people. Neither Bush were good for the American economy, but I better respect both as good men, who were not the most skilled, but love this country and tried to do right by us.

    George W’s strong response to the 9-11 attacks and his efforts to wipe out the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan was exactly the right response to this attack and I believe stronger than what Al Gore might have done. When a young worker at McDonalds told me he wanted to quit his job and join the army I fully understood. Foreign terrorists attacked us on our soil, and it was up to our men to go to Afghanistan and take this war back to them to keep families safe in this country.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  19. KM says:

    @MBunge:

    If Trump used the military to round up and expell every illegal immigrant within America’s borders, the immense misery and turmoil of that would still pale in comparison to the legacy of George W. Bush in Iraq.

    Bush is not and never will be a saint for the reasons you listed.

    However, if Trump mobilizes the military to take any non-training action on US soil, he’s entering very very dangerous territory indeed. There will be protests and there will be violence since Americans are not going to tolerate jackboots on our streets. “Mistakes” will be made where true Americans will be grabbed and rounded up based solely on looks and prejudice like we’re seeing at the airports now. When you resist the police, it ends horribly so resisting the military is likely to end quite poorly for those trying to assert their rights. When the first US civilian is heavily wounded or killed… well, remember Rudy Ridge and how it spawned decades of right-wing nuttery? What exactly do you think paranoid the gubmint-is-coming-to-get-me type will do when they see them actually coming to get people? If you’re counting on MAGA or racism to give it a pass, don’t – because the government who would shoot a liberal protester is the government who will shoot anyone they don’t like. If Papers, Please starts, it going to quickly expand past illegal immigrants into whomever they need to address. There’s a freaking reason why the military is NOT involved in civilian enforcement affairs in the history of the country. It never ends well.

    There are plenty of serious 2nd Amendment people who will gladly “support” protesters over an attacking government. I don’t want to know what that support looks like and neither do you. Bush for all his evil took the killing to another continent – Trump will bring it to your doorstep. This is madness to even be considering it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  20. Kylopod says:

    I have never shied away from praising Bush or giving credit to him when I felt it was appropriate. But I’m not particularly in the mood to concern-troll about how comparatively rosy he comes off compared with Trump. For one thing, while no candidate has ever been more clearly unfit for the office than Trump, he still has a way to go before achieving the level of damage that Bush engendered. For another, there are several respects in which he paved the road toward Trump, particularly in his anti-intellectualism. He may not have been a racist, but his team was more than willing to use racism to help get him into office. (Bob Jones? Illegitimate black daughter?) He may have been more conciliatory toward Muslims than Trump, but he invaded a Muslim country that hadn’t attacked us. Trump defends torture, but Bush was merely the president who initiated it. On the domestic front, Bush helped perfect the template put into place by Reagan of massive tax cuts for the rich while ignoring the major threat to the environment posed by oil companies.

    Still, should I at least credit him at least as having been well-intentioned, albeit misguided? He may not have been a psychopath, but he often came off as callous and insensitive, someone who didn’t spend much time worrying about the effects his policies had on ordinary people’s lives. (His “joke” about WMDs at the White House dinner is an illustration of this attitude.) To him, it was mostly a game.

    By all means, we need to take every opportunity to fight against the normalization of Trump, and part of that involves continually reminding people how he differs from even the worst of his predecessors. But we also need to press the point that Hillary Clinton avoided, that in many ways he represents a culmination of decades of Republican lunacy, anti-intellectualism, and bigotry, of which Dubya was definitely a part. He isn’t a radical break from his GOP predecessors but more of a radical realization.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  21. wr says:

    @MBunge: “the attitudes being expressed here play a big part in how you end up with a Hitler.”

    Oh, look, our pet concern troll is desperate for attention today!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  22. DrDaveT says:

    @MBunge:

    George W. Bush stands as a vastly more evil and more destructive figure than Donald Trump has even threatened to be at his worst.

    I disagree. As hideous as W’s legacy is — and I agree with you about how hideous it really is — I think you underestimate the danger that Trump represents. Trump’s ongoing attack on objective reality is potentially much worse. He has already convinced a quarter of America that the Truth is whatever he says it is today, and that all of the traditional sources of information are deliberately lying to them. He’s well on his way to establishing the Postmodernist Paradise of semantic-free speech, in which words don’t actually mean anything, but only influence others or express tastes. If you thought our politics were dysfunctional and hyperpartisan before, just wait until there’s no actual truth left to fall back on.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  23. Pch101 says:

    @MBunge:

    Did you earn a degree in sewage production, or does it just come naturally to you?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. An Interested Party says:

    After all, if your adolescent abhorrence of Trump leads you to welcome the comradeship of George W. Bush, what won’t you do?

    As opposed to your passive-aggressive adolescent crush on Donald Trump, which allows you to criticize just about any criticism of this cut-rate dictator wannabe…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0