While media outlets and television talking heads were quick to applaud former President George W. Bush's implicit rebuke of Trumpism in a rare political address delivered in New York on Thursday, many critics dissented from the chorus of applause, calling the speech "hypocritical bullshit" and highlighting Bush's long list of offenses that includes wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Patriot Act, an overseas torture regime, and "heinous" treatment of Muslims at home and abroad.
"Never forget the most consequential conspiracy theory in U.S. history—that Iraq was behind 9/11—was pushed by Bush administration and mainstream U.S. media."
—Adam Johnson, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting Bush delivered his remarks before a conference hosted by his foundation, which he convened "to support democracy," in the words of the New York Times.
During the course of his 16-minute address, the former president lamented that "our discourse" has been "degraded by casual cruelty," and that "we've seen nationalism distorted into nativism."
Bush also turned his attention to foreign affairs, noting: "We've seen the return of isolationist sentiments, forgetting that American security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair of distant places."
"Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone and provides permission for cruelty and bigotry," Bush said. "The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them."
Others, however, saw Bush's speech as nothing more than "hollow words," given his long record of human rights abuses.
In a piece for Vice News, Eve Peyser argued that the "racist and authoritarian" policies of the Bush administration paved the way for Donald Trump's ascent to the White House.
While "Bush never verbalized his Islamophobia," Peyser notes, his "administration detained more than 1,200 people—most of whom were Muslims or of Middle Eastern descent—without charge, instead holding them as 'material witnesses.'"
"The Iraq War was worse than anything Donald Trump has done (so far)."
—Chris Hayes, MSNBC
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Bush may now be denouncing the "conspiracy theories and outright fabrication" of the present moment, but "the war in Iraq, which destabilized the region, killed hundreds of thousands, and helped give rise to ISIS was predicted on intelligence that Bush's administration misrepresented to the American people," Peyser observes.
The Trump administration is now simply building upon the bigoted policies put into place by the Bush White House and ignoring the former president's "platitudes," Peyser concluded.
Others similarly criticized the media's largely positive treatment of Bush's brief emergence from retirement, arguing that such favorable press amounts to "rehabilitation" of a "war criminal" who helped intensify the bigotry and war-mongering he now claims to oppose.
2 big reasons Bush is being rehabilitated: 1) most elite institutions supported his crimes; 2) their architects work in biggest news outlets https://t.co/vfe30QB1fX
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) October 20, 2017
never forget the most consequential conspiracy theory in US history–that Iraq was behind 9/11–was pushed by Bush admin & mainstream US media https://t.co/m4Yoy5CRWV
— Adam H. Johnson (@adamjohnsonNYC) October 19, 2017
Some commentators from major networks also sounded off.
MSNBC's Chris Hayes concluded simply: "The Iraq War was worse than anything Donald Trump has done (so far)."