WASHINGTON – Wading back into Republican politics, former President George W. Bush said Tuesday that the GOP he once led has swung too far to the right on issues like immigration, trade and diversity.
“I would describe it as isolationist, protectionist and, to a certain extent, nativist,” Bush told NBC’s “Today” show during an interview to promote his new book on immigration.
Asked if he was “disappointed” by the post-Bush direction of the party, the 43rd president said: “Well, it’s not exactly my vision. But I’m just an old guy they put out to pasture. Just a simple painter.”
The name Donald Trump did not surface during the interview, but Bush clearly aimed his comments at his Republican successor whose “America First” agenda included protectionist trade policies and crackdowns on immigration.
43. George W. Bush (1946-present) • Years served as president: 2001-2009 • Political party: Republican • Surprising fact: Bush had both the highest and lowest approval ratings. George W. Bush has the distinction of having received both the highest and lowest approval ratings of any president. The son of the 41st president had a 90% approval rating after the terrorist attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. But his ratings plunged to 25% just before the 2008 election. (Photo: Pool / Getty Images)
Bush, who has taken up painting in his retirement, has largely avoided commenting on politics since leaving office in 2009. But he has been more aggressive during a tour for his book “Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants,” a collection of portraits of selected immigrants.
In an interview with CBS News, Bush urged Republicans to tone down their “harsh rhetoric” on immigration. He also wrote a “Washington Post” op-ed criticizing both parties for failing to pass new legislation overhauling the nation’s immigration laws.
“So how is it that in a country more generous to new arrivals than any other, immigration policy is the source of so much rancor and ill will?” Bush wrote.
In a series of interviews, Bush has repeatedly said the Jan. 6 insurrection – instigated by Trump supporters, seeking to overturn his election loss to President Joe Biden – made him sick.
“It’s just a sorry chapter, sorry moment, really sorry,” Bush told CBS.
Bush’s comments about GOP isolationism and nativism came as House Republicans tried to tamp down reports that some House members discussed creation of an “America First Caucus” that would defend the nation’s “uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions.”
Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., the House Republican Whip, told reporters Tuesday he doesn’t think that such a caucus will be created. Scalise also defended the party on its record of immigration and diversity.
“Look, what makes America great is our diversity,” Scalise said. “The richness of all the people that come from all around the world, legally coming to America to seek the American dream like my great-grandparents sought when they came from Italy.”
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, suggested that Bush was painting with too broad a brush.
“I’m sure there are people in our party who would fit that description but there are many others who do not,” Romney told CNN. “It’s a big party with a lot of people. I can’t speak for the entire party. I can only speak for myself.”
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