George W. Bush: ‘I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy’

2017 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Graydon Carter

I disliked/hated George W. Bush when he was president. I thought he was an idiot. I thought he was dangerously incurious. I thought he was anti-woman, anti-LGBT, anti-union, anti-middle class and more. And while he was all of this things to varying degrees, I’m absolutely shocked by how often I find myself wishing for the good ol’ days of the Bush presidency, given our current situation with an ill-tempered, baby-fisted despot. As Bush loyalists – or “Bushies” as they were once called – come out of the woodwork to decry Donald Trump’s policies, executive orders and more, I find myself yearning for the days of the barely competent Bush administration, as opposed to the completely incompetent Trump administration. The devil you know and all of that.

Anyway, George W. Bush must have had a gut feeling that his legacy was being reassessed, because he went on the Today Show on Monday and answered all of Matt Lauer’s pointed questions about Baby Fists. Bush was there to promote his art book – he’s done a book of paintings of veterans – but before Bush got to talk about his book, Lauer grilled him. And it got interesting.

My favorite part if when Bush openly laughs/scoffs when Lauer brings up Trump’s inaugural address, about “American carnage.” But Bush also said words about many other things. Some highlights:

Whether Bush thinks the press is the enemy: “I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy … 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, whether it be here or elsewhere…. It’s kind of hard to tell others to have an independent free press if we’re not willing to have one ourselves.”

Whether a special prosecutor should investigate Trump’s ties to Russia: “First of all, I think we all need answers — whether or not the special prosecutor is the way to go or not, you’re talking to the wrong guy.” Bush stressed that he is not a lawyer, so he wouldn’t weigh in on the best approach, but on the reports about Russia and the election, he did say, “I am sure, though, that that question needs to be answered.”

On Trump’s Muslim Ban: “I am for an immigration policy that is welcoming and upholds the law” and suggesting that the order’s focus on Muslim-majority nations undermined “the bedrock of our freedom  —  a bedrock of our freedom is the right to worship freely.”

[From NY Mag and NPR]

It’s also worth noting that Bush rarely said anything this pointed about President Obama when Obama was in office. Whenever Bush was asked about any specific Obama policy or proposal, Bush would always shrug it off and talk about how hard the job is and everybody’s different. It says something that Bush was so open to talking specifics about Trump. That being said, A) I seriously doubt that Trump’s Deplorables give a sh-t about what Bush has to say and B) establishment Republicans have given way to “Trump Republicans,” which is to say that Dubya is a man without a party at this point. Do I think Dubya’s words will make much of a difference either way? Probably not. But I’d be curious to learn who was being targeted in this interview. I feel like Bush was speaking to a specific demographic. Maybe the lingering Cold Warrior types in the Senate, like McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Richard Burr, whom Bush specifically name-checked.

2017 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Graydon Carter

Screencaps courtesy of NBC News.

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78 Responses to “George W. Bush: ‘I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy’”

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  1. SusanneToo says:

    GWB making sense. World turned upside down.

    • TheOtherOne says:

      Amen. Up is now down.

    • JRenee says:

      I was afraid I was alone with that thought, just wow…

    • Evie says:

      Trump is our president, Bush is making valid points that I emphatically agree with… This is quite unusual indeed.

    • Kitten says:

      Yup. That is verbatim what I said to my BF the other night, Susanne.
      Dubs is making total sense, everything is backwards, and we’ve officially entered the Matrix.

      • vauvert says:

        I mean, I was never an admirer of his before, but just reading complete sentences that reflect well articulated thought is such a game changer from the bigly disaster we are presented with daily… not just the idea that power corrupts absolutely but using terms like corrosive – Donny would ask whether that’s an STD.

        And I looked at the paintings (NYT article) and was amazed at how good they are. Planning to buy the book (proceeds support veterans). The world is upside down…

      • doofus says:

        vauvert, this interview gave me the impression that he’s learned quite a bit in his time away from that office. he sounds like a g-damn STATESMAN.

        up is down, indeed.

      • nem says:

        apocalypse is on us…
        in less than 9 nine years we are regretting him…
        and trump is only there for a little more than a month
        we are so f…..d

  2. i_dont'_get_it says:

    It is truly interesting, funny and sad that this president is the voice of reason compared to the current one.

