- Former President George W. Bush, a Republican, on Thursday gave his most pointed remarks so far during Donald Trump’s presidency.
- He spoke about white supremacy, waning support for democracy, and Russia’s influence in the 2016 US presidential election.
- “Bigotry seems emboldened,” he said. “Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.”
At the forum — branded as being “focused on freedom, free markets, and security” and featuring speakers such as former first lady Laura Bush, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley — Bush strongly condemned the state of American politics.
“In recent decades, public confidence in our institutions has declined,” the 43rd president said. “Our governing class has often been paralyzed in the face of obvious and pressing needs. The American dream of upward mobility seems out of reach for some who feel left behind in a changing economy. Discontent deepened and sharpened partisan conflicts. Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.”
Seeming to point to some factions on the left, Bush said he saw signs “that the intensity of support for democracy itself has waned, especially among the young, who never experienced the galvanizing moral clarity of the Cold War or never focused on the ruin of entire nations by socialist central planning.”
“Some have called this democratic deconsolidation,” he said. “Really, it seems to be a combination of weariness, frayed tempers, and forgetfulness.”
Bush also blasted some of the emerging elements of the far right, which presented themselves most prominently at the white-supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August that turned deadly when a driver plowed into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one woman.
The former president said that “people of every race, religion, and ethnicity can be fully and equally American” and that “bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed.”
He also mentioned Russia’s influence in the 2016 presidential election, calling on the US to “harden its own defenses.”
“Our country must show resolve and resilience in the face of external attacks on our democracy,” he said. “And that begins with confronting a new era of cyber threats. America has experienced a sustained attempt by a hostile power to feed and exploit our country’s divisions.
“According to our intelligence services, the Russian government has made a project of turning Americans against each other,” he continued. “This effort is broad, systemic, and stealthy. It’s conducted across a range of social-media platforms. Ultimately, this assault won’t succeed. But foreign aggressions, including cyberattacks, disinformation, and financial influence, should never be downplayed or tolerated.”
Watch some of his remarks: