Between reports of press secretary Sean Spicer’s efforts to prevent further media leaks, the New York Times‘ Oscars ad, and the possible dissolution of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Donald Trump’s relationship with the press has quickly deteriorated in his presidency’s first months. And with the Steve Bannon-led administration’s continued efforts to dub the media the “opposition party,” the strained lines of communication between the two parties shows no signs of improving anytime soon. And then there’s George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States and the same man who told the White House Press Corps they “misunderestimated” him.
“It’s hard to unify the country with the news media being so split up,” Bush told Today‘s Matt Lauer by way of defending Trump against criticism of his professed attempts to unify the country. “When I was president, you mattered a lot more because there was three of you. Now there’s all kinds of information being bombarded out. People can say things anonymously. It’s just a different world.” Yet the former Republican president didn’t spend all his time defending his party’s current officeholder, whose blunt tactics against the press were counter to how he viewed their importance.
“I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy,” said Bush. “We need an independent media to hold people like me to account. Power can be very addictive, and it can be corrosive, and it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power. Whether it be here or elsewhere.” The former president noted he spent most of his two terms trying to convince Russia’s Vladimir Putin of the importance of an independent press. “It’s kind of hard to tell others to have an independent free press when we’re not willing to have one ourselves.”