  3. Shambles says:

    I definitely think it’s significant, though, that one of the most prominent republicans in recent history is openly saying that Trump needs to get his sh!t together.

    • lucy2 says:


    • Kitten says:

      But recently, I’ve been wondering if Bush was perhaps more moderate than I ever gave him credit for. Trying to understand The Trump Catastrophe and how we got here has forced me to review policies that were put in place over the past 20 years and I’ve had several surprises regarding Dub and his administration.

      • FLORC says:

        It was an unpopular opinion, but I’ve always thought the same while W. Was in office. That he was surrounded and advised by those who influenced him and struggled for power.
        Yea, he didn’t have a do lid grasp in a lot. He wasn’t fit to hold office imo taking a lot into account. That said he had core values. And now that he’s been through it. Saw with fresh eyes someone else go through it. He knows the deal. And his words are solid here. Imo.

      • Kkhou says:

        W is reasonable in hindsight, compared to Trump, but I live in Texas. His time as governor was very conservative. My family knows personal friends/acquaintances of his who have always claimed he is moderate on a personal level. However his actions in office (both as governor and president), were otherwise. And my opinion is that actions speak louder than words (and have long term consequences).

        I applaud him for speaking out now, but that doesn’t give him a pass for what he did while in office.

      • jwoolman says:

        I came to think that Dubya was caught in situations way beyond his competence level and that he was experiencing some neurological deterioration (his difficulty finding the right words- a friend in Texas said he seemed much smarter as governor). He seemed to have the verbal version of dyslexia, and I know that his mother had spent considerable time with him to get him through school. Cheney was pretty clearly the real President. But Dubya didn’t seem anything like Trump. Not a flaming narcissist for sure and capable of being a decent person if you ignore the mass murders (aka war). He also was an alcoholic who had managed to achieve some measure of sobriety, which is a respectable achievement even if he fluctuated. .

  4. sanders says:

    He should know, It was certainly indispensable for him when he propagated an illegal war based on falsfied intelligence.

    • Megan says:

      Exactly. And those lies are why many of those veterans are in his book. He is as shameless today as he was when he was in office.

    • Elisa the I. says:

      Oh, the irony. Bush and his aides publicly made more than 900 (!) false statements about the security risk posed by Iraq in the two years before the 2003 invasion. And the mainstream media assisted in his agenda by publishing his propaganda without challenging it.

    • Em' says:

      ThanK you. No one can say for how long Irak and the Middle East will pay the price of this unlawful war.
      Let’s not forget that ISIS rose from the ashes of the country.

  5. pantalones en fuego says:

    We are now living in a time when George W. sounds intelligent and coherent. I really don’t know what to think about this.

    • mia girl says:

      My reaction exactly!
      When he was POTUS I would regularly cringe to hear him speak in that “simple folk, guy-you-want-to have-a-beer with” manner. He seemed like everything I didn’t want in a President, the person or his policies.

      But wow, now he sounds so articulate and sane compared to what we have to listen to these days (full disclosure I can’t even listen to Trump speak – I just read transcripts).

      • Who ARE These People? says:

        I know, what is it, did he find the right meds, does he have some remorse upon reflection, has time with Laura straightened him out…what is going on?

        I may never be not confused again.

      • phatypopo says:

        I was thinking gee – he sounds … eloquent!

      • Sam the Pink says:

        Karl Rove admitted that the “folksy” manner of speech W. had in office was a calculated move to make him appear more “average” and make people like him more. W. is far smarter than he lets on. He made serious errors in judgment during his years, but I do not doubt that he actually cared about the job and tried to do what he felt was best for the country. And, let us not forget, he stood up right after 9/11 and said that Muslims were not to blame. Honestly, it wouldn’t be so bad to have him back right now.

      • Shambles says:

        WATP, he finally listened to P!NK’s song about him.

      • Kitten says:

        @WATP-Was it you that said on the other thread that it could be due to him not being preoccupied with the presidency and thinking on his feet?
        Because I think that’s a solid analysis: idle time, retirement, relaxation, etc can all be really conducive to thoughtfulness and constructive thinking. As you (?) said, he’s had a lot of time to ruminate about his presidency and the current one.

