I give W. lot of points for sincerity for his attack on Trump and Trumpism. Where I think he was on strongest ground is his critique of how President Trump conducts himself and how it contributes to the degrading of our political culture. This, so far, is the worst aspect of Trump’s presidency. There has been no budding authoritarianism and — although one may be emerging on trade — no meaningful ideological challenge to traditional conservatism. In fact, Trump has put points on the board on deregulation, religious liberty, immigration enforcement, and judges. But he has acted like Donald Trump, even though he’s occupying the highest office in the land.
W. must be appalled by this, given how he went out of his way to avoid adding unnecessarily to the nation’s political rancor and how deeply — and even, I’d say, sacrificially — he thought about the right way to conduct himself as president.
That said, I’m with Reihan in thinking the speech would have been better or more complete if Bush had given any indication that he was aware that the failures of his own administration led to Donald Trump (and before that, Barack Obama). That the party is in a different place on foreign policy and immigration is not an accident.
Also, I have to say I’m annoyed by the references by Bush and John McCain to “blood and soil nationalism.” I suspect they both are using it a causal pejorative without having any idea what they are talking about, or how to distinguish it from legitimate nationalism, which both of them have appealed to throughout their careers. This is a topic for longer discussion, but both the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had nationalist support, and when they lost it, became unpopular and not sustainable (at least not in any thing other than a minimal form).
Finally, don’t miss Jonah’s fascinating take on the Bush and General Kelly speeches.