“I don’t like him.”
That’s how the elder ex-president Bush described his feelings about current Republican president Donald Trump, as an excerpt relates in a forthcoming book entitled, “The Last Republicans.”
“I don’t know much about him, but I know he’s a blowhard,” he added, as reported by the New York Times. “And I’m not too excited about him being a leader.”
That’s apparently how the American people felt about Bush Sr. in 1992, as well.
His son got in on the Trump pillorying as well.
“You can either exploit the anger, incite it,” George W. Bush said, referring to Donald Trump. Then he lamented his brother Jeb’s failed presidential bid.
“If you’re angry with the powers that be,” he added, “you’re angry with the so-called establishment, and there’s nothing more established than having a father and brother that have been president.”
The president thus got one thing right: Many white, working, middle class American voters were in no mood for another “status quo” Bush presidency following eight years under President Obama. These disgruntled voters felt ignored and misled by a Republican establishment that preached fiscal discipline and preened with tributary Obamacare repeal efforts, only to be let down time and time again.
Trump was a last ditch hope – an attempt by the self-perceived disenfranchised to hold both parties accountable and regain the electoral power they felt was rightfully theirs.
“I’m worried that I will be the last Republican president,” goes the line from George W. Bush. It became the basis of the title for Mark K. Updegrove’s book, and it is a sagacious and wistful one. It smacks of Bushite elitism and a sense of entitlement, however, which views the Republican electorate as unable to set the political agenda, and therefore, unable to define the party.
This Trumpist electorate is not entirely conservative and it is often rabidly anti-establishment. Thus, it makes war on two camps in the Republican Party; in addition to taking on the similarly fractured socialist and Clintonite wings of the Democratic Party.
The elder Bush was so concerned about this ‘Trump uprising’ that he even voted for Democratic establishment candidate Hillary Clinton, as Updegrove’s book notes, while junior merely checked the box “none of the above.”
Amid mounting criticism from Democrats, who politically speaking want Trump’s head on a pike at all costs, the White House views both the tenor and timing of the Bush critiques to be unhelpful.
Entire Sarah Sanders, White House press secretary.
“The American people voted to elect an outsider who is capable of implementing real, positive, and needed change – instead of a lifelong politician beholden to special interests,” Sanders said in an excoriating statement to The Hill. “If they were interested in continuing decades of costly mistakes, another establishment politician more concerned with putting politics over people would have won.”
The White House wasn’t finished yet, though.
“If one presidential candidate can disassemble a political party, it speaks volumes about how strong a legacy its past two presidents really had,” the White House also told CNN. “And that begins with the Iraq war, one of the greatest foreign policy mistakes in American history.”
The critique is a solid one.
The current Republican Party electorate is split on social conservative issues, is for a strong national defense, but not for Bushite “adventurism” (going abroad looking for “monsters to destroy,” as another son of a president John Quincy Adams once put it), and is primarily interested in the American economy and protecting its piece of the pie.
The Republican Party, historically, has been a motley coalition of social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, and national defense hawks – the tripartite legs of the GOP stool, as radio host Rush Limbaugh once formulated it – and it is inevitable that as the American people’s priorities shift, this coalition can break apart and be put back together again.
Such as by a man like Donald Trump.
Trump leveraged his charismatic authority that he built on national television over decades in order to recraft a new Republican Party. This is being perceived as a threat by the establishment, which has engaged in backroom, and now, overt public relations warfare against the sitting president.
Oh yes, Mr. Bush, Trump is a Republican president. A non-traditional and not an especially conservative one, but a Republican president nonetheless.
“President Trump remains focused on keeping his promises to the American people by bringing back jobs, promoting an ‘America First’ foreign policy and standing up for the forgotten men and women of our great county,” the White House official added in the statement.
That’s all the American people are asking for.
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