George W Bush on Trump’s Republicans: ‘Isolationist, protectionist, nativist’

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Martin Pengelly in New York
·2 min read
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<span>Photograph: Monirul Bhuiyan/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Monirul Bhuiyan/AFP/Getty Images

George W Bush has called the Republican party under Donald Trump “isolationist, protectionist and … nativist” – a judgment unlikely to make the former US president new friends on the American right.

Related: George W Bush is back – but not all appreciate his new progressive image

Bush, who is promoting a new book, spoke to NBC on Tuesday.

Asked to describe the state of his party under Trump – who lost the Oval Office after one term but retains a firm grip on his party’s base – Bush said: “I would describe it as isolationist, protectionist and, to a certain extent, nativist.

“It’s not exactly my vision as an old guy, but I’m just an old guy that’s put out to pasture.”

Bush’s book is called Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants. He told NBC the country that includes the Latin for his kicker, E Pluribus Unum, on its great seal was “a beautiful country … and yet it’s not beautiful when we condemn, call people names and scare people about immigration”.

Trump continues to do that, calling on his successor, Joe Biden, to restore his draconian policies while followers on the extreme right of the party discuss forming an “America First Caucus” based on “Anglo-Saxon political traditions”.

Bush, the son of another president, is from a political dynasty about as Wasp (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) as it is possible to get. But Trump took down the former Florida governor Jeb Bush, the former president’s younger brother, in vicious fashion in 2016.

George W Bush maintains friendly relations with former presidents including the Democrats Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and to some has come to present a more reasonable face of Republican politics.

Others warn that progressives should not think too fondly of a man whose time in office included the invasion of Iraq and the bungled federal response to Hurricane Katrina.

“I’m hoping there’ll be some pushback against this because I think it’s an absolute scandal that man should be rehabilitated and tarted up as in any way progressive,” Jackson Lears, a cultural historian, told the Guardian this week.