George W. Bush hits Trumpism: "We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism"

For the second time in a week, “Salon conservatives” are high-fiving over an anti-Trump speech delivered by a Republican whose heyday came a decade ago.

And for the second time in a week, it’s pretty much only Salon conservatives on the right who are high-fiving.

Watching the praise for Bush pour in this morning from conservative writers (and of course from the Strange New Respect brigades among Democrats), I had a good laugh at this tweet. It’s funny ’cause it’s (more or less) true:

Who would have won the nomination last year if it had been Dubya running in place of Jeb? I can see an argument for Bush, that Trump might have won the early primaries but increasingly Bush would have picked off the later ones as the field narrowed and the non-Trump vote consolidated behind him. That was Cruz’s game plan but Cruz wasn’t likable enough to pull it off. Likability wouldn’t have been a problem for Bush. Even so, I’d bet on Trump, not for any particular strategic reason but because I think the character of the party is different now. Or, maybe, the party is more honest now about the character it’s had for years, even in the days of Bush. Bret Stephens, writing about McCain’s speech of a few days ago, tried to capture it this way:

Right now, McCain, his allies and their ideas appear to be a waning force in the Republican Party. They are RINOs, cucks, and “globalists.” Many of them, like Tennessee’s Bob Corker, will retire rather than face bruising primary challenges from the ever-farther right. On Monday McCain called America “the land of the immigrant’s dream,” and said: “We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil.” To a large and growing segment of the G.O.P., which thinks magnanimity is for losers, these statements amount to a form of treason.

“Magnanimity is for losers” is pretty good as a summation of the populist moment. Donald “An Eye for an Eye” Trump versus George “Compassionate Conservative” Bush? C’mon. Smart money’s on Trump, especially if we’re imagining this as Dubya running for his hypothetical third term rather than as a fresh-faced national candidate running for his first. Bush would have had to explain away Iraq, TARP, and his endless push for amnesty. As president, as personable as he was, he was a one-man populist-manufacturing machine, repeatedly giving blue-collar Republicans reason to scratch their heads about what the “experts” in D.C. were doing to better their lives. If the GOP completes its transformation into an American National Front, historians will flag him as a prime cause, good intentions or no.

You can read his full speech here but the three very short clips below capture most of the shots at Trump (who goes unnamed) and his fans. Some of the hits are direct, like his attack on protectionism. Others are more indirect, like his forceful rejection of white supremacism. That feels like Dubya saying what he thinks Trump should have said after Charlottesville. Perhaps the presidential Twitter account will respond later.

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David Strom 4:01 PM on October 03, 2022