Former US president George W. Bush has spoken out about the state of the party he once led during an appearance on live television. Former US president George W. Bush has spoken out about the state of the political party he once led, describing it as “isolationist, protectionist and, to a certain extent, nativist”.
Mr. Bush, a Republican president from 2001 to 2009, has returned to the spotlight this week to promote his latest book Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants. This morning he appeared on NBC’s breakfast program Today, where he was asked about a range of issues, including immigration.
He responded with some implicit criticism of his fellow Republicans.
“Part of the purpose of the book is to elevate the discourse and to remind our fellow citizens of the beauty of America. That it attracts people who are fleeing tyranny or oppression or just want an opportunity to provide a better life,” he said. “It’s a beautiful country we have. And yet, it’s not attractive when we condemn, call people names and scare people about immigration.
“It’s an easy issue to frighten some of the electorates, and I’m trying to have a different kind of voice.” If you were to describe the Republican Party as you see it Today, how would you tell it?” asked interviewer Hoda Kotb.
“I would describe it as isolationist, protectionist, and to a certain extent nativist,” he said.
“Are you disappointed?” she pressed.
“Well, it’s not exactly my vision. But you know, I’m just an old guy they put out to pasture,” Mr. Bush quipped. Former President Donald Trump famously launched his 2016 campaign with a tirade against undocumented migrants.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” he said at the time.
“They’re sending people that have lots of problems. And they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
In the five years since then, illegal immigration has remained a core campaign issue for Republican politicians.
Kotb asked Mr. Bush whether he thought a Republican presidential candidate who was “pro-immigration” and in favor of “reasonable gun control” would have any shot at winning the party’s nomination in 2024.
“Sure. Yeah, I think so,” he said.
“I think it depends on the emphasis. I guess if the power is integrity and decency and trying to work to get problems solved, I think the proper person has a shot, yeah.
“By the way, I think ‘pro-immigration isn’t the right way to put it. I believe in border enforcement with a compassionate touch; that’s how I would put it.
At no point did Mr. Bush call out Mr. Trump by name.
“I feel like you’ve made it a point not to criticize your predecessors,” Kotb noted (presumably meaning to say, successors).
That’s true,” he conceded.
“Have you ever been tempted?” she asked.
The former president laughed before responding.
“I guess step one is, have I ever been tempted to defend myself publicly? And the answer’s no. Not really. Look, I’m out,” he said. “Yeah, I guess I have been (tempted), sure. Anyone in particular? No, I think I’m fine. If I did, Michelle Obama might not be my friend.” The public’s surprising reaction to his friendship with the former first lady highlighted how “bitter” America has become about politics.