  6. LA Elle says:

    I’m fascinated by this new twist. What’s going on behind the scenes that it was decided to have W. go on national television and make it ok for Republicans to criticize Trump?

    The Bush family is reported to still be very powerful among the Republican powerful (particularly old school conservatives). I’ve been wondering for a while when that section of the GOP was going to get involved in the protests. I disagree with a lot of their policies but they’re somewhat sane and I imagine some of them are looking at the long-term implications of Trump and realizing he’s bad for the party.

    • lucy2 says:

      At some point I think they’re going to have to try to wrest power back to their type of conservatism. Maybe this is the start of that.
      Same for me – I disagree with their policies, but it’s light years better than what we are currently dealing with.

      • PunkyMomma says:

        I totally agree with this, lucy2. W said in his parting letter to Obama that he owed Obama his silence. Not a peep from W for eight years. I do believe as Kaiser noted, this is a call to the McCain/Graham republicans to step up and stop this maniac and his anarchist advisors. Pronto.

    • nem says:

      they must be pissed about jeb failure and lack of support.
      when lesser evil is made look good

    • Lexie says:

      I think establishment Republicans are testing the waters of criticizing Trump in public without any of them sticking their necks out. When Trump goes down in flames, Pence, Ryan, etc. will still be in power. I bet they’d love to get rid of him. I bet there are a lot of secret convos going on. And I bet they don’t mind that all of the outrage and attention are directed at Trump while they plot a more systematic, less outrageous way of dismantling all that we hold dear.

  7. Jenns says:

    F**k Bush. I hate that Democrats are now trying to re-write history and somehow make this idiot their beloved, bumbling grandpa. Which, I suppose he could be…if your grandpa launched an illegal war that killed countless number of people and let an entire city drown during a hurricane.

    • Esmom says:

      Well, yeah, but I don’t see it as much as rewriting history as thinking that desperate times call for desperate measures. In any case I don’t think it will help a bit because the alt right and deplorables will immediately dismiss W as “establishment” and probably decry his criticism as revenge for Jeb’s loss.

      If there’s anything this election taught me it’s that nothing works against Teflon Don, whether it’s inside Washington or among the public. The key to changing minds among key groups like undecideds, I think, will not be anyone or anything old guard. Or old media, for that matter. Fox news diehards, for example, are a lost cause.

    • felixswan2 says:

      @JENNS I totally agree with your sentiments 100%

    • Shambles says:

      I think the people trying to make him into adorable bumbling grandpa are the Dems of my generation, born in the late eighties and early nineties and too young to remember much about Bush beyond 9/11. Thankfully, I have you guys to keep me informed 😉

    • Kitten says:

      Well this is why I refuse to share or “like” any of his shit on social media.
      But if there’s the chance that he could get through to even *one* Trump-supporter then I’m all for him speaking out.

      Because these people sure as shit aren’t listening to my liberal ass.

    • hogtowngooner says:

      Exactly. The lesser of two evils is still evil. GWB can STFU for all the damage he did.

  8. HK9 says:

    When I can confidently stand behind what George W Bush has to say, you know the apocalypse is near.

  9. minx says:

    I always loathed Bush, but now I am grateful for what he is saying.

  10. Anastasia Beaverhausen says:

    And here’s where we are. I’m agreeing with W. it’s truly a dark dark day.

  11. Eric says:

    When 9/11 occurred, W gave a pretty nice speech about Muslims (and wrapped it in a Patriot Act bow).
    When, not if, a Reichstag-fire event happens in thd US under the “presidency” of Eazy-D, Bannon and Miller’s first impulse will be to slap restrictions on American life that make the Patriot Act look like child’s play.
    Maybe they’ll call it Kulture.

    • vauvert says:

      They are already checking the phones of WH staffers. Donny signed the order (although Spicer pretends otherwise). This is the beginning of the end.

  12. IlsaLund says:

    GWB AND what’s left of the modern Republican Party needs to step up and start going after Trump and his ilk. If they don’t, there won’t be anything left of the Republican Party as we used to know it.

    Political differences aside, I never feared them doing anything to destroy our country or the world, But now, with the Trump Republicans in power, I’m terrified that the country and world as we know it could potentially be destroyed. Never thought I would ever say or believe that.

