George W. Bush has never publicly rebuked Donald Trump, but the former president hasn’t exactly been subtle when putting distance between himself and his fellow Republican. A year ago, for example, Bush confirmed that he did not vote for Trump in the presidential general election.
At Trump’s inauguration, the former president was reportedly heard responding to Trump’s speech by saying, “That was some weird s**t.”
Nine months later, Bush spoke at a forum this morning where he reflected on the state of the body politic, and while he didn’t reference Donald Trump by name, it was hard not to get the impression that the former president had the current president in mind. Roll Call described the speech as a “scathing warning” about Trump.
“Since World War II, America has encouraged and benefited from the global advance of the free markets, from the strength of democratic alliance and from the advance of free societies,” Bush 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.”
He also warned of the dangers of a worldwide pattern of countries – including some in Europe – “turning inward.” And though Bush did not name Trump by name during his remarks, his warning about the current U.S. chief executive was clear.
“America is not immune from these trends,” Bush said. “Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.”
Hmm. An American political leader who inspires bigotry, peddles conspiracy theories, and relies on near-constant dishonesty. I wonder who the former president might have been referring to.
What’s more, while Trump continues to pretend Russia didn’t attack the American elections, Bush added this morning that the Russian cyberattacks amounted to a “sustained attempt by a hostile power to feed and exploit our country’s divisions.” The former president specifically condemned the “external attacks on our democracy” and Russia’s “project of turning Americans against each other.”
This is, of course, roughly the opposite of what Trump says about last year’s attack on our democracy.
And while Bush’s spokesperson said on the record that the former president was not directing his criticisms at the current president, that seems rather difficult to believe given the circumstances. For example, Bush also went on to condemn “white supremacy in any form [as] blasphemy against the American creed” – which is exactly what Trump wouldn’t say after the recent violence in Charlottesville.
In case that weren’t enough, Bush criticized “the return of isolationist sentiments” and “nationalism distorted into nativism.”
He concluded, “[W]e know 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.”
I’m not going to pretend to be able to read George W. Bush’s mind. Perhaps this was just an extraordinary coincidence, and the rhetoric that seemed like pointed jabs at Trump actually had nothing to do with Trump.
But if the current Republican president starts tweeting angry missives at the most recent Republican president, I think we’ll know why.