Without specifically attacking President Donald Trump, President George W. Bush opened up about his feelings on the new president’s policies on Monday.
The former president appeared on the Today Show on Monday to discuss his new book “Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors,” but Today Show host Matt Lauer quickly changed the topic to the current political climate and President Donald Trump.
“Well, first of all, there’s only been one month in office, you know he’s got four years. Secondly, I think you have to take the man for his words that he wants to unify the country and we’ll see whether he’s able to do so.
It’s hard to unify the country though with the news media being so split up. When I was president, [the media] mattered a lot more because there was like three of you, and now there’s all kinds of information being bombarded out and people can say things anonymously. It’s just a different world.”
Lauer used this point to push Bush further on the role of the media, asking whether he ever viewed the media as the “enemy of the American people,” and Bush responded beautifully:
“I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy, that we need an independent media to hold people like me to account. 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.
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, and it’s kind of hard to tell others to have an independent free press if we’re not willing to do so ourselves.”
Bringing up Vladimir Putin shifted the conversation yet again, this time to the topic of Russian involvement in the election:
“Well, first of all, I think we all need answers. Whether or not the special prosecutor is the right way to go or not, you’re talking to the wrong guy. I have great faith in Richard Burr, for example. He’s the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, really good guy and an independent thinker and if he were to recommend a special prosecutor then it would have a lot more credibility with me. I’ve never been a lawyer. I’m not sure the right avenue to take. I am sure, though, that that question needs to be answered.”
Lastly, the president discussed his views on animosity toward’s Muslims and talk of a “Muslim ban:”
“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. I mean, a bedrock of our freedom is the right to worship freely. I understand right off the bat Matt, that [the global war on terror] was an ideological conflict and people who murder the innocent are not religious people. They want to advance an ideology and we have faced those kinds of ideologues in the past.”
Bush went on to clarify that he was “for an immigration policy that is welcoming and upholds the law.”
This appearance by the former president is the furthest he’s strayed into the political fray in recent memory. Outside of campaigning for his brother Jeb and rumors that he didn’t support President Trump as the Republican nominee for president, the forty-third president has mostly stayed out of politics.
His latest remarks mark a departure from his previous approach, but his level-headed criticism of the president’s policies presented in a respectful manner will likely be received as a refreshing change from today’s vicious political discourse.