But when President Donald Trump took what appeared to be a mild jab at former President George H.W. Bush’s legacy during his rally Thursday in Montana, the otherwise quiet and mouse-like establishment suddenly grew a pair.
Listen to Trump’s remarks below:
Trump specifically compared his “America First” and “Make America Great Again” slogans to the “thousand points of light,” a slogan popularized by Bush and later used as the name for one of the former president’s non-profits.
“What the hell was that, by the way, thousand points of light? What did that mean? Does anyone know?” Trump asked the crowd Thursday evening. “I know one thing: Make America Great Again we understand. Putting America first we understand.”
“Thousand points of light, I never quite got that one. What the hell is that? Has anyone ever figured that one out? And it was put out by a Republican.”
It was presumably a joke. When Bush referred to Trump as a “blowhard” last year, that was not a joke. Nor was it a joke when the retired Republican politician voted for Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election. Keep in mind that had Bush gotten his way, Neil Gorsuch would not be on the Supreme Court, and the American people would not have had their taxes cut.
Despite Trump’s remark clearly being meant in jest, a number of former Bush-administration officials — including former press secretary Ari Fleischer, former special assistant Richard Haas and former Soviet Affairs director Nicholas Burns — rushed to Twitter after the rally to pounce on him:
This is so uncalled for. Going after a 94-year-old, former President’s promotion of volunteerism. I don’t mind potus being a fighter. I do mind him being rude. https://t.co/Hr0d20Wuzz
— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) July 6, 2018
Truly offensive to see @realDonaldTrump mock @GeorgeHWBush given 41’s 1) life of public service; 2) commitment to volunteerism; 3) critical role in ending Cold War peacefully and on our terms and then leading world in liberating Kuwait, the 1st test of post-cold war era
— Richard N. Haass (@RichardHaass) July 6, 2018
President George H.W. Bush is ten times the man and the President than Donald Trump. https://t.co/uH6Z1KDnsu
— Nicholas Burns (@RNicholasBurns) July 6, 2018
The great irony is that establishment Republicans weren’t alone in their condemnation of the president. Staunch Democrats like Rev. Jesse Jackson and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough joined the pile-on as well.
There was one individual who didn’t, though, and that was George H.W. Bush’s granddaughter, Jenna Bush Hager.
In a tweet posted Friday, she simply shared a letter her grandfather had written to her in 1997 that explained the meaning behind his “points of light” slogan.
From a letter my grandfather wrote in 1997: a point of light was a vision about serving others, one that lit up our country, one I hope our country hasn’t lost. pic.twitter.com/JTq9BHcbvf
— Jenna Bush Hager (@JennaBushHager) July 6, 2018
That was a nice thing to do, as it explained the slogan to those unaware of its meaning, including the president.
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