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American Discourse "Degraded by Casual Cruelty," says President George W. Bush

by Countable | 10.19.17

Former President George W. Bush gave a speech before his Presidential Institute today. Though he didn't mention President Donald Trump by name, some media outlets are calling his words a "scathing rebuke" of the current administration, both its tone and its social and economic policies. Here are key excerpts from Bush's speech.

We are gathered in the cause of liberty. This is a unique moment. The great democracies face new and serious threats — yet seem to be losing confidence in their own calling and competence. Economic, political and national security challenges proliferate, and they are made worse by the tendency to turn inward. The health of the democratic spirit itself is at issue. And the renewal of that spirit is the urgent task at hand.

Since World War II, America has encouraged and benefited from the global advance of free markets, from the strength of democratic alliances, and from the advance of free societies. At one level, this has been a raw calculation of interest. The 20th century featured some of the worst horrors of history because dictators committed them. Free nations are less likely to threaten and fight each other.

And free trade helped make America into a global economic power.

For more than 70 years, the presidents of both parties believed that American security and prosperity were directly tied to the success of freedom in the world. And they knew that the success depended, in large part, on U.S. leadership. This mission came naturally, because it expressed the DNA of American idealism.

...

America is not immune from these trends. In recent decades, public confidence in our institutions has declined. Our governing class has often been paralyzed in the face of obvious and pressing needs. The American dream of upward mobility seems out of reach for some who feel left behind in a changing economy. Discontent deepened and sharpened partisan conflicts. Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seem more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.

There are some signs that the intensity of support for democracy itself has waned, especially among the young, who never experienced the galvanizing moral clarity of the Cold War, or never focused on the ruin of entire nations by socialist central planning. Some have called this “democratic deconsolidation.” Really, it seems to be a combination of weariness, frayed tempers and forgetfulness.

We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. At times, it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanization. Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions — forgetting the image of God we should see in each other.

We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism — forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America. We see a fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade — forgetting that conflict, instability and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism.

We have seen the return of isolationist sentiments — forgetting that American security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair of distant places, where threats such as terrorism, infectious disease, criminal gangs and drug trafficking tend to emerge.

In all these ways, we need to recall and recover our own identity. Americans have a great advantage: To renew our country, we only need to remember our values.

...

America is experiencing the sustained attempt by a hostile power to feed and exploit our country’s divisions. According to our intelligence services, the Russian government has made a project of turning Americans against each other. This effort is broad, systematic and stealthy, it’s conducted across a range of social media platforms. Ultimately, this assault won’t succeed. But foreign aggressions — including cyberattacks, disinformation and financial influence — should not be downplayed or tolerated. This is a clear case where the strength of our democracy begins at home. We must secure our electoral infrastructure and protect our electoral system from subversion.

(Photo Credit: U.S. National Archives via Flickr / Public Domain

Countable

Written by Countable

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(73)
  • Bluewitsend
    10/19/2017
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    I support this speech and am relieved to hear a republican President George Bush who will stand up for Our country and say what needs to be said. We are better than the destructive thinking that seems to prevail today. We must lift all people up together to heal the soul of America.

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  • Erick
    10/19/2017
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    I think we should all find a way to raise the level of discourse, including the way that we voice our displeasure or disagreements with what’s happening in politics.

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  • Denise
    10/20/2017
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    Who knew that in this lifetime I would not only agree but be so grateful for the words of President Bush. A true education in what should be qualifications in becoming commander & chief of the greatest country on earth

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  • Liz
    10/20/2017
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    A nation divided will fall. In the name of democracy and the preservation of our sovereignty, Americans must unite. Thank you President Bush.

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  • Cara lea
    10/19/2017
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    Please take up President Bush’s rally to right the discourse in our country. Thank you

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  • BeStrong
    10/20/2017
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    Those who resonate with President Bush’s message are grateful for the reminder of who we are when we are united. Those who disagree may seem venomously agitated. I’ll take the high ground, I’ll chose to be grateful for civility, unity and a moment of leadership.

