Bush Breaks Long Silence to Pan Trump
Former president who declined to criticize Obama emerges to repeat liberal attacks
In a significant break from previous reluctance to criticize his immediate successor, former President George W. Bush criticized President Donald Trump during an appearance on “The TODAY Show” Monday.
Bush launched subtle but direct slings at Trump for his travel ban and his lively relationship with the mainstream media.
“I would bet real money that many of the Bushes voted for Hillary Clinton last November.”
“I think it’s very important for all of us to recognize one of our great strengths is for people to be able to worship the way they want to or not worship at all,” Bush said after host Matt Lauer asked him about the contrast between Trump’s immigration policies and Bush’s Muslim outreach following 9/11.
Tellingly, after Lauer falsely referred to Trump’s temporary travel ban as a “Muslim ban” — Bush not only made no attempt to correct him but even seemed to agree that it was indeed a Muslim ban. “A bedrock of our freedom is the right to worship freely,” he said.
Bush also echoed criticisms of Trump for being honest about the threat of Islamic terrorism. “People who murder the innocent are not religious people,” Bush said.
“They want to advance an ideology. And we have faced those kind of ideologues in the past,” he continued.
Bush’s most direct criticism of Trump concerned his criticisms of the mainstream media. “I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy,” Bush said. “That we need an independent media to hold people like me to account. Power can be very addictive. And it can be corrosive.”
Again, Bush’s words are subtle and somewhat indirect, but their meaning is quite unmistakable. President Trump’s antagonistic relationship with the press is apparently is a threat to “democracy” and could reveal a power-addicted tyrant in the making.
If the message wasn’t clear enough, he then went on to reference Russian President Vladimir Putin. “One of the things I spent a lot of time doing was trying to convince a person like Vladimir Putin, for example, to accept the notion of an independent press,” said Bush.
“It’s kind of hard to tell others to have an independent free press and we’re not willing to have one ourself [sic],” he continued.
Bush’s veiled attacks on Trump are all the more notable because the former president was often recognized for his gentlemanly silence during the Obama administration. Despite many attempts by conservatives and Republicans, Bush refused to criticize his successor.
His comments are also remarkable because of that fact that Obama was actually incredibly hostile to the notion of a free press, yet Bush apparently felt no desire to speak up then. While Trump freely fights the press on their coverage, he has yet to take any measures to actively suppress them.
The Obama administration was “the most secretive White House that I have ever been involved in covering,” said former New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson. “It’s on a scale never seen before. This is the most secretive White House that, at least as a journalist, I have ever dealt with,” she said.
And if Bush is truly so concerned about power-hungry presidents, it seems odd that he stayed silent as Obama was issuing unconstitutional executive orders, using the IRS to persecute conservative organizations, or using the Justice Department to challenge voter-ID laws and launch politically motivated investigations into local police departments.
The apparent hypocrisy “is understandable when it comes to the Bush family,” Reagan biographer and presidential historian Craig Shirley told LifeZette.
“Family loyalty comes first always, certainly over party loyalty, and I can assure you no one in the family is happy with Trump for denying them the restoration of the Bush family legacy with the defeat of Jeb Bush in last year’s primaries. Family and culture trumps everything, including Trump,” he said.
"Some of the Bushes would probably consider it boorish or ill-mannered to criticize Barack Obama but less so to criticize someone they might regard as a tacky member of the bourgeois — or at best nouveau riche," Shirley said.
"I would bet real money that many of the Bushes voted for Hillary Clinton last November."
Despite his uncharacteristic criticism, Bush did seem to be willing to give President Trump the benefit of the doubt regarding his intentions. "I think you have to take the man at his word that he wants to unify the country," Bush told Lauer.