George W. Bush Comes To The Media's Defense, Calls For Patience When Evaluating A Presidency

In his first appearance under the new administration, President Bush spoke with hopeful and measured tones.

Former President George W. Bush appeared on the Today Show this week and offered a defense of the media while cautioning Americans to be patient in judging President Donald Trump's success in office.

In his first in-depth interview of the Trump administration, Bush sat down with Matt Lauer and covered a wide range of topics: immigration, the media, vets, his own presidency and Russian hacking in the election. But it was Bush's comments on the media that made headlines.

"Power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive, and it's important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power," Bush said, before sharing a story about trying to convince Vladimir Putin it's important to have a free press. "It's kind of hard to tell others to have an independent free press when we're not willing to have one ourselves."

Bush said a free press is "indispensable to democracy" and added that "we need an independent media to hold people like me to account." The questions come in the wake of a controversy surrounding President Trump's repeated claims that the "fake news media" — including CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, and The New York Times — is the "enemy of the American people."

Bush's defense of the media comes with a lot important of context. It was under Bush's administration that — post-9/11 — various news outlets reported on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that didn't exist. Some believe Bush created an environment where any journalist questioning reports of WMD's was deemed unpatriotic. Consequently, the media's support of the hypothesis that there were WMDs drummed up American support for the Iraq War, which resulted in a catastrophic loss of life and money while helping cause the destabilization of the Middle East that gave way to ISIS. 

Lauer and Bush also discussed the divisions America sees now, with Lauer comparing 2001 divisions to what we see in America today. 

"It's hard to compare times," Bush said. "One thing is for certain: the job is a tough job... It requires a lot of people coming together to try and make us united."

Bush also said it's tough to say whether Trump will succeed in uniting the country, noting that he's only had "one month in office, he's got four years."

"I think you've got to take the man for his word that he wants to unify the country," Bush said.

While there are certainly many who would criticize Bush for the human rights abuses allegedly perpetuated by the War on Terror, his words were a welcomed measured and optimistic tone after President Trump criticized him harshly for the September 11 attacks on the campaign trail.

Bush was visiting with Lauer to promote his new book, "Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief's Tribute to America's Warriors," a series of paintings dedicated to wounded warriors. The proceeds will go to the George W. Bush Presidential Center. 

 Check out the interview below:

Cover image via Shutterstock / Rob Crandall.

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