In the eyes of many liberal and ‘leftists’ George W. Bush is a pariah. Key to this is his spearheading of the American invasion of Iraq, cementing a reputation as a warmonger. Many believed it was illegal and has left the Middle-East in the chaos that we see today. However, in a recent interview promoting his paintings, the 43rd President was surprisingly candid about his opposition to some of Trump’s policies. Can we expect the rest of the GOP to follow suit?

  • Bush’s revealing comments surprise
  • Free press key to democracy
  • Islam is not the enemy
  • An example for others to follow

Since he left office in 2009, Bush has taken on a more common lifestyle among those his age, pursuing painting at his home in Dallas. The subjects of his paintings are world leaders and more recently, and prolifically, US army veterans. His comments about the current administration came as a result of the forthcoming publishing of some of his work.

Surprisingly, Bush was rather more open about his differing stance to some of the major contentious issues than would have been expected. He offered his opinion on the Muslim affecting travel ban, the scandal with Russia and the importance of free and independent media.

Press Freedom “Indispensable”

I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy,” Mr. Bush said to Matt Lauer, the “Today” host. “We need the media to hold people like me to account. 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.”

He also stressed the importance of a free press in US attempts to spread freedom and democracy to other parts of the world. Referring to Russia and Vladimir Putin he said, “It’s kind of hard to, you know, tell others to have an independent free press when we’re not willing to have one ourselves.” That the US remain a beacon of freedom to other nations is integral to its ability to persuade other nations to follow suit, as well as protect its interests abroad.

Trump’s Alleged Ties to Russia require “answers”

The issue of Michael Flynn’s conversations with a Russian Ambassador, and the alleged contacts that Trump and his team may have had with Russia before the election, were also raised. Bush clearly does not agree with the Administration’s attempts to distract the public and sweep it under the rug. “I think we all need answers,” Mr. Bush said.

He did however place his trust in Senator Richard Burr, who as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee will decide how the scandal is investigated. He is a “really good guy, and an independent thinker,” Mr. Bush said of Mr. Burr, “and if he were to recommend a special prosecutor, then it would have a lot more credibility with me.”

Right to worship freely “Bedrock of our freedom”

Bush was quick to preach the values of tolerance when prompted on his opinion of Trump’s controversial ban of travelers from seven Muslim majority countries. “It’s very important for all of us to recognize one of our great strengths is for people to worship the way they want to or not worship at all,” Mr. Bush said. “I mean the bedrock of our freedom — a bedrock of our freedom is the right to worship freely.”

Despite launching the “war on terror” post 9/11, Bush had always seeked to emphasise that the enemy of the US was not Islam. He also made a point to visit a number of mosques during this difficult time. Asked directly if he supported the ban, he responded: “I am for an immigration policy that’s welcoming and upholds the law.”

Breaking with Tradition

Bush’s decision to respond to these questions with such candor goes against his usual withdrawn behavior post-presidency. Given it is not common for former presidents to comment on the incumbent’s behavior the interview is all the more surprising.

The question now is whether the rest of the Republican party will follow suit. It seems that since Trump won the election, those who questioned his credentials and past have fallen in line behind him in the pursuit of power. Paul Ryan is a clear example of this, having disavowed the President during the election campaign.

In the face of such opposition evident in the numerous Town-hall meetings taking place across the US, the continued denial of the controversial nature of Trump’s decisions is leaving some Republicans with no leg to stand on in debate of their motives.

Despite the negative atmosphere surrounding the current administration and the US in general, Bush was however more positive about the future. “I’m optimistic about where we’ll end up,” Bush said. “We’ve been through these periods before and we’ve always had a way to come out of it. I’m more optimistic than some.”