Obama, Bush break with custom to warn against Donald Trump’s politics
They both sounded off on the politics of fear and division, clearly taking aim at U.S. President Donald Trump’s tactics — without mentioning him by name.
In speeches in Richmond, Va., and Newark, N.J., Obama sought to remind Americans about their roots.
“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,” Obama said.
His predecessor made similar comments in New York at a conference hosted by the George W. Bush Institute.
Bush denounced bigotry in Trump-era American politics, warning that the rise of “nativism,” isolationism and conspiracy theories have clouded the nation’s true identity.
Here’s a look at what Obama said
In one of his first political speeches since leaving the White House, Obama told the crowd in New Jersey that division politics have already been “put to bed.”
In particular, he slammed racial divisions.
“What we can’t have is the same old politics of division that we have seen so many times before, that dates back centuries.”
WATCH: Obama hits the campaign trail for 1st time since leaving White House
Later on in Virginia, Obama took a slightly less veiled aim at Trump.
“We’ve got folks who are deliberately trying to make folks angry, to demonize people who have different ideas, to get the base all riled up because it provides a short-term tactical advantage. Sometimes that feels frustrating,” Obama said.
This isn’t he first time Obama has voiced disagreement with Trump. He has spoken out on the president’s efforts to end Obamacare, and his decision to leave the Paris Accord.
Here’s a look at what Bush said
Bush, who has previously spoken out against the risks of isolationism in in the United States, once again warned that the country’s politics are “vulnerable.”
“We need to recall and recover our own identity. To renew our country, we only need to remember our values.”
He reminded the crowd of the many benefits of immigration, saying it has always brought “dynamism” into the country.
“Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication,” he said.
WATCH: George W. Bush slams Trump’s policies without mentioning the president by name
The former president noted that Americans are the heirs of Thomas Jefferson, the third U.S. president, as well as civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.
“This means that people of every race, religion, and ethnicity can be fully and equally American,” he said.
“It means that bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed.”
Speaking out on current president a rare move
Speaking out against a current president — with or without mentioning his name — is not something ex-presidents do often.
That’s why the nearly simultaneous speeches by Obama and Bush have generated so much talk.
But Gordon Giffin, a former ambassador of the United States to Canada, said it was Bush’s remarks that were more noteworthy.
WATCH: White House says Bush’s condemnation of bigotry not directed at Trump
“It’s unusual for a president of the same party as the incumbent to at least imply some criticism of the current White House,” Griffin explained.
“Look at this way: President Trump’s been pretty critical of George W. Bush, so at some point I would guess that there was a slow burn going on in Texas and this was a little bit of a response.”
Giffin added that Obama was at a political rally for a Democrat candidate.
“I’ve seen plenty of partisan appearances by former presidents when they’re trying to support a candidate of their party,” he said.
WATCH: No longer disagreeing on opinions, people are disagreeing on facts, Obama says
Republican strategist Ana Navarro told CNN that the former presidents are sending a clear message to Trump: “Enough is enough.”
“There is a lot of people that are frustrated, that are heartbroken, that are sad. It is time up to speak up and act up and have a position,” she said.
— With files from the Associated Press, Reuters
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