We haven’t heard much from President George W. Bush during the past seven years.
After leaving office with approval numbers in the high 20s, he made a conscious decision to keep a respectful distance from Washington, to refrain from becoming the Pundit-in-Chief criticizing his successor’s every move.
“He deserves my silence,” Bush said of the newly elected Barack Obama. “I think it is essential that he be helped in office.”
Indeed, when the left was going wild in Obama’s first term, all the Bushes went mum. George W. was suddenly applauded by elites in both parties as a gallant statesman when he announced that he wouldn’t criticize his successor.
Thankfully, grassroots Republicans didn’t agree. And when the Tea Party upstarts helped the Republican Party roar back in the 2010 midterms, the Bushes knew they were revolting not only against Obama, but against Bushism.
President Bush broke his self-imposed silence in January 2011, in a speech at Southern Methodist University. The only problem was, he wasn’t attacking Obama, but conservatives. Addressing the immigration debate, he said: “(I)f you study history, there are some ‘isms’ that occasionally pop up … One is isolationism and its evil twin protectionism and its evil triplet nativism.”
These were potent insults directed at millions of hard-working patriots who helped elect him twice to the White House. Elites in both parties gleefully gobbled it up.
Now, with his younger brother Jeb’s presidential campaign sputtering, George W. is officially silent no more.
Now, with his younger brother Jeb’s presidential campaign sputtering, George W. is officially silent no more. The man whose own party wouldn’t feature him as a speaker at its past two conventions is trying to reclaim the GOP for the Bush family, to preserve his presidential legacy and that of his father.
At numerous closed fundraisers, George W. Bush is sounding off on the GOP field, according to a new Politico report. Sources who attended say he singled out his home state’s junior senator, Ted Cruz, for withering criticism.
“I just don’t like the guy,” he sniffed. The former president went on to call Cruz’s anti-Iran deal alliance with Donald Trump “opportunistic.”
The more I think about it, the more troubling this is. For years now, as the left has been trying to destroy the country with its open borders, a bumbling foreign policy, the health care takeover, and massive executive overreach, George W. Bush never said anything. He never criticized Obama, or Harry Reid, or Nancy Pelosi. Not when they sunk to their vicious depths to use the “war on women” against Mitt Romney. Not when they whipped up racial tensions in Eric Holder’s Justice Department. Not when they used the IRS to harass patriotic Tea Party groups.
George W. Bush never defended the people who voted for him, or explained that they aren’t guilty of all the cultural or political crimes attributed to them by the left. In fact, he essentially dumped all over the millions of conservatives who were responsible for electing him twice.
It is disappointing to see former President Bush — a man who so many conservatives worked for and believed in — resort to behind-the-scenes attacks on someone like Cruz.
Fast forward four years. When George W. emerges in a campaign setting — when he finally breaks his silence to attack someone by name — he attacks Cruz. Apparently, while Obama deserved George W.’s respect and silence, not so for Cruz, who actually worked in his administration, and who became a U.S. senator by tapping into a wave of anti-Washington discontent. The Bushes take this as personal criticism of their family — perhaps Cruz’s biggest sin of all.
Conservatives are trying their best to sort out the post-Bush era within the Republican Party. I believe the vast majority of conservative voters — including those Tea Party voters who like Cruz — honor the Bush family for its service and would like to work with the Bushes and their supporters to build a better country. But it is disappointing to see former President Bush — a man who so many conservatives worked for and believed in — resort to behind-the-scenes attacks on someone like Cruz, who is risking his own career to fight for conservative principles.
Any partnership requires an element of trust on both sides. If conservatives believe that the Bushes — and other GOP establishment types — are attacking them behind closed doors, the trust and cooperation necessary to build a winning Republican message in 2016 may be impossible to develop.