Former President Dubya is the midst of publicity rounds for his upcoming book of paintings, Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors, which will fund the George W. Bush Presidential Center’s health care and employment programs for post-9/11 veterans. Inevitably, he’s discussing the nation’s most unavoidable topic — President Trump — in various interviews. On an episode of Today, Bush stressed that the press is vital to democracy, and he touched upon immigration as well. With that last subject, sh*t got real(er) in Bush’s new interview with People.
Of course, there are plenty of quotes that are getting lots of play, including Bush shading Trump for the current political atmosphere: “I don’t like the racism and I don’t like the name-calling and I don’t like the people feeling alienated.” He never directly accuses Trump of being racist, at least, not according to the excerpts released by People. The most substantial part of Bush’s criticism reveals an inner tug-of-war on whether to criticize Trump’s immigration ban on refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries.
At first, Bush sorta resists and only speaks in general terms — with a pointed mention of his commitment to not criticize Obama — but then he admits that the Muslim ban bothers him. He also emphasizes that the Bush Center will continue to help Muslim refugee women:
“When President Obama got elected, friends would call: ‘You must speak out! You must do this, you must do that.’ Turns out, other people are doing the same thing this time. I didn’t feel like speaking out before because I didn’t want to complicate the job and I’m not going to this time. However, at the Bush Center we are speaking up.”
[He lists] some of the center’s work that stands in contrast to Trump’s isolationism: immigration ceremonies, women’s reproductive-health programs in Africa, and leadership training for Muslim women that the Bush Center brings to Texas from the Middle East. Asked if Trump’s determination to restrict immigration and travel from Muslim countries threatens the Bush Center programs, he shrugs. “Now that you mention it, it might bother me but we’ll figure out how to bring them over … it’s really through actions defending the values important to Laura and me. … We’re a blessed nation, and we ought to help others.”
Bush does concede that things are looking “pretty ugly” lately, politically, but he remains “more optimistic than some” that the nation will move through this rough phase and “come out of it.” Surely, there’s plenty of interpretation to be found there, but Dubya has left no ambiguity on how he feels about Trump’s Muslim ban, and there may be a Twitter reply in the works.
Meanwhile, the White House is weighing options on Trump’s Muslim ban. After the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled against reinstating the ban, Team Trump kept pushing, and the court — on Monday — shut down a motion to accelerate continued hearings on the matter. Trump’s also been making noises about a “rewrite,” but yeah, we’ll see.
Oh, and Dubya told CNN that his book of paintings helped him channel his “inner Rembrandt.” That’s awkwardly funny but cool.