American Greatness Publisher Chris Buskirk appeared on NPR’s “Morning Edition” on Monday to discuss former President George W. Bush’s controversial speech last week in New York. Listen to the audio and read the transcript, below.
Host: Chris Buskirk, thank you very much for being with us today.
Chris Buskirk: It’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Host: I don’t know if you heard it live, I don’t know if you listen to the thing in full later, but as you heard all of it or, the many excerpts that have gotten a lot of play over the past few days. What were you thinking as you heard President George W. Bush sort of come off the bench, and pick up the microphone?
Buskirk: Well I … You know it’s … Yeah, what was I thinking. I did listen to the whole thing. I like to tell listeners to my show yeah, this is one of the things I listen to so you don’t have to. It was … I thought it was ironic in a lot of ways. George W. Bush is somebody who … I have to agree with your other guest here. But this is somebody who really had a failed presidency. He got us into multiple foreign wars that were both unpopular and unwinnable.
And, the Trump presidency is as much a repudiation of Bushism, and the Bush presidency as it was of Obama. And so, I think when we think about the historical context where we have presidents who have taken on this subtle legal requirement that is a tradition of comity and unity, not to comment on—
Host: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Buskirk: Sitting president after they leave office. I think … I look at Bush, I see … The threat here is not to Donald Trump from George W. Bush’s’ comment, it’s to Bush’s own legacy. Now he’ll get and has been getting applause in the press for the past few days and will continue to, I’m sure. But, I think he diminishes himself and his own legacy because, his comments just don’t stand up to scrutiny when you look at his own record.
Host: But he says he’s standing up very prominently in here against bigotry, for the American tradition, of the ideals of bringing everybody in, it’s blasphemy against the American creed. One thing George Bush was … Even in the heat of 9/11, he was seen as someone who tried to hold all the parties in the country together, especially at that time. Does that hold weight to you, when he directs that kind of fire against this president Chris?
Buskirk: Yeah, well he’s … Look he’s … I don’t actually … I’m not one of these people who actually has a problem with former presidents commenting on politics. I think they can, I think they just need to think about what it says about themselves and how it makes them look. So I don’t have a principled issue with him commenting on this president. I think that we have to look at this, and say well what does it mean. I was struck by one comment that Bush made in his remarks and, I’m sure he didn’t write the speech but, he says … He said that Americanism, or being American-
Host: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Buskirk: Is not about geography. Now he had this whole list of things about what it’s not-
Buskirk: But it is in fact about geography. This America is in fact a physical place, it has borders, we have laws, we have a constitution. And this is one of the fundamental misunderstandings of what I like to call, the bi-partisan fusion party of which both Bush and Obama are a part. And they kind of make America into this airy fairy thing that just exists in the mind, it doesn’t exist in a real place. And I think that is something that Trump gets at a gut level, at an instinctual level.
He says, actually we are a people, we’re one people, we live in one place, we have a government. And this is the key point that Trump has made, and that the people around him have made, which is to say the government is responsible to the citizens. That’s why we wanna have … That’s why we have elections, that’s why this past election mattered. And by the way, I would point out to the last republican president, George W. Bush, that Donald Trump got almost five million more votes than he did.
Host: He’s watching the direction of the country under this sitting president and is not happy. How do you interpret it Chris.
Buskirk: Yeah, a little bit of both. There’s certainly a bit of pique I think, against President Trump’s rough handling of … Remember the low energy jab during the-
Buskirk: Election. That was a [crosstalk 00:03:44]. He was all over Jeb Bush from the beginning until the end when Jeb finally stopped his campaign. So there’s a bit of that, there’s family pride at stake there, I’m sure. The other part though I think is principle, if we can call it that. George W. Bush stands for something on principle and in politics that is very, very different from what President Trump stands for. He is in favor of globalization, he is in favor of moral imperialism, he’s in favor of a very aggressive militaristic foreign policy. These are all things that Donald Trump stands against on his agenda.
Now, we could like his personality, or not like his personality but he has outlined meaning, President Trump has outlined a specific agenda when it comes to immigration, when it comes to the border, when it comes to being much more circumspect against military adventurism, and wars abroad. A pro-worker, economic policy, these are things that fly in the face of Bush, and Bushism. And so, I think he sees not only somebody who trounced his brother in primaries, he sees somebody who is undoing his legacy as a president, which … Let’s face it, those ideas about sort of open borders, and moral imperialism, these are things that the left and the republican party have shared in common for a long time.
It turns out that a lot of rank and file Republicans did not agree with it, and that’s why they wound up voting for Donald Trump. And that’s why … I wanna go back to something Professor Berry said-
Host: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Buskirk: ‘Cause I think she’s right, which is this idea of just complaining about Donald Trump’s personality doesn’t get the left anywhere. Advocate for a position, advocate for an agenda then with … You know, that way we could have a real substantive-
Host: Do you think the [crosstalk 00:05:28].
Buskirk: Politics. [crosstalk 00:05:29].
Host: Chris, do you think President Bush was just complaining about his personality? Chris?
Buskirk: I think … Yeah, in part. In part, I do think that’s what it was. Not in total, and I don’t wanna leave that impression.
Buskirk: I think he had a more substantive argument there. But, as I say, I think it was because Donald Trump’s agenda is so starkly different than the Bush agenda, and that the movement that elected Donald Trump really is a repudiation of what the republican party has stood for, for the past generation.