The White House on Saturday fired back at former Presidents George Bush and George W. Bush after they were quoted criticizing President Donald Trump and his impact on the Republican Party in a forthcoming book.
“If one presidential candidate can disassemble a political party, it speaks volumes about how strong a legacy its past two presidents really had,” a White House official told CNN.
The official, echoing a line of attack Trump used during the Republican primaries and caucuses, added, “And that begins with the Iraq war, one of the greatest foreign policy mistakes in American history.” (Trump has repeatedly and falsely claimed that he was against the war at the time.)
In “The Last Republicans,” author Mark K. Updegrove extensively quotes both Bushes on Trump, who at the time of some interviews was campaigning for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. In a preview in the New York Times, George Bush is quoted calling Trump a “blowhard,” adding that he didn’t like him, while George W. Bush seemingly suggested Trump incited and exploited public anger to advance his candidacy.
In an on-the-record meeting with reporters aboard Air Force One later Saturday, Trump declined to comment on the criticism.
“I’ll comment after we come back. I don’t need headlines. I don’t want to make their move successful,” he said.
The book’s title comes from a quote George W. Bush gave Updegrove when he wondered if he would be the “last Republican president.” Trump’s unexpected win refuted that notion, but the business mogul’s populist policies and public demeanor markedly contrast with Republican politicians and policies in the Bush eras.
Throughout the early months of the campaign, Trump delighted in attacking George W. Bush’s brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, labelling him “low energy.”
When offered the chance, Trump didn’t shy away from questioning either the 43rd or 41st president, including criticizing George W. Bush’s actions in the lead up to the 9/11 attacks of 2001.
Neither one of the former presidents attended the 2016 Republican National Convention and the elder Bush later voted for Hillary Clinton. While not mentioning Trump directly, George W. Bush gave a speech last month that hit at the nativism and populism of the current political discourse — something viewed as a subtle swipe at the current president.