Former president George W. Bush on Thursday called on Americans to reject bigotry and white supremacy.
In a speech for the Bush Institute’s Spirit of Liberty event in New York, Bush made bold statements that seemed to be a veiled criticism of the ultra-conservative wing of the Republican Party that has rallied around President Trump.
"We've seen nationalism distorted into nativism," Bush said without directly mentioning Trump. "Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication."
Bush's speech was a bullet-point list of what he sees as threats to a democracy. He called for Americans to reject divisiveness and renew their spirit and institutions.
- Click the player above to watch Pres. Bush's remarks
"When we lose sight of our ideals, it is not democracy that has failed. It is the failure of those charged with protecting and defending democracy," he said.
Later, Bush added, "We need to recall and recover our own identity. Americans have great advantage. To renew our country, we only need to remember our values."
"Our governing class has often been paralyzed in the face of obvious and pressing needs," Bush said. "The American dream of upward mobility seems out of reach for some who feel left behind in a changing economy."
Bush said American children need their leaders to be role models of civility. "Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children," he said.
And he took a clear stand against racism, something Trump's critics have said he has been unwilling to do.
"Bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed," Bush said.
He added that people today are too often "judging groups by their worst examples" and ourselves by our "best intentions."
Earlier this year, Trump faced criticism after the comments he made following the violence in Charlottesville, Va., saying there was fault on "both sides" — the white nationalists and the counter-protesters who opposed them — for the violence that led to the death of one counter-protester.
Three days ago, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona gave a speech similar in tone to Bush's remarks, calling for a return to American ideals and rejecting bigotry.
"We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil," McCain said — a reference to the Nazi slogan that the nation was built on the purity of its blood and soil. "We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don't. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn't deserve to."