Former U.S. President George W. Bush warned during a speech that bigotry and isolationism were on the rise in the United States and the global community. While Bush did not refer to President Donald Trump, his remarks were widely perceived as a rebuke of the current president's policy of "America First" (video below).
On Oct. 19, Bush spoke before a George W. Bush Institute event in New York City. The former president asserted during his speech that Western countries were undergoing a crisis of confidence and values.
"The great democracies face new and serious threats -- yet seem to be losing confidence in their own calling and incompetence," Bush said, according to The Washington Post. "Economic, political and national security challenges proliferate, and they are made worse by the tendency to turn inward. The health of the democratic spirit itself is at issue."
The 43rd president said that economic stagnation, cultural anger stemming from immigration and a resurgence of ethno-nationalism had placed broad swaths of Europe in "an identity crisis."
"America is not immune from these trends. ... Bigotry seems emboldened," Bush continued. "Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication."
The former president blasted what he viewed as a coarsening of American discourse and "the return of isolationist sentiments."
Bush suggested that the U.S. could combat its most pressing problems by strengthening cyber security in response to Russian meddling during the 2016 election, setting a national tone that promotes civic engagement and good faith, and rebuilding trust between the public and institutions such as government and media. The former president also called for a repudiation of bigotry.
"Our identity as a nation -- unlike many other nations -- is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood. ... This means that people of every race, religion and ethnicity can be fully and equally American," Bush said. "It means that bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed."
The former president concluded: "In short, it is time for American institutions to step up and provide cultural and moral leadership for this nation."
Bush's speech was viewed as a condemnation of the policies advanced by Trump even though he did not reference the current president by name.
"Must read speech," tweeted out former White House ethics lawyer Richard Painter of the Bush administration. "The GOP must stand up to Trump and the Bannonites."
GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who was the Republican nominee for president in 2008, also indirectly criticized Trump's "America First" policy during a speech, Business Insider reports.
On Oct. 17, McCain stated after accepting the Philadelphia Liberty Medal that promoting "half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems, is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history."