Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon served up a searing attack Friday night on former president George W. Bush, saying Bush “didn’t understand anything he was talking about” in a speech the day before that was widely seen as a rebuke of Donald Trump’s presidency.
“He embarrassed himself,” Bannon said in a dinnertime address at the convention banquet of the California Republican Party. “The speechwriter wrote a highfalutin speech. It’s clear he didn’t understand anything he was talking about. . . . He has no earthly idea whether he’s coming or going, just like it was when he was president of the United States.”
Bannon – who has declared war on the Republican establishment since leaving the White House – went on to apologize to any “Bush folks” in the audience before asserting that “there has not been a more destructive presidency than George Bush’s.”
Conservatives have been critical of Bush’s presidency for spending increases and an expansion of foreign entanglements.
Bannon’s broadside was prompted by a rare political speech that Bush delivered Thursday in which he warned of threats to U.S. democracy and a decay of civic engagement.
At a New York forum sponsored by the Bush presidential center, Bush offered a blunt assessment of a political system corrupted by “conspiracy theories and outright fabrication” in which nationalism has been “distorted into nativism.”
“We’ve seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty,” Bush said during a 16-minute address at “The Spirit of Liberty” event. “Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone and provides permission for cruelty and bigotry. The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them.”
At a White House briefing Friday, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “Our understanding is that those comments were not directed towards the president.”
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · John Wagner