George W. Bush: ‘It is time for America to examine our tragic failures’

State Funeral for former United States President George H.W. Bush

By now, I think everyone is uncomfortable with the way they feel about George W. Bush. As I’ve said before, I absolutely hated Bush when he was in office. I hated his presidency. So much of what we’re dealing with now in the Trump dictatorship is a direct result of the Bush presidency, and what Bush did to American politics and Republican politics. But if you put aside all of that (and yes, that’s an enormously privileged argument), Bush’s post-presidency has been fine. He lost both of his parents and grieved for them publicly, he’s maintained friendships with the Obamas and Clintons, he’s spoken out in humanitarian ways about race and the pandemic and more. Of course I still think the man was a terrible president. But f–k it, I didn’t hate his statement on the protests and the murder of George Floyd. I’m publishing it in full:

Laura and I are anguished by the brutal suffocation of George Floyd and disturbed by the injustice and fear that suffocate our country. Yet we have resisted the urge to speak out, because this is not the time for us to lecture. It is time for us to listen. It is time for America to examine our tragic failures — and as we do, we will also see some of our redeeming strengths.

It remains a shocking failure that many African Americans, especially young African American men, are harassed and threatened in their own country. It is a strength when protesters, protected by responsible law enforcement, march for a better future. This tragedy — in a long series of similar tragedies — raises a long overdue question: How do we end systemic racism in our society? The only way to see ourselves in a true light is to listen to the voices of so many who are hurting and grieving. Those who set out to silence those voices do not understand the meaning of America — or how it becomes a better place.

America’s greatest challenge has long been to unite people of very different backgrounds into a single nation of justice and opportunity. The doctrine and habits of racial superiority, which once nearly split our country, still threaten our Union. The answers to American problems are found by living up to American ideals — to the fundamental truth that all human beings are created equal and endowed by God with certain rights. We have often underestimated how radical that quest really is, and how our cherished principles challenge systems of intended or assumed injustice. The heroes of America — from Frederick Douglass, to Harriet Tubman, to Abraham Lincoln, to Martin Luther King, Jr. — are heroes of unity. Their calling has never been for the fainthearted. They often revealed the nation’s disturbing bigotry and exploitation — stains on our character sometimes difficult for the American majority to examine. We can only see the reality of America’s need by seeing it through the eyes of the threatened, oppressed, and disenfranchised.

That is exactly where we now stand. Many doubt the justice of our country, and with good reason. Black people see the repeated violation of their rights without an urgent and adequate response from American institutions. We know that lasting justice will only come by peaceful means. Looting is not liberation, and destruction is not progress. But we also know that lasting peace in our communities requires truly equal justice. The rule of law ultimately depends on the fairness and legitimacy of the legal system. And achieving justice for all is the duty of all.

This will require a consistent, courageous, and creative effort. We serve our neighbors best when we try to understand their experience. We love our neighbors as ourselves when we treat them as equals, in both protection and compassion. There is a better way — the way of empathy, and shared commitment, and bold action, and a peace rooted in justice. I am confident that together, Americans will choose the better way.

[From Deadline]

How is it that Bush has better speechwriters as an ex-president than he did as a president?? The tone of this was so good – “this is not the time for us to lecture. It is time for us to listen,” and “Those who set out to silence those voices do not understand the meaning of America” and “They often revealed the nation’s disturbing bigotry and exploitation — stains on our character sometimes difficult for the American majority to examine.” I’m sure a lot of people will catch on this line: “Looting is not liberation, and destruction is not progress.” Yeah, he could have avoided that, but A) black leaders have been saying the same thing and B) Bush made a full-throated defense of protesters throughout the statement. If he was still president and he made this speech, Democrats would praise his leadership.

Of course Bigly got his panties in a twist.

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Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Getty.

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61 Responses to “George W. Bush: ‘It is time for America to examine our tragic failures’”

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  1. MeghanNotMarkle says:

    I never thought I’d look to W as a voice of reason in any time but I can’t help but feel such compassion for him right now. Hopefully he’s changed many of his views since he was president. If I can change, so can he, and I won’t condemn him for trying.

    • Aang says:

      I think he was always probably more personally decent than his administration as a whole. He was in over his head as president, intellectually weak, and let monsters like Cheney and Rumsfeld run wild. That doesn’t absolve him of responsibility though. The buck stopped at him. He might be trying to atone but it is too little too late. He needs to admit his entire response, domestic and foreign, to 9/11 was one giant mistake.

