The 43rd President of the United States George W. Bush appeared on Today this morning for a live, in-studio interview with Matt Lauer to promote his new book Portraits of Courage. The new book pays tribute to military veterans and wounded warriors. Bush has devoted much of his time raising awareness about veterans issues in the years since his presidency, including assisting those who are suffering traumatic injuries and PTSD in their transition back to civilian life. A skilled painter, Bush created portraits of various warriors for the book, and they joined him in-studio this morning.
But before conversation turned to the book and to veterans issues, Lauer brought up our current predicament. Here is some back and forth from their chat:
Lauer: You took office in 2001, after a contentious, controversial election. The Supreme Court decided it. The nation was incredibly divided. How would you compare the divisions we faced then, to what we’re living through right now?
Bush: It’s hard to compare times. One thing is for certain, the job is a tough job. Everybody looks at the presidency when they campaign one way. Then, they get in office and find out there’s a reality to the job. There have been times when we’ve been divided. I remember growing up as a kid, when I got out of college, we were really divided. It requires a lot of people coming together to try make us united.
Lauer: But there’s enormous division right now. Although President Trump says he hopes to unify the country, have you in the first month, seen him do or say anything that in your opinion would be an attempt to heal the wounds of the election?
Bush: First of all, there’s only within been one month in office. Secondly, I think you have to take the man for his word that he wants to unify the country. We‘ll see if he’s able to do so. It’s hard to unify the country with the news media being so split up. When I was president you mattered a lot more because there were three of you. Now, there’s all kinds of information being bombarded out, and people can say things anonymously. It’s just a different world.
Lauer: You bring me to an interesting point because you were a guy that faced praise and criticism from the media during your time in office. Even at the times when you were dealing with the worst criticism, where it must have been very difficult to hear and read some of the things that were being said by the pressure in this country. Did you ever consider the media to be the enemy of the American people?
Bush: I considered the media to be indispensable to democracy. I think that we need an independent media to hold people like me to account. I mean, power can be very addictive, and it can be corrosive. It’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power, whether it be here or elsewhere.
Lauer: Banning people from seven Muslim countries from this country, do we make it easier or harder to fight the war on terrorism?
Bush: I think it’s hard to fight the war on terrorism if we’re in retreat, and I think we learned that lesson. If the United States decides to pull out before a free soc emerges, it’s going to be hard to defeat them. The enemy is very good about exploiting weakness. It’s going to be important. if that’s the goal, to defeat ISIS, which i believe it should be, that we project strength. Now, whether or not the domestic politics plays helps them or not.
Lauer: You for or against the ban?
Bush: I’m for an immigration policy that’s welcoming and upholds the law.