Speaking at the Bush Institute’s Spirit of Liberty event in New York on Thursday, former U.S. President George W. Bush tore into the ultra-conservative policies of the Trump administration, calling on Americans to reject bigotry and white supremacy.
The 43rd president also expressed his concerns over the growing susceptibility of American politics to conspiracy theories and fabrication.
“People of every race, religion, and ethnicity can be fully and equally American. It means bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed, and it means that the very identity of our nation depends on the passing of civic ideals to the next generation,” he said.
“Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.”
Trump’s comments on the Charlottesville violence, faulting both the white nationalists (read supremacists) and the opposing counter-protesters for the violence that led to the death of a protester earlier this year, had attracted much flak.
Appreciating the contributions of immigrants toward the American cause, the two-term president said, “We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism, forgotten that dynamism that immigration has always brought to America.” He didn’t need to spell out a name here, for people to know that his statement was aimed at the Trump administration’s hardline policies on immigration and border security.
Bush stressed that losing sight of one’s ideals is not indicative of a failed democracy but rather a failure of those responsible for upholding the tenets of true democracy, calling for the rejection of divisive policies and the renewal of the American spirit and institutions.
“When we lose sight of our ideals, it is not democracy that has failed. It is the failure of those charged with protecting and defending democracy,” he said.
Later, he went on to add that, “We need to recall and recover our own identity. Americans have great advantage. To renew our country, we only need to remember our values.”
“Our governing class has often been paralyzed in the face of obvious and pressing needs,” Bush said. “The American dream of upward mobility seems out of reach for some who feel left behind in a changing economy.”
Another area that Bush expressed his trepidation about was the policy of “bullying and prejudice” among the American leadership.
“Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children, the only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them,” he said.
“The Russian government has made a project of turning Americans against each other,” he said, slamming Russia for what he referred to as aggression, saying that their interference will not be successful.
“Foreign aggressions, including cyber attacks, disinformation, and financial influence, should never be downplayed or tolerated,” he said.
A somewhat similar speech was made by Senator John McCain three days ago condemning bigotry and calling for a return to American values.
“We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil,” McCain had said – a not so subtle irony on the Nazi slogan that the nation was built on the purity of its blood and soil.
“We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don’t. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn’t deserve to,” the Arizona senator said.
Thursday, he tweeted his praise for Bush’s speech.
Important speech by my friend, President George W. Bush today, reminding us of the values that have made America a beacon of hope for all.
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) October 19, 2017
Looking back at the entire speech and the context in which it was made, one feels that it was not as unveiled an attack on Trump and his policies as some are making it out to be, regardless of the fact that he did not mention the president by name at any point during the speech. Everyone knows in which direction his finger of disdain and condemnation was pointed.