Former president George W. Bush gently critiqued some of the rhetoric and policies President Donald Trump embraced in his first few weeks in office.
In a rare interview with the “Today” show promoting his book on Monday, NBC host Matt Lauer confronted Bush about Trump’s assertion that media outlets were the “enemy of the people.”
Though Bush qualified that Trump had only been in office several weeks, and the media ecosystem was far less splintered during his administration, Bush emphasised the importance of dissenting media voices to democracy.
“I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy. We need an independent media to hold people like me to account,” Bush said. “I mean 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.”
Over the course of six minute, Bush countered Trump’s worldview, seeming to slightly criticise everything from Trump’s immigration policy to his description of “American carnage” he sees across the country.
Asked about Trump’s travel ban, which bars people from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the US, Bush seemed to acknowledge critics’ assertion that the ban discriminates based primarily on religion.
“I think it’s very important for all of us to recognise one of our great strengths is for all of us to be able to worship the way they want to or not worship at all. A bedrock of our freedom is the right to worship freely,” Bush said. “I understood that right off the bat, Matt, that this was an ideological conflict and people that murder the innocent are not religious people. They want to advance an ideology.”
When asked if he was for the travel ban, Bush added: “I’m for an immigration policy that’s welcome and that upholds the law.”
Though Trump has only begrudgingly acknowledged that Russia meddled in the US 2016 election, the former president was far less hesitant that the US needs to pursue answers.
Bush emphasised the need for the US to further investigate Russia’s hacking and leaking of US internal political documents, saying that he trusts Sen. Richard Burr, the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, to probe Russia’s role in the election.
“We all need answers. Whether or not a special prosecutor is the right way or go or not, you’re talking to the wrong guy,” Bush said.
He added: “That question needs to be answered.”
The former Republican president’s opposition to some of Trump’s initial policy decisions come after months of public and private criticism of Trump from the former First Family.
Neither Bush nor his father, former President George H. W. Bush, supported Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. Trump made rhetorical attacks on the Bushes a central part of his primary campaign against former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, continuing to mock the former governor even after he dropped out of the primary.
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