    • Esmom says:

      Actually I feared quite a bit about the Bush administration. But nowhere near to the extent that Trump and friends, especially Bannon and Miller, frightens me.

      • Kitten says:

        I feared them too as in “Oh my god this unnecessary war will change the face of the world” but not as in “I’m building a bomb shelter and collecting an arsenal of assault files because we’re all going to die” like with Trump.

      • Christin says:

        For me, GWB’s eight years made me realize how important critical thinking is within politics. I didn’t think he did a good job at the time, but now I realize just how bad it was after better economic years with Bill. I am amazed at how much BO straightened out in eight years, because we had a near-Depression going on, along with unnecessary wars.

        As for ex-Pres hobbies, I think 92-year-old Jimmy has the best. Building houses for those in need, plus many other types of aid.

  13. MellyMel says:

    We are living in the Upside Down!!

  14. QQ says:

    He coulda kept this interview and the People mag one too and invite his party rank and file to pick weeds at Crawford do a Seance with Jesus and Reagan and amongst themselves talk about the Spinal regeneration procedure they all need and how to get their F*ckboy out the paint already TBH

  15. UmamiMommy says:

    Always thought Bush was unfairly vilified. Certainly not a perfect president and made many costly mistakes, but did not deserve the sum total of the outrage against him (and his post-presidency conduct and bravery in standing up to his party establishment proves it). 45 DOES deserve the wrath. Unfortunately, the far left is finding themselves in a bit of a “boy who cried wolf” situation. I believe this was no small factor in Trump’s absurd win.

    • phatypopo says:

      I agree with you, and I wish it weren’t the case!

    • Who ARE These People? says:

      Trump was elected by the far right/NRA with the unwitting complicity of the far left (both influenced by Russian propaganda). But GW Bush wrecked the economy and left the world reeling in a near-Great Depression. He waged war on an innocent country. He let thousands of his countrymen and women drown in a devastating hurricane. His military promoted Christian zealots and encouraged the use of mercenaries. He did nothing to improve the national ‘system’ of health insurance or health-care quality. His environmental record was almost nil. He let Dick Cheney run things. His administration politicised everything. He won by virtue of a bad Supreme Court appointment. And these are just the greatest hits. It’s just that he is a saint by comparison to Trump’s existential threat. But the damage caused by the Bush administrations had a lot to do with the anger and loss and disorientation that lingered 8 years later, and the “successful” opposition of a racist Congress and the underlying racism in the country that Trump unleashed took care of the rest. Bush may seem like a nice man personally, but he unleashed a lot of evil.

      • UmamiMommy says:

        Who ARE These People?, I have no issue with you or anyone else criticizing GW’s presidential actions or inactions on the merits, or engaging in political satire in the grand First Amendment American tradition. However, GW was repeatedly called a Nazi and a Fascist, accused of starting a war for reasons of personal animus, likened to Stalin and Hitler, etc. etc. etc. by prominent individuals and publications. When slander becomes acceptable political discourse, it’s only a matter of time before a previously-unacceptable candidate suddenly starts to appear acceptable en masse. In other words, it opens the door for a Trump; a man who, for example, brags about sexual harassment in a public interview and still gets elected to the highest office in the land. We are witnessing the total breakdown of civility. Words have meaning and we as a society need to choose them intelligently.

      • Kitten says:

        @UmamiMommy-Really? I don’t remember all that…then again, I was a 22 year old college student with my head planted firmly up my ass.

      • UmamiMommy says:

        @Kitten, thanks for making me smile. 🙂

  16. adastraperaspera says:

    Where to start… This is the very, very least he can do. The Bushes still hold a great deal of power and money, and all of them have much to answer for. For starters, GW eroded rights with the Patriot Act and started a military buildup that emboldened armaments manufacturers, escalated fanatical gun rights and gave our police forces tanks. His father HW’s Desert Storm bombs killed thousands of civilians. In the 80s, his brother Neil was part of a massive Savings and Loan scandal that cost taxpayers over a billion dollars (he was not indicted), Jeb stood by as Gov during the shady 2000 vote against Gore that put his brother in office. Jeb did not fight Trump off, but instead kept silent when he had to have known some of this stuff that is starting to come out now. If any other country had a family like this, the U.S. would point fingers and cry foul. But for them? Nothing. The sins are great, and GW and his administration should have been prosecuted for war crimes a decade ago.