      • Mac says:

        He started an illegal war to avenge his father. That war plunged the entire region into chaos with no end in sight. The fish rots from the head.

      • Ariel says:

        This was my thought as well.

        Less Cheney in his head.

        But of course, he did okay torture, and make it policy.
        He is a monster.

        But hell, in this fight for our humanity and our democracy, we need all the help we can get.

    • Lmao24 says:

      Are you serious right now lol?

      Have you forgotten that this is the same man who abandoned New Orleans when hurricane Katrina hit because it only affected black people?

      The same man who used anti-black prejudice to run a racist campaign using the name of Willie Horton?

      The same man who ran a campaign on promises of being tougher on ‘law and order’ and played up to southern America using stereotypes of black people?

      The same man who used his fathers presidency to support his own campaign – the father who also called the military on the LA riots for Rodney King?

      Remember when thousands of people chanted “GEORGE BUSH HATES BLACK PEOPLE”.

      Thank you for forgiving him of behalf of black people. I am glad you can reconcile his racist policies and racist past with his new PR image. I guess your privilege insulates your from his policies and is the reason many of you can get over his racism and embrace him so quickly again. Will you do the same with Trump, when he also retires and rebrands?

      • Purplehazeforever says:

        It takes 3 years of Trump to forget about Bush.

      • MeghanNotMarkle says:

        You’re putting words in my mouth and making assumptions. Knock it off. I’m not forgiving him for what he did in the past. I never said I was. What he did was reprehensible and I never once said I was speaking on behalf of ANYONE. I’m simply saying that if he has changed, like people do, then good on him. I hope he becomes a vocal proponent of equity for all. It won’t make up for what he’s done but it could help make the future better.

    • serena says:

      I’ll believe he changed when he starts apologizing for all he did.

    • MrsBump says:

      this POS, this “decent human” had hundreds of thousands of people killed in afghanistan and in iraq.
      Americans are only now able to see the full force of the horrors that their governments are able to inflict upon innocents and it took Trump for you to see what the rest of the world has always known

    • Lmao24 says:

      Not good enough. He was complicit in creating racist policies and strengthening anti-blackness in traditionally racist societal institutions. Bush nominated numerous justices and candidates to US courts and the Civil Rights of Appeal who were vocally anti- affirmative action, and it’s not difficult to imagine how their racial bias would have seeped into the rest of their decisions. He froze funding to historically black colleges and gutted many further education programmes for black students and funding for black disadvantaged students. He eliminated programmes in schools including the drug-free schools programme and then equipped law enforcement with greater powers to exercise police brutality on the the same impoverished students.

      His change of heart has come too last and carries no weight anymore. It can’t erase his legacy of anti-blackness which ensures to this day. Too little too late.

    • Lmao24 says:

      White people are often afforded the privilege to change and atone for their racism. Black people never get the opportunity to reverse the damage and the violence of the racism they endured.

      Let’s reflect and let’s start challenging this power dynamic.

      • Laura says:

        Well said.

      • Kohleyes says:

        @lmao24 exactly.
        White people are simply itching to forgive eachother for terrible things they’ve done to black and brown people. The amount of women on here saying “I believe he’s changed”.
        Please, you’re embarrassing yourselves. He has not displayed the slightest chagrin at his absolute complicitness in all of this. Even then it would be too late. But go off and go all kumbaya over a mass murderer.

    • MA says:

      He says America should examine itself but he doesn’t do that himself. It’s sad that the pretty speech he paid for is enough to wipe away the away the blood and damage done to hundreds of thousands of black and brown people directly (and millions indirectly) in the US and around the world.

      Trump’s administration is psychologically damaging and an embarrassment after another but Bush’s administration was much worse in most aspects, just more decent and polite about how they went about it.
      This is the same man who said Kanye calling him racist was the worst moment of his presidency. Until he reconciles with all he’s done, I don’t give him any passes.

      • Jess says:

        MA, I agree. I hate Trump supporters more than Bush supporters because Bush and his henchman were better at playing the game so I get that their followers may have been more manipulated (to a degree- the justification of torture was disgusting). But while I agree that he seems better as an ex-president, until he apologizes and tries to make amends for everything he did, I’m not going to be okay with anything he does. Plus, if he really felt this way he would have shamed Karl Rove a few weeks ago for trying to tell Obama to shut up. And let’s not forget that Bush worked behind the scenes to get Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, to side with the other conservative justices he appointed that are still continuing to oppress marginalized groups. So nope – he’s still canceled.

    • Dutch says:

      It’s amazing how your perspective changes and you become a better human being when you no longer need to run for re-election.

