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Why aren’t the ex-Presidents taking Trump on?



George W. Bush’s speech yesterday was pure mush. If he really believes that bigotry and white supremacy are “blasphemy,” he should have placed the blame where everyone knows it belongs: On Trump. Instead, he offered only bland, mealy-mouthed platitudes, with the result that the speech had the impact of a wet noodle. It was a Rashomon-like Rorschach test: both sides interpreted it as favoring them. Democrats saw it as anti-Trump. Republicans saw it as innocuous Sunday-school pablum. Probably Bush didn’t want to rile his Republican friends. But what did he hope to accomplish by this waste of time? All he’s done is to further muddy the waters. He stimulated a 24-hour news cycle that leads precisely nowhere, just more blah-blah-blah added to the already overloaded pot.

What this nation needs now is not ambiguity. Vagueness is not useful for a former President who goes to the extraordinary length of giving a speech that is bound to get national coverage, and be endlessly analyzed. One senses that George W. Bush—raised by decent parents, steeped in a centrist, Christian moral tradition of brotherly love—is appalled by this current regime. One suspects that, around the Bush dinner table, they shake their heads every time Trump utters a blasphemous insult or lie—which is pretty much every day. Probably the elder Bush, George H.W., is outraged; he has seen his Republican Party turn into a cesspool of Nazis and mentally unstable bigots. Barbara Bush has got to be disgusted. Why, then, cannot the son, George W., utter clear, unambiguous words of condemnation of this president, of Breitbart, of the entire cabal? Why can’t he name names? I just don’t understand.

For that matter, where are Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter? All have been reticent, tiptoeing around the 800-pound elephant in the room: Trump. But why? Maybe Carter feels that, at his age, he just wants to work on the occasional habitat for humanity hut and watch T.V. in Plains. Maybe Bill Clinton is afraid of being slimed again: were he to come out swinging, Republicans would resurrect all the old crap: Monica Lewinsky, moral turpitude, Whitewater. And Barack Obama? What is he afraid of? He has nothing to lose. He will never face the electorate again. Were he to come out swinging against Trump, the Republican slime machine, fueled by Koch and Mercer blood-money, would crank up, smearing him and Michelle with more vulgar, baseless insults. But the Obamas have been through that for years. They have thick skins. They can take the heat.

So it really makes one wonder. George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama know exactly what’s going on. They understand, with a precision the rest of us cannot have, the dangers of this current regime. They know how Trump is destroying America, tarnishing the Oval Office, staining their legacies. And yet, they sit idly by, mouths closed, occasionally giving a speech with discrete hints of criticism, but never actually coming out and speaking their hearts and minds. Yes, Obama was out there on the stump yesterday, down in Virginia, but did he mention Trump? Did we hear “the fierce urgency of now”? Did he thunder like an Old Testament prophet and warn America about this current president? Did he say what he really thinks? No. Just more no-drama Obama piety.

Look: if there’s one thing that could jump-start the 25th Amendment removal process, it would be a joint, bipartisan statement by the four ex-Presidents–five, if George H.W. is healthy enough–even better, a joint appearance on live T.V. that explicitly calls Trump out. It would list the “abuses and usurpations” against him, in the same way that the Declaration of Independence outlined the particulars against George III.

If the ex-Presidents were to pool their moral force, it would have a huge impact on the national discussion, perhaps even chipping away at the percentage of independents who stubbornly stand with Trump. It would put the Trump regime on the defensive. Trump himself would be outraged, would fight back with everything he has; but that would only add to the perception of him as an unhinged bully. Just imagine: George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama, united in patriotic denunciation of Donald Trump.

History would bless them. They should do it, but they won’t. They don’t possess the moral fortitude.

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