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  • Nancy leigh
    10/19/2017
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    Thank you, President Bush!

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  • CamronA
    10/20/2017
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    I totally agree with him, we need to kinder to our fellow Americans in our political discourse and encourage more debate and listen to each other ideas so that we can unify the country.

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  • Christine
    10/20/2017
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    WOW! The TRUTH from one of the worst ranked presidents in U.S. Who woulda thunk?

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  • Blackhawk.U.S.Army.Vet
    10/19/2017
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    President Bush was about as worthless as his father. Globalist is what they are. His father always mentioned “The new world order”. We have lost a lot of lives because of Bush. He invaded Iraq and now the Middle East is a mess. The worst depression under his watch along with do nothing Obama and the do nothing elitist republicans. Yes not to mention the democrats....corrupted and obstructionist. Bush, Clinton’s and Obama you have no room to talk. It will take decades to clean your mess.

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  • JasonJ
    10/20/2017
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    Great speech.

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  • Wyoming4178
    10/20/2017
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    If you choose to be a Partisan in You politics. This speech By President George W. Bush needed to be made. I’am a liberal democrat. President Trump has taken this great country down the toilet. Personally I have a brother in law that travels all over the world on behalf of a military academy. And what he’s been hearing from individuals in the country’s he visits. Is how did that happen in the happen in the United States. Your President is embarrassing your country. Some of the decisions your President has made is he’s insane he’s dangerous. All you can say is I agree.

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  • June
    10/20/2017
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    Eloquent words. Exactly how a president should behave. Can we stop being such weasels and get behind his message?

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  • Carol
    10/20/2017
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    Who would of thought I’d ever be on board with GWB. He deserves a pat on the back.

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  • Richard
    10/20/2017
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    Bush has missed the mark again. Unfortunately he still doesn’t understand the working class that have to carry the financial burden of his and other past administrations blunders on their back. This reminds me of my High School days where if you were an individual minded person you probably weren’t in a click like the Jocks or Goths etc... Today’s reality TV robs our youth of formulating their own unbiased opinion of the world and how they fit in. The Washington crowd is the elitist click that wants to stay being the most popular group and will pounce on and try and destroy the people looking to change the norm and shatter their fragile world. Change is how everything in the world usually improves. Why didn’t Bush talk about why he wimped out on resolving the NK issues during his administration? Such hypocrites.

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  • Ticktock
    10/20/2017
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    For those of us who have studied WWI and WWII were totally amazed that the German or Italian people and so many others including some in the US bought into the Hitler’s and Mussolini’s philosophy. Fascist polices were rejected by the world with the blood and life’s of our fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers. Here we are again flirting with those philosophies again and they are just as bad now as they were in 1933. I hope that we do not need to pay the same price in order to relearn the lessons of the past. Might does not make right, victimization of segments of our society for the enrichment of the elite is not progress and the politics of exclusion cannot last. We are on the road to fascism I hope we turn way before we travel too far.

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  • Malta
    10/20/2017
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    I see/read much disregard for the peoples choice in electing President Trump. You seem to be embittered because your lame milk-toast brother failed in his candidacy. You never spoke against the "Liar & Fraud in Chief BO" and yet you criticize the people's choice. Sounds like you have /experiencing/expressing some sour grapes. We that voted for President Trump are proud we have a man in office that puts America first. It's time for you to do that too and support our legally/willfully elected President.

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  • Susan
    10/20/2017
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    I was not a fan of his. I am now. He said it so well. I want to thank him for speaking out and would encourage him to do more.

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  • Bob
    10/20/2017
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    Where was President Bush when the last administration did everything it could to weaken this nation. He just didn’t seem to interested. Maybe he’s just upset that his brother faired so poorly against President Trump

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  • Marylynn
    10/20/2017
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    I have a new respect for President Bush for coming out and slamming the Liar in Chief for causing the divisiveness in this country. It's too bad that our lawmakers haven't done the same, with the exception of Sen. McCain. It's time to get rid of all the old, useless men in office, in particular Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, to name a few.

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