    • Poisonella says:

      He’s a war criminal. The way he treated those Hurricane Katrina people was shameful. The only thing he could do to make me hate him less is endorse Joe Biden- but he won’t- no guts. Another rich entitled white boy who failed upward spectacularly.

  2. OriginalLala says:

    I am no fan of W, but we currently have multiple provincial Premiers (kind of like Governors?) here in Canada saying that unlike the US, we have no issues with racism – I would kill for them to acknowledge our history of racism (and slavery) and our contemporary issues around race and police brutality as well.

    • Darla says:

      Trudeau spoke to that yesterday when asked about the American dumpster fire, right? I thought his was a thoughtful response, but I’m not Canadian.

      • OriginalLala says:

        Trudeau is the Prime Minister and he did acknowledge it, but our provincial leaders, some of whom have passed laws that have targeted people of colour, are still refusing to say it, which means nothing will change. It’s really upsetting to hear them defend racist laws as being non-racist 🙁

  3. Marjorie says:

    Except the “we” he’s talking about is white republicans, and our “neighbors” are the other folk.

    But I appreciate his effort, and happy he did this, especially since it pissed off Ivanka’s sire.

  4. KellyRyan says:

    I’m sort of, kind of, pleased he’s delivering a prepared speech. Time to own our tragic mistakes, you first George.

  5. Ash says:

    “Bush’s post-presidency has been fine”

    I wish this narrative would stop being pushed. The man actively campaigned for Kavanaugh. He’s just as terrible a person now as he was when he held office.

    • Traveler says:

      Anyone who remains an active member of the GOP right now and is not screaming to clean house of every single current GOP politician, is a loathsome, vile, sadist. Period.
      Even George Will, who has a conservative stick so far up his ass it hurts to smile, has called for the ousting of drumpf and all drumpf enablers.

    • MA says:

      I mean the man gets credit for quietly enjoying his retirement and popping up once in a while with populist takes. Wow, he’s friends with Michelle Obama! He can paint! Maybe that’s a sign he isn’t the bumbling idiot we all thought he was. And he’s against the murder of a black man that’s so blatant that there’s not much difference of opinion of this issue and it’s hard for even racist white people to ignore. Hell even CORPORATIONS assessed it was riskier to not speak out than to put out their bland performative statements. Where was he with Trayvon? Mike Brown? Sandra Bland? Eric Garner? I don’t know, during his entire presidency? Is he campaigning against racist, anti-choice, actual rapists? Oh no wait, he’s no different from Trump in that respect.

    • Tiffany says:

      THIS !!!!

      He should be shamed back to his ranch with his pallets and paint.


    • emmy says:

      I don’t understand that either. He was the PRESIDENT. Who cares if he’s a cute grandpa now? He had the job of jobs and started a war, let people drown in New Orleans, actively hated LGBT people, and so on. And yeah let’s not forget about Brett I Like Beer Kavanaugh.

      Has any president after Carter been truly impressive in retirement?

      He can get bent with that speech. His presidency was awful and a good speechwriter doesn’t absolve him.

  6. grabbyhands says:

    God help us all that we are looking back on his presidency or anything he says with a degree of fondness, but that is the timeline we’re living now. I will say this, like his father before him – he became a much better statesman than he ever was a president.

    And as for the other one – the ridiculous, childish lies just never stop. How he tweets this bullshit when the country is on fire and he’s enlisting the military to help cement his dictatorship is truly mind boggling. Calling protesters thugs and encouraging them to be jailed for 10 years, teargassing protesters so you can photo op at a church you don’t go to holding a book you’ve never read and all the while saying nothing about how the police have been militarized.

    An abject failure as a human being.

  7. Lightpurple says:

    His endorsement of Biden is coming any time now. Probably in another week.

    And can Trump just stop it with his list of “accomplishments for the black community?” Opportunity zones have been around since the LBJ era, if not earlier. The rising economy was due to Obama’s policies, not Trump’s revival of the policies of Coolidge and Hoover. Criminal Justice Reform was a bill that originated with Cory Booker, not Trump, not Jared Kushner, but Cory Booker. And while that does help the extreme number of those who have been subject to unjust sentencing, the majority of whom were indeed black, the vast majority of people of color in the United States are NOT criminals and that law didn’t change their lives at all so stop insinuating that all blacks are criminals or have criminals in their families. They don’t! Especially when Trump’s own family is full of criminals. Ivanka’s father-in-law did time, for God’s sake.