    That said, I mentioned in another post recently that the resistance is going to have to have some strange bedfellows before this is all over. I hope he continues to speak out. I hope it is not too little, too late.

  17. An says:

    I am all for anyone (regardless of past wrongs) calling out the current administration. GWB going after Trump doesn’t negate or correct anything that he did while in office but it does speak to the fact that even former bad Presidents think that Trump is a monster.

  18. Lucy says:

    Trump being a cathastrophe doesn’t in any way make me warm up to Bush. Same sh*t, different time. The man is abominable, and will always be.

  19. Ana says:

    You know your President is beyond awful when even George W. Bush seems likable and smart.

  20. Mika says:

    I remember driving by a billboard late during the election with a huge picture of W. Bush plastered on it that read “Miss me yet?”

    ….I kinda do now, George. I kinda do.

  21. Amanda D says:

    He was a terrible president, but I like who he has become post-presidency.

  22. Alexandria says:

    It feels like he has a tinge of regret about how he presided. I never thought he was his own man when he was Prez and this is coming from a non American. I think he was pushed around and needed a lot of guidance or a good team to lead with him. Perhaps he felt he had to be like his dad. He seems like a more sensible person now. Maybe he grew up.

  23. Who says says:

    As a Democrat, it feels weird how much I appreciate the Bush family this week, with daughter Barbara as guest speaker at a planned parenthood conference and George speaking up against Trump.

  24. jerkface says:

    We are still a very young country. We must realize that we are not immune to further revolutions and coups. We have to keep our eyes open, try to think clearly, and be ready to fight for freedom. There is no such thing as absolute morality, Bush was bad at somethings but i believe his heart was not evil and he was not mentally ill. I believe Trump is mentally ill in a way that would increase the odds of him behaving in a way perceived as evil and ultimately dangerous.

  25. Jeesie says:

    The man’s a war criminal, responsible for well over 100,000 civilian deaths, and hundreds of thousands more maimings. People are still dying everyday because of his choices, and generations will suffer greatly. All based on bold-faced lies. Yes, Cheney was the mastermind, but Bush isn’t actually an idiot incapable of making his own choices. He very happily and knowingly chose to play out Cheney’s plans. He doesn’t get a pass for not being the most evil person in a group of evil people, especially when he was the one who actually handed power to the most evil people.

    Seriously, aim a little higher with the fond remembrances. Responding to a horrible situation by wishing for a return to a different kind of horrible situation, a horrible situation that saw so many innocent people lose their lives for no good reason…that’s just normalising the many, many indefensible things Bush did, and starting down that track sure won’t improve the future.

    • Annike says:

      You’re one of the few people making sense here. World’s gone mad! Every time I think of what was done in the Bush years, my blood boils, not least because people are still suffering for his lies.

    • jerkface says:

      I think you are correct. Well said, too.

    • scylla says:

      I second that! The HUNDRED THOUSENDS of people who died in middle east since the second gulf war a testament to what an evil and vile person Bush was/is. He was often using god in his speeches, yes… something also the radical Islamists are doing. How do we grow as people when politics are still made in “the name of god”!?

      This rise of ISIS and the whole refugee situation is very much the outcome of the (further) destabilistation of the middle east. Not that there was so much as peace and prosperity as we know it in the west but at least a certain structure. Now there are failed states and patriarchy and misogyny are rising to new highs. There are whole lost generations of people who grew up in wartimes without much education.

      He may seem personable and nice – even thougthful – but he unleashed a lot of chaos and misery in his reaction to 9/11. The world might not survive an unstable middle east in the long run….

  26. ash says:

    my mom who is a stark democrat thru and mf thru thought dubya was a dumbasss and behind the scenes sleazy but had decorum and that it was a goober-show of a presidency quite hilarious at times…her only fear was the war he got us into or continued on…. but with [man that shall remain nameless and not my mf prez] she is sickened and saddened and horrified that this level of white supremacy garbage and hatefulness can be elected [hacked into] office in 2016…like the level of disdain he brought back out has been from the 50-‘s and back.