An upcoming book shows that former President George H.W. Bush did not mince words when asked about President Donald Trump, back before Trump had won the election.
“I don’t like him,” Bush told historian Mark Updegrove in May 2016, according to The New York Times. “I don’t know much about him, but I know he’s a blowhard. And I’m not too excited about him being a leader.” Bush added that Trump appeared to be driven by “a certain ego.”
Updegrove’s book, “The Last Republicans,” deals with the relationship between the senior Bush and his son, former President George W. Bush. The title was inspired by a quote from the younger Bush, who told him during the 2016 election, “I’m worried that I will be the last Republican president.”
“And it wasn’t just about Hillary Clinton becoming president, as the Republican Party was having a difficult time finding itself,” Updegrove told CNN. “It was because Donald Trump represented everything that the Bushes abhorred.”
The elder Bush also said that he voted for Clinton in 2016, while his son said he voted for “none of the above” as president and Republican candidates on the rest of the ballot.
Their newly revealed criticisms of Trump come just weeks after George W. Bush appeared to criticize the president at a New York policy seminar, though he didn’t mention Trump by name.
“We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty,” Bush said. “We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism, forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America.”
The White House responded to news of the criticisms Saturday morning, saying in a statement, “If one Presidential candidate can disassemble a political party, it speaks volumes about how strong a legacy its past two presidents really had.”
Though liberals have historically been sharp critics of the younger Bush — for reasons including the decision to invade Iraq, a slow and widely panned response to Hurricane Katrina, and his administration’s wholesale embrace of torture — his star has risen in the Trump era. In the wake of Trump’s frequent inflammatory comments and constant ad hominem attacks on Twitter, many people seem to long for a president who maintained a relatively more dignified demeanor.
An October survey showed that 51 percent of Democrats hold at least a somewhat favorable view of Bush. On Friday, former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann — who has previously called Bush a fascist and a liar — said he owed Bush an apology and would prefer a third Bush term to Trump as president. Last year, the public went wild with glee over a photo showing Bush and Michelle Obama enjoying a brief embrace.
All the newfound nostalgia seems to ignore just how terrible many people ― especially Democrats ― thought Bush’s presidency was at the time. For many, his lasting legacies are a disastrous Iraq war and the spread of chaos in the Middle East, as well as the financial crisis beginning during his second term. Some have argued those very conditions helped fuel the rise of the far right in the United States and abroad, paving the way for Trump to get elected.