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On Saturday, former president George W. Bush released a video calling for national unity during a pandemic that has killed at least 67,000 Americans. “Let us remember how small our differences are in the face of this shared threat,” Bush said, over shots of people bonding between a pane of glass and providing for the elderly. “We are not partisan combatants, we are human beings … we rise and fall together, and we are determined to rise.”
But calls for unity contradict President Trump’s electoral message. Though the video did not mention the president by name and steered clear of controversies like reopening protests, the president found an opportunity to attack his predecessor for his call of national healing. Citing a comment from Fox News’ Pete Hegseth wondering why Bush did not call for an end to partisanship during the impeachment process, Trump tweeted:
As over 1,000 Americans continue to die every day, the president can still only understand the world as a reflection of his interests. Calling out the only other living Republican president for staying silent during a constitutional crisis of his own making also shows Trump’s demand for fealty within his party and the public consequences for those who don’t verbally support him at all times.
It’s not the first time Trump has critiqued George W. Bush. “I’m a Republican but not a fan of the last George Bush-he also was a lousy President (Iraq etc.),” Trump tweeted in 2013. “In fact, he was so bad he gave us Obama!” The next year he added: “He got us into Iraq instead of making America great again. Not good!” By 2016, he blamed the former president for failing to stop the attacks on September 11: “The World Trade Center came down during the reign of George Bush,” Trump said at a primary debate. “He kept us safe? That is not safe.”
In March, ignoring a precedent of former presidents stepping in to help handle natural disasters, Trump told reporters that he didn’t “want to disturb” former presidents by asking for their guidance, saying that “I don’t think I’m going to learn much.” Despite George W. Bush’s overwhelming failures during other manufactured and natural disasters, Trump could surely learn from the president who orchestrated the nation’s first modern pandemic-response plan.