Former presidents criticize the current state of politics - What's Your Point? October 22,2017

- Panelists  Bob Price - Associate Editor Beitbart Texas, Nyanza Moore - Houston attorney and progressive commentator, Tony Diaz- Chicano activist and educator, Tomaro Bell - Super neighborhood leader, Bill King - businessman and former Kemah mayor, Jessica Colon - Republican strategist; join host Greg Groogan in a discussion about recent statements made by former presidents George Bush and Barack Obama.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Former presidents are shedding a traditional reluctance to criticize their successors, unleashing pointed attacks on the Trump White House and the commander in chief - but without mentioning him by name.

Remarks on the same day by former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama raise the prospect that more dissenters will follow in defiance of President Donald Trump and his policies.

"What they are doing is laying down a marker for acceptable public discourse," said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor of political communication and rhetorical theory at the University of Pennsylvania. "They're saying, 'We don't stand for that kind of language and behavior. These are our values, these are our principles.'"

Bush and Obama themselves were preceded by other prominent figures. In recent weeks, Republican Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Arizonans John McCain and Jeff Flake have taken swipes at a president who has pushed the limits of polite political discourse and has seemed to relish public fights over sensitive subjects, including nuclear war, race relations, immigrants and, this week, the war dead.

Bush this week delivered a speech that was remarkable for its takedowns of key features of the political movement that put Trump in power.

"Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children," he said in New York.

Never a fan of Trump's, Bush drew his biggest applause with this line: "The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them."

Three hundred miles to the south, Obama, a Democrat, used a similar approach to denounce Trump's brand of politics.

"Why are we deliberately trying to misunderstand each other and be cruel to each other and put each other down? That's not who we are," he said during a political appearance in Richmond, Virginia.

At the White House on Friday, presidential spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the administration believes the former presidents' remarks "were not directed towards the president."

Trump said Friday he does not believe that feuding with Republican senators could get in the way of his agenda for tax cuts and a new health care law.

"I think, actually sometimes it helps," Trump said in an interview on Fox Business Network. "Sometimes it gets people to do what they're supposed to be doing."

However coincidental, Bush and Obama's comments capped periods of reticence for both men during Trump's tumultuous first months in office. Neither mentioned Trump's name, but the pair left no doubt who they were talking about. Trump has pursued a ban on Muslim immigration, feuded with disabled Americans, hurricane victims and Gold Star parents and bestowed belittling nicknames on critics - including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Bush's brother, during the 2016 GOP primary.

To be sure, there remains a long slate of Cabinet members and lawmakers who try not to cross Trump in public - from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, to most of the Senate Republican caucus.

In the age of social media and under a president with a delicate Twitter trigger, the retaliation can be brutal.

"In 1982, I could have said anything and my constituents may or may not have known about it," said Dan Glickman, a former member of the House from Kansas. "But now, the comments and the reaction beams around the world instantaneously."

Most of Trump's loudest critics within his own party aren't running for public office again and don't need his support.

McCain and Trump have been on prickly territory since Trump said in 2015 that McCain is "not a war hero." It was only exacerbated when McCain's Senate votes helped kill Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obama's signature health care law.

McCain has denounced Trump and his supporters multiple times, including this week when he accused them of trading international leadership for "some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems."

Trump warned McCain in a radio interview: "I fight back." The Arizona senator, tortured for more than five years in Vietnam and now fighting brain cancer, replied: "I have faced tougher adversaries."

Corker has long questioned Trump's competence as president and said the people around the president are what's saving the country from Trump-fueled "chaos." Last week, after announcing his retirement from the Senate, Corker described the White House as an "adult day care center." Trump on Twitter nicknamed him "Liddle' Bob Corker."

Flake, the only one of the three seeking re-election, has a GOP primary opponent backed by some Trump supporters, including former adviser Steve Bannon.

The senator has been confronting Trump since 2016, when he stood up in a private caucus meeting and introduced himself to Trump as the senator from Arizona "who didn't get captured."

