At a private fundraiser in Cincinnati this week, former President George W. Bush gave a talk that subtly, but incisively, ripped into the very foundations of the Donald Trump presidential campaign. Bush is no policy hero himself, having failed to manage the mortgage crisis that created the 2008 financial crash, and he started two wars during his presidency in Afghanistan and Iraq that served to further destabilize the Middle East, cost thousands of American lives, and ballooned the federal deficit.
But Bush represents saner days, when the president knew better than to use, or threaten to use, nuclear weapons; he didn’t plan to abolish the Department of Education; and he avoided sexist, racist, and islamophobic attacks. Bush may disagree with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton on numerous policy issues, but he ruthlessly cut straight to the core of the Trump campaign.
According to former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, “It was an interesting exercise of statecraft. No one could say he directly spoke in attack mode against Donald Trump. Neither could anybody miss the fact that he thought there were some cutting-edge issues that Trump is advancing that need to be scrutinized and debated.”
Bush took issue with the derailed Trump train that has sent the GOP careening down a gorge. Trump has alienated women, Hispanics, Muslims, and the disabled, among others. When he was asked about the future of the Republican Party, Bush tellingly said, “As long as everyone feels welcome, I think we’ll succeed.”
Not everyone will feel welcome with Trump at the Party’s helm. Certainly not after his sly winks to neo-Nazis, anti-semites, and the alt-right. Trump likes to claim he fights ‘political correctness’ but what he really tries to diminish are social norms that have developed in the wake of the Suffrage movement, Jim Crow era and the Civil Rights Movement, and the Holocaust; norms that are informed by the tragedies caused by bigotry and the fight for equality by suffragettes and civil rights activists.
A Trump presidency would mean an end to social progress that America has fought too long and hard for to give up now. Even George W. himself realizes it.
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