Will George W. Bush endorse Joe BidenJoe BidenDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points Biden: ‘We are a nation in pain, but we must not allow this pain to destroy us’ MORE?
Congressional Republicans can’t even stand up to rebuke President TrumpDonald John TrumpDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election The hollowing out of the CDC Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points MORE for falsely accusing a cable news host of murder — despite pleas to stop from the family of the woman, who died of natural causes back in 2001.
But imagine if former President Bush, as Trump’s most recent Republican predecessor, backed a Democrat. Bush’s voice has the singular power to reach moderate Republicans and Republican-leaning independent voters, freeing them to walk away from the Party of Trump.
The split between Bush and Trump got attention earlier this month when Trump lashed out at the 43rd president for issuing a simple call for national unity in fighting the coronavirus.
Trump attacked Bush on Twitter saying: “He was nowhere to be found in speaking up against the greatest Hoax [impeachment] in American history.”
But Bush’s statement never mentioned Trump.
The former president reportedly did not vote for Trump in 2016 but he did not vote for the Democrat, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump campaign launches Asian Pacific Americans coalition Van Jones: A ‘white, liberal Hillary Clinton supporter’ can pose a greater threat to black Americans than the KKK Taylor Swift slams Trump tweet: ‘You have the nerve to feign moral superiority before threatening violence?’ MORE, either.
In a 2017 speech, Bush seemed to be rebuking the current president for allowing national politics to become “degraded by casual cruelty… argument turns too easily into animosity.” He avoided directly calling out Trump by name.
Bush has also spoken up for longstanding Republican beliefs now under fire from the current administration.
He said in that same 2017 speech that free trade around the world is key to finding new markets for U.S. goods, as well as maintaining “an international order rooted in freedom and free markets.”
And again without calling Trump’s name, Bush made the point that Republicans have a history of welcoming immigrants, people with “talent, energy and enterprise from all over the world,” and noted that “people of every race, religion and ethnicity can be fully and equally American.”
Also in 2017, when Trump failed to unequivocally rebuke white nationalists after a violent rally in Charlottesville, Va., Bush and his father, former President George H.W. Bush, put out a statement, again without mentioning Trump, that said: “America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred in all forms.”
Trump, for his part, has been quick to call out Bush by name. He falsely claimed to have been “among the earliest” to oppose Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq.
He also critiqued Bush for the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.
“I’ve heard for years he kept the country safe after 9/11 – what does that mean?…What about during 9/11?…The worst attack ever in this country. It was during his presidency. I mean, we had the worst attack ever,” Trump said in 2016.
Trump has also gone after Bush’s fellow members of the club of living former presidents.
He has derided President Carter as a “terrible president.”
Trump also continues to push the debunked “Obamagate” conspiracy theory that President Obama, who is friendly with Bush, is guilty of the “biggest political crime in American history.” He did not say what crime he was talking about, and only offered a conspiratorial comment that “the crime is very obvious to everybody.”
Now Trump is reportedly not inviting Obama to the White House for his official portrait unveiling — a courtesy that every president, regardless of party, has afforded to their predecessor in the modern era.
Recently, Obama has become more direct in criticism of the Trump administration but, like Bush, always without calling out Trump by name.
The Los Angeles Times reported last week that on a conference call with his former White House staffers, Obama called the current White House’s response to the coronavirus “an absolute chaotic disaster.”
In April, Obama tweeted he has not seen a “coherent national plan,” to respond to the pandemic. And in a May graduation address, Obama told students: “All those adults that you used to think were in charge and knew what they were doing? It turns out they don’t have all the answers. A lot of them aren’t even asking the right questions.”
Kate Andersen-Brower, author of a new book, “Team of Five: The Presidents Club in the Age of Trump,” recently wrote in The New York Times that “now that Mr. Trump has ripped up the playbook of civility, members of the so-called Presidents Club have free rein” to be critical of him.
For all of their faults and foibles, Presidents Carter, Clinton, Obama, and Bush — men I have personally interviewed — played presidential politics with a profound sense of public service. That included the old-school notion of holding their tongues during the 2016 presidential campaign.
But if their rhetoric over the last month is any indication, I think they are determined not to make the same mistake twice.
There is no question about whom Carter, Clinton and Obama plan to support.
That leaves Bush holding the biggest stick here. Groups of leading conservative thinkers in “The Lincoln Project” and a new group including several former top GOP officials called “Republican Voters Against Trump” have set the table for Bush to speak up.
If he announces he is voting for Biden, it will change some votes.
Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.