George W. Bush: Modern GOP Is ‘Isolationist, Protectionist, Nativist’

George W. Bush: Modern GOP Is 'Isolationist, Protectionist, Nativist' george w bush speaks into mic Former President George W. Bush speaks during the funeral service of late Civil Rights leader John Lewis at the State Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia on July 30, 2020. (ALYSSA POINTER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

By Sandy Fitzgerald | Tuesday, 20 April 2021 11:31 AM

The modern Republican party is "isolationist, protectionist, and to a certain extent, nativist," former President George W. Bush said Tuesday, adding that the more conservative leanings are "not my vision" for the party.

However, Bush told NBC's "Today," during a wide-ranging interview touching on immigration, the Derek Chauvin trial, and more, that he does have hope that a more moderate Republican that supports a path to citizenship for undocumented workers, reasonable gun reform measures, extra money for schools, topics that are often seen as too-progressive in today's politics, could win in his party's 2024 presidential primary.

"I think if the emphasis is integrity and decency and trying to work to get problems solved, I think the person has a shot," he said.

"I'm just an old guy they put out to pasture," said the former president, who is making the rounds to promote his new book, "Out of Many, One: Portraits of America's Immigrants." The book features 43 full-color portraits of immigrants from 35 countries and stories about how they are pursuing the American Dream.

Bush was on hand Tuesday during the program to welcome 30 new U.S. citizens who participated in a naturalization ceremony on Rockefeller Plaza, and during the interview, he slammed divisive rhetoric on immigration that has grown in recent years.

"It's a beautiful country we have, and yet, it’s not beautiful when we condemn [and] call people names and scare people about immigration," said Bush. "It’s an easy issue to frighten some of the electorate. And I’m trying to have a different kind of voice."

He added that it's hard for many Americans to understand the kind of desperation people are having to leave their countries and come to a new land.

"They can't understand why a mother becomes so desperate that she's willing to put her children in the hands of a coyote or a smuggler," said Bush. "There has been a lot of devastation in Central America and political upheavals and earthquakes and gangs. People are intimidated and they are streaming to our border. The system needs to be reformed and fixed."

He said that he thinks a more robust asylum will help, including "more judges so people can have more hearings."

Bush added that there are a "lot of jobs" remaining empty, and there are people coming across the border who are willing to work hard.

The former president also discussed current events, including the trial and ongoing jury deliberations in the Derek Chauvin case in Minneapolis.

"We'll see what the jury says," Bush said, when asked about the impact the death of George Floyd has had on the country. "I think a lot of people already made up their mind what the verdict ought to be. All I can tell you is that if the trial is not conducted fairly, there is an appeal process. One of the things we learned after the storming of the Capitol is that our institution held. (What is) really important is a fair judicial system. That's playing out on our TVs now."

He also discussed the Jan. 6 violence in the nation's Capitol, commenting that it "kind of made me sick. It did make me sick. You could just not believe it."

But Bush added that he was optimistic the government could survive that day because he believes "strongly in the institution of our country."

"The courts met and are still meeting today to hold people accountable for storming the Capitol," he said. "What's troubling is how much misinformation there is and the capacity of the people to spread all kinds of untruths. I don't know what we are going to do about that? I know what I am doing about it. I don't do Twitter or Facebook or any of that stuff."

Meanwhile, Bush joked that while he's been tempted to seek public office, he's "out" and if by some chance he did run, "Michelle Obama may not be my friend."

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