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For the last nine years, George W. Bush has largely stayed out of presidential politics; he declined to criticize his successor Barack Obama and he chose not to endorse but largely ignored President Donald Trump. While Mitt Romney and others spoke out publicly against Trump, Bush stayed above the fray.

That changed in a big way Thursday.

Speaking at the George W. Bush Institute in New York, Bush didn't use Trump's name, but his target became clearer as the speech progressed. Here's a sampling:

• "Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication."

• "We've seen nationalism distorted into nativism."

• "We've seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty . . . Argument turns too easily into animosity."

• "It means that bigotry and white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed, and it means the very identity of our nation depends on passing along civic ideals."

• "Bullying and prejudice in our public life . . . provides permission for cruelty and bigotry."

• "The only way to pass along civic values is to live up to them."

Any one of these quotes in isolation could be dismissed as high-flying rhetoric aimed at the general coarsening of our political culture, or the rise of forms of nationalism and extremism that clearly exist outside the Oval Office.

But almost each of these quotes have some connection to Trump. Conspiracy theories and fabrications? Check and check. Nationalism and nativism? Check and check. A degraded discourse? Big check. Bigotry and white supremacy? Trump was criticized for not calling them out strongly enough in Charlottesville. Bullying? Huge check. Not living up to civic values? Check, definitely.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) recently drew plenty of attention for alluding to "spurious nationalism" in a speech this week. But Bush's comments actually hark back to a more thorough takedown of Trump's worldview that McCain delivered.

It's possible Bush would argue that Trump is more a symptom of all of these unhealthy trends in American democracy than the root of them. But in drafting a prepared speech like that, he had to know how those words would be interpreted.

Trump, during the 2016 campaign, repeatedly attacked Bush for not doing more to stop 9/11 and for the Iraq War. More recently he has favorably compared his own hurricane response to Hurricane Katrina on Bush's watch.

On Thursday, Bush clearly decided that silence was no longer tenable.

Editorial on 10/20/2017

Print Headline: W speaks

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  • RBear
    October 20, 2017 at 6:42 a.m.

    Bush, McCain and several others are speaking truth about the state of this nation, something Trump is doing nothing about himself. Hopefully more leaders will speak clearly against the pox that is permeating our nation called nationalism. We need to be more like the students in FL who shouted down Richard Spencer who's only message is disgusting and unfit for our country.

  • WGT
    October 20, 2017 at 7:14 a.m.

    The more Trump utters, the stronger the case against him.

  • RobertBolt
    October 20, 2017 at 7:24 a.m.

    Trump reaches a new low when he offends the moral sensitivities of a man who restricts his own overseas travel for fear of being arrested for war crimes.

  • RobertBolt
    October 20, 2017 at 7:56 a.m.

    I agree with your characterization of Spencer's comments, RBear, but shouting down people with whom we disagree implies we fear our own ideas cannot stand as a rational challenge to bigotry. Winning ideas are best defended through quality of thought and deed, not by the decibal rating of our megaphones. Freedom from speech is not freedom of speech.

  • Jfish
    October 20, 2017 at 8:01 a.m.

    I like how until recently you could not get the left to say anything positive about W, to them he was a dumb draft dodging SOB flunkie from Yale that was only president because of his daddy and his brother's position that allowed him to cheat Gore out of the presidency. What was it Bill Maher said, we cried wolf too many times?

  • TimberTopper
    October 20, 2017 at 8:19 a.m.

    fish, W was not a draft dodger, he served in the air national guard. His main fault as I see it was listening to Cheney too much. Cheney was for sure a draft dodger! He like Trump, had plenty of blood and guts as long as it was someone elses that would be shed, along with his forked tongue.

  • Namsaev
    October 20, 2017 at 9:08 a.m.

    It's my opinion that we should keep Trump and Bush and get rid of the media that only prints their slanted, and I'm talking about an extremely acute angle leaning left, idea of what they thought they heard rather than what was said. This piece is a prime example. Bush never said a thing about Trump but that is what was written-- It's all about Trump

    "Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication."

    How many conspiracies have been voiced by the left about Trump. Oh he'd connected with the Russians. You mean using Russian Dressing on your salad qualifies as a connection?

    • "We've seen nationalism distorted into nativism."

    Excuse me, but what is wrong with believing the USA is a great nation, maybe the greatest of all times. The author of the piece compares apples to oranges. Do people in Iran have the same rights we do? No? Why not? Even broaching the topic is a red herring.

    • "We've seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty . . . Argument turns too easily into animosity."

    We found that out as soon as Trump was elected. It wasn't because Trump was elected, it was because Hillary DIDN'T WIN! And the Democrats didn't take back both houses of Congress. It's the lefties animosity against the Republican control that is the problem.

    • "It means that bigotry and white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed, and it means the very identity of our nation depends on passing along civic ideals."

    We through the words around but do we really know what they mean. Supremacy because of skin color (any color) is pure BS and those who believe in it should be ostracised. Bigotry- intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself: BLM hold a different opinion than I do when it comes to the men in Blue. Does that make them bigots? Well by definition, YES. So why does the media give them so much play.

    • "Bullying and prejudice in our public life . . . provides permission for cruelty and bigotry."

    Bullies want to make you cave to their will. To be subservient to their desires. The riots in Berkley to suppress speakers, student protesting against Milo or Ben to keep them from speaking. Doesn't that fall into three categories at one time. Bigotry, Bullying, and Prejudice? But did the media say they were wrong?

    • "The only way to pass along civic values is to live up to them."

    We are rapidly losing our civic and civil values because the majority of people in this country are not standing up for civic and civil values an caving into the Political Correct crowd who are willing to violate one civil value to push an agenda.

  • RobertBolt
    October 20, 2017 at 9:39 a.m.

    I suppose if I do not cite a previous commenter by name but virtually everyone knows I am talking about him, his supporters can always blame bad press and other cliches in order to divert from my intended focus.

  • TimberTopper
    October 20, 2017 at 10:53 a.m.

    Namsaev, You are certainly entitled to your opinion, and I mine. As far as Trump is concerned, we are still waiting on the out come of the special prosecutor on that. However, proof from Facebook and Twitter, show that the Russians were certainly wanting Trump to win, and he did the EC. However Trump has no mandate from the citizens of the USA as he did not get the majority of the popular vote. I see where Putin made a statement that people in the USA did not respect Trump as they should. Trying to help his bud, it would appear. However, unlike Putin, who is respected only from fear, us Americans only respect when it's due a person. I don't like being lied to, by anyone, and certainly not the POTUS. As far as the media is concerned, the mainstream media is far closer to being truthful than all these upstarts, that many think is what they want to hear. Personally, I'd much rather hear something I don't like and have confidence that it is the truth than a slant I do like and know deep down that it may be "fake" news. It seems that anything not bowing to Trump, he declares it to be "fake news". You have a good day and just know that there's at least about 3 million more of us that don't agree with your opinion than there is that believe in your opinion.

  • RBear
    October 20, 2017 at 11:18 a.m.

    JFish, why the shift? Along came Trump, a new low in the Republican line-up. Bush himself was not a bad person and was caring. I agree he did listen to Cheney and Rove far too often. But he knew how to care about people, unlike Trump who can't seem to figure out our nation is not about him.
    ...
    Namsaev, nationalism is more than just pride in nation. It's pride in a race of a nation, going back to a white European national sense. In other words, it shuns diversity. Our nation has prospered under diversity, but nationalists want to carry us back to a time when diversity was considered an evil, especially by white Dixiecrats. You can paint it as patriotism, but when its roots and ideas are grounded in racism then it's a bad thing.

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