George W. Bush Says We Need an Independent Media to Hold Powerful People to Account

President George W. Bush certainly described Donald Trump’s problem when he appeared this morning on NBC’s Today show, saying,

“Everybody looks at the presidency when they campaign one way then they get in office and find out there’s a reality to the job.”

For Trump, obviously, the ugly reality is that he is actually expected to work, not simply to continue holding campaign rallies or taking off every single weekend to golf at the taxpayer’s expense while turning a little extra profit for himself because he does it at his own golf course.

Watch courtesy of the Today show:

George W. Bush did not, on the whole, have anything to say that Donald Trump wanted to hear other than a brief swipe at the media for somehow keeping the country split up, as he put it.

Asked by Matt Lauer if he thought Trump had shown anything so far to back up his claim to want to unify the country, Bush allowed that it’s “only been one month” and, stretching credulity, that “you have to take the man at his word.”

Not entirely surprising. It was during Bush’s administration that Stephen Colbert coined the term “truthiness” after all.

Bush also discussed Trump’s war on the press. Asked if he ever considered the media to be “the enemy of the American people” he answered in complete contradiction of Donald Trump and added a pointed warning as well:

“I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy, that we need an independent media to hold people like me to account. 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.”

Asked if he would like to see a special prosecutor appointed Bush begged off, saying “I’ve never been a lawyer” though he did agree that “we all need answers.”

Trump came out no better when Bush was asked about not what passes for religious freedom on the Religious Right but true Jeffersonian religious freedom.

Here, Lauer contrasted Bush’s hasty assurance to Muslims on multiple occasions from 2001-02 that the U.S. was not at war with Islam to Trump’s Muslim ban:

Matt Lauer: “Do you think the president’s position on this has been well thought out?”
 
George W. Bush: “It’s very important for all of us to recognize one of our great strengths is for people 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 explained that this is an ideological, not a religious conflict, which is a lesson Trump refuses to learn. Asked point-blank “Are you for or against the ban,” Bush answered,

“I am for an immigration policy that’s welcoming and upholds the law.”

That might seem a little vague and it is certainly hypocritical coming from a president who endorsed illegal torture and “extraordinary rendition,” but at the same time, the central criticism of Trump’s Muslim ban was that it was in violation of the law.

George W. Bush does not suffer the same constraints as President Obama, who, following custom, has largely withheld from criticism of Trump’s decision-making, just as Bush did with Obama in 2009. Able to speak his mind, his words were hardly a ringing endorsement of the first Republican to follow him into the White House.

Photo: Screen grab Today Show