  8. lemonylips says:

    Please, Bush has no say in anything. Before Trump, he was the worst president many can remember. And even if Michelle Obama thinks he needs another chance – he does not. It was his goverment that spread the fear and allienation within cultures and races which paved the way to what is happening today. Why give him any credit for anything? I don’t even live in USA and this makes me mad. He needs to shut up and stay away. He’s an enabler, even if he can turn some republicans around – I can not stand to see him. Why do we tend to forget so many things after some time passes?

    • lemonylips says:

      ps one thing people should examine – electing him.

    • Christin says:

      He has spent years waiting out people’s memories, IMO. Some genuine personal introspection about his multiple serious failures that harmed many, many people would help.

      He does not hold a candle to Jimmy Carter, who has quietly led a truly selfless post-Presidential life.

  9. Prairiegirl says:

    When even Dubya thinks you’re doing a lousy job, it’s time to resign.

  10. Eleonor says:

    Bush is showing you can be an awful politician and a decent human being.

    • serena says:

      Sure, a decent human being who killed 1 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan. You know, it was just his job he didn’t want to kill them, he’s a nice man.

  11. 10KTurtle says:

    I agree with all of you, but I would not refuse a George W. Bush endorsement of Joe Biden. That might be the tipping point for many Republicans that it is “okay” to vote for a Democrat this November and we NEED them.

    • Ash says:

      I agree with this, despite the fact that I think he’s scum.

    • Lucy2 says:

      I hope a lot of Republicans are already at that point, but if W endorsing Biden helps, I’m for it. Nothing will erase the past or what he has done, he will always be terrible, but if that endorsement helps get Trump out of office, good. That is CRUCIAL, and will need every vote we can get.
      Also crucial is voting in every election, especially local ones. VOTE!!!

    • ClaireB says:

      Yes, that’s where I am. Dubya and his puppet masters did an incalculable amount of damage to this country and around the world and killed millions of people, so if there is a hell, I hope they will all burn. But if his too-little-too-late speech convinces one Republican that it’s okay to vote “D” this time or even to just not vote for Drump, I will take it. Dubya still has all his karma to work off. If he wants to talk about “tragic failures”, maybe he can start with his own.

    • Juls says:

      Unfortunately, any influence he might have will be on swing voters. The frothing-at-the-mouth Trump supporters will not turn on him because of what W says. These are the same people that screamed about how anybody that talked negatively about W during his presidency were traitors. But if W endorses Biden, Trump will go after him in a litany of rage-tweets, and these same people that once kissed W’s feet will be calling for his head for going against their fuhrer. Just watch. The brainwashing is THAT powerful.

  12. Veronica S. says:

    I cannot believe they’ll get to use Trump’s incompetence and casual cruelty to sanitize this man’s legacy. A million plus dead in the Middle Eastern wars because of him and Cheney, and twenty years later, he has the audacity to speak out on these issues with any authority. Unbelievable.

  13. serena says:

    Please, so now he’s a good guy just because he’s “retired” and can say a bunch of nice words and smile? What about all he did in his presidency? He did not only ruin USA but the world too. Him and his empty words can gtfo for all I care.

  14. Esme says:

    Is he trying to be “the good cop” to Trump’s bad one? Trying to support the Republican party (see the mention of Lincoln) by showing there are a plurality of views and rethorical abilities within the GOP, so you can vote for them even if you dislike Trump?
    I don’t trust W to have the best interest of anyone but his very own in-group in mind.

  15. chitowngal says:

    Wish he had been so introspective BEFORE he declared war on a country that didn’t attack us.

  16. MA says:

    ‘It is time for America to examine our tragic failures’

    Like Hurricane Katrina? Nice speech but when he WAS IN POWER what did he do?

    Please, no. Just because Trump is a psychopathic idiot who can’t string a coherent sentence together doesn’t excuse all the evil Bush did. Can we not forget that he’s managed to wreak more havoc and death during his time in office than Trump? He’s probably ecstatic that Trump improved his legacy. This is no different than the Collinses and Romneys of the world who held out as Decent Republicans who then vote with Trump 100% of the time.

  17. Franny says:

    I appreciate his comments and it’s a step in the right direction. I would appreciate it more, however, if he would admit how wrong it was of his administration and Karl Rove to modernize the southern strategy by pandering to white supremacists using a coded dog whistle.

    It seems like a lot of people from the old guard on the right are upset that they lost their cover of plausible deniability. Trump uses a bullhorn instead of a dog whistle, the base loves it, and the leaders on the right follow in lockstep behind it.