Then there's Tillerson, who was quoted as calling the president "a moron" in private after a July meeting. After the comment was reported, Tillerson tried to patch things up in an extraordinary press conference in which he described Trump as "smart." A meeting with Trump and interviews followed, with Tillerson insisting his fraught relationship with the president is actually strong.

But though a Tillerson aide denied Tillerson had called Trump a moron, the secretary of state himself never has.

 

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - Former White House adviser Steve Bannon depicted former President George W. Bush as bumbling and inept, faulting him for presiding over a "destructive" presidency during his time in the White House.

Bannon's scathing remarks on Friday night amounted to a retort to a Bush speech in New York earlier this week, in which the 43rd president denounced bigotry in Trump-era American politics and warned that the rise of "nativism," isolationism and conspiracy theories have clouded the nation's true identity.

But Bannon, speaking to a capacity crowd at a California Republican Party convention, said Bush had embarrassed himself and didn't know what he was talking about.

Bannon said Bush has no idea whether "he is coming or going, just like it was when he was president."

"There has not been a more destructive presidency than George Bush's," Bannon added, as boos could be heard in the crowd at the mention of Bush's name.

The remarks came during a speech thick with attacks on the Washington status quo, echoing his call for an "open revolt" against establishment Republicans. He called the "permanent political class" one of the great dangers faced by the country.

A small group of protesters gathered outside the hotel where Bannon spoke, chanting and waving signs - one displaying a Nazi swastika. The protesters were kept behind steel barricades on a plaza across an entrance road at the hotel, largely out of view of people entering for the event. No arrests were reported.

Bannon also took aim at the Silicon Valley and its "lords of technology," predicting that tech leaders and progressives in the state would try to secede from the union in 10 to 15 years. He called the threat to break up the nation a "living problem."

He also tried to cheer long-suffering California Republicans, in a state that Trump lost by over 4 million votes and where Republicans have become largely irrelevant in state politics. In Orange County, where the convention was held, several Republican House members are trying to hold onto their seats in districts carried by Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential contest.

"You've got everything you need to win," he told them.

He ended his speech with a standing ovation.

Bannon is promoting a field of primary challengers to take on incumbent Republicans in Congress. But in California, the GOP has been fading for years.

The state has become a kind of Republican mausoleum: GOP supporters can relive the glory days by visiting the stately presidential libraries of Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, but today Democrats control every statewide office and rule both chambers of the Legislature by commanding margins.

Not all Republicans were glad to see Bannon. In a series of tweets last week, former state Assembly Republican leader Chad Mayes said he was shocked by the decision to have the conservative firebrand headline the event.

"It's a huge step backward and demonstrates that the party remains tone deaf," Mayes tweeted.

California Republicans have bickered for years over what direction to turn - toward the political center or to the right.

Bannon also argued that the coalition that sent Trump to the White House, including conservatives, Libertarians, populists, economic nationalists, evangelicals, could hold power for decades if they stay unified.

"If you have the wisdom, the strength, the tenacity, to hold that coalition together, we will govern for 50 to 75 years," he said.

Most of the state's governors in the 20th century were Republicans, and state voters helped elevate a string of GOP presidential candidates to the White House. But the party's fortunes started to erode in the late 1990s after a series of measures targeting immigrants, which alienated growing segments of the state's population.

In 2007, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger warned party members that the GOP was "dying at the box office" and needed to move to the political center and embrace issues like climate change to appeal to a broader range of voters. In 2011, a state Republican Party committee blocked an attempt by moderates to push the state GOP platform toward the center on immigration, abortion, guns and gay rights.

The decline continued. Republicans are now a minor party in many California congressional districts, outnumbered by Democrats and independents. Statewide, Democrats count 3.7 million more voters than the GOP.

Political scientist Jack Pitney, who teaches at Claremont McKenna College, said he doubted the speech would color the 2018 congressional contests, which remain far off for most voters.

More broadly, he said Bannon's politics would hurt the GOP, including among affluent, well-educated voters who play an important part in county elections.

 

 

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