Former U.S. President George W. Bush spoke at a forum sponsored by the George W. Bush Institute in New York, dropping thinly veiled barbs in President Donald Trump’s direction
By David Martosko
George W. Bush hinted Thursday at his dissatisfaction with Donald Trump, complaining in a New York City speech that ‘bullying and prejudice’ has become a caustic norm in American public life.
At an event hosted by the George W. Bush Institute, the 43rd U.S. president rattled off a thinly veiled litany of complaints about the current commander-in-chief, focusing on both his tone and his isolationist policy choices.
‘Our young people need positive role models,’ he said. ‘Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children.’
‘Bigotry seems emboldened’ in today’s America, Bush added. ‘Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.’
Trump’s tenure has been marked by a seemingly endless stream of outraged posts on his Twitter account and a dramatic political polarization among U.S. voters as the truthfulness of his public statements is questioned daily.
He told reporters in the Oval Office a few hours after Bush spoke that he wasn’t aware of what he said.
‘I didn’t see it. I didn’t see it,‘ he said.
Bush also slapped in Trump’s direction with a reference to Trump’s controversial statements following an August race riot in Charlottesville, Virginia that left an anti-racist protester dead in the wake of a white supremacist march.
At the time, Trump claimed that there had been violence on ‘both sides,’ drawing howls of protest that he was legitimizing the Ku Klux Klan.
Bush never mentioned Trump’s name or the Charlottesville scandal, but drew his only mid-speech applause by saying that ‘people of every race, religion and ethnicity can be fully and equally American.
‘It means that bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the american creed.’
The former president took issue with a laundry list of Trump priorities, especially his trend toward isolating the United States through foreign policy and avoiding multilateral trade agreements.
And he took an obvious shot at Trump’s zeal for hardening border security and moving to limit levels of legal immigration.
‘We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism, forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America,’ he said.
‘We see a fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade, forgetting that conflict, instability and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism.’
Former first lady Laura Bush also spoke at Thursday’s forum in New York City
Not throwing away his shot: John McCain bashed Trump last week – without naming him – for embracing a ‘half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems’
Bush continued: ‘We’ve seen the return of isolationist sentiments, forgetting that American security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair of distant places where threats such as terrorism, infectious disease, criminal gangs and drug trafficking tend to emerge.’
He left little doubt about laying his complaints at the current president’s feet, saying that ‘when we lose sight of our ideals, it is not democracy that has failed, it is the failure of those charged with preserving and protecting democracy.’
Bush has largely stayed out of the spotlight since Trump took office in January, but attended his inauguration and reportedly commented afterward: ‘That was some weird s**t.’
Arizona Sen. John McCain engaged in his own Republican-on-Republican violence last week in Philadelphia, hinting during a speech at the National Constitution Center that the Trump administration had lost its way.
‘To abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems, is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history,’ McCain said.