    • CE says:

      YES. Republicans like this hate Trump because he exposes the unstated aim of their shitty, homophobic, racist, sexist, anti-working class, anti-middle class, anti-education, anti-cooperation, environment destroying, military worshipping, authoritarian “American exceptionalist” bullshit. Fine, maybe not all old-school Republicans were specifically motivated by racial hatred, but they sure didn’t mind it as long as “muh taxes” stayed low. F all these people. F George Bush. He sucked when he had the power to do something and he sucks now.

      Also, let’s not forget he started a war in a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 and set in motion a chain of events that has caused untold misery and suffering to people who really could have used some help instead. Their lives matter too. No whitewashing of Bush and the Bush presidency.

  18. SP says:

    The quality of the statement is because it was probably written by his old speech writers from his presidency (David Frum, Michael Gerson, etc) who are involved with the Lincoln Project. It’s like neocons are living out a fantasy that Bush is still president.

  19. Lucy says:

    Hi, Hello. This man is a war criminal.

  20. bluemoonhorse says:

    Starting with you GW.

  21. Prayer Warrior says:

    It’s only been the last 5-6 years that my understanding of “I don’t see colour” is my White Privilege talking. I always thought of myself as an ally, since girlhood. I had to learn how my actions were not in line with the values I espoused. I’m 65.
    I will likely screw up whilst trying to be an ally. I’m a better ally than I was. I’m not gonna get it right every time. Taking baby steps is a beginning. The past is our history. Those that do not learn from history are bound to repeat it. I have many uncomfortable, rude moments in my past. They are part of what brings me to my knees when I realize how casually cruel I have been without recognizing my white privilege. I hope by standing up for, with and beside people of colour during this crises my white privilege is used for good. I’m never going to say he was a great president. I will say that as of today, he may not be the worst.

  22. Rani says:

    As a non-American, brown person, the sanitisation of this war criminal so hurts my soul. It reminds me that Americans really believe that American lives are more valuable than others (I know notallAmericans). Every time you think of this man as “decent” please think of the Iraqi men, women and children whose lives were destroyed, for no earthly reason.
    I also appreciate people above enumerating his anti-black domestic policies, so it’s not “just” a foreign policy thing, which after all the rest of the world expects from America.
    You know what? He could have just said nothing.

    • CE says:

      I’m a white American and I could not agree with you more. He should be in prison, not playing with paints on his ranch.

      I’m sorry we’re like this. I see you.

    • Christin says:

      Decent is not a word I would ever associate with this guy (for what that is worth).

      My father-in-law was literally on his deathbed, coming and going with consciousness, when then-President W appeared on the TV screen. My FIL – a WWII veteran – began quickly motioning for someone to turn the channel. He could not stand a war mongering stooge.

      We need to keep reminding people how many rotten things happened during the terms of both W and “Saint Ronnie”.

    • MA says:

      Agree with you. Bush caused more damage international and in America in terms of death and destruction affecting countless brown people but gets a pass with his “charming, humble cowboy” act. But because Trump’s terror is focused on America and impacts not just brown people, Americans think he’s worse. They’re more alike than people think

  23. sa says:

    He had not just racist policies, but he also campaigned on a constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage. This is not a man that can talk about unity with any authority.

    Yes, he’s not Trump, but that is too low a bar to warrant any praise.

  24. L4frimaire says:

    Bush’s utter lack of leadership during hurricane Katrina will be a forever stain upon his domestic presidency. I’m sure he means well but they cannot see the legacy his party, his father spawned as VP, President and head of CIA . Nice words from the guy who broke the Middle East with his disastrous foreign policies, and a diminishing of the US on the world stage that continues to this day. His manipulative neo-con buddies thought they could help harness the Orange disaster we have in 45, but we see how that’s going, but nice speech George.

  25. LRobb says:

    I take the statement for what it is. A former president recognizing that he still has the platform to be of service to the nation. This took the form of acknowledging the nation’s history & current pain and offering his insight. Totally separate from the horrors of his presidency for which we still pay. I accept yesterday’s statement as honorable to the office.

  26. lalala says:

    please teach me, I’m listening and I need to learn

  27. Mee says:

    What is this selective memory some people are having??? He was known as ‘Governor Death’! On account of all the men he killed on Death Row, mostly Black and Latino. He never stayed an execution to allow for case review in case the convict was innocent and new DNA test was going to show it or eyewitness recanted etc. Get the F outta here with all this ‘he’s a good man’. His racist police policies are what’s bleeding into our society now. Girl bye