President George W. Bush was on NBC’s Today Show this morning with Matt Lauer and spoke pretty candidly about certain aspects of 45's presidency before doing a People magazine interview to promote his newest paintings featuring the faces of wounded warriors. NPR has a really good write up summarizing both interviews.
All through the Obama years, Bush has been very careful to refrain from critiques in the media, so his comments are unexpected. Lauer point blank asked “Did you ever consider the media to be the enemy of the American people?”
“I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy. 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.”
Bush also went into detail about how he attempted to encourage Vladimir Putin to accept the notion of an independent press and several other comments about Russia and the alleged attempts to interfere with the 2016 election.
Asked whether he would like a special prosecutor to look into the issue, Bush said: “First of all, I think we all need answers — whether or not the special prosecutor is the way to go or not, you’re talking to the wrong guy.”
Bush stressed that he is not a lawyer, so he wouldn’t weigh in on the best approach, but on the reports about Russia and the election, he did say, “I am sure, though, that that question needs to be answered.”
The People magazine interview also discusses the work he and Laura are doing with the Bush Library and Center, in particular with how it relates to Muslim women regarding immigration ceremonies, reproductive health programs in Africa, and leadership training.
“That’s very different talk than what we’re hearing today about a ‘Muslim ban,’” Lauer said. “Do you think the president’s position on this has been well thought out?”
Bush responded that the right to worship freely, or to not worship at all, is a bedrock of freedom in the U.S.
“You see, I understood right off the bat, Matt, that this is an ideological conflict, and people who murder the innocent are not religious people,” Bush said. “They want to advance an ideology, and we have faced those kinds of ideologues in the past.”
Asked point blank if he supports the ban on travel from the seven predominantly Muslim countries that were included in Trump’s executive order, which is now being challenged in the courts, Bush said he is “for an immigration policy that is welcoming and that upholds the law.”
In the conversation with People, Bush said “I don’t like the racism.”
I highly recommend watching the interview if you can spare the time. He has a lot of depth in his perspectives and I thought it was a really valuable conversation. I was never a particular fan of Bush’s policies (understatement....), but I think the years away from his presidency have given him some interesting insights.