George W. Bush praises the media as ‘indispensable to democracy’

Former President George W. Bush praised the news media Monday as “indispensable to democracy” in a wide-ranging interview in which he appeared to take a handful of veiled shots at President Trump.

“Power can be very addictive and corrosive,” Bush said on NBC’s “Today” when asked about his views on the role of the media, following Trump’s incessant criticism of the industry.

“I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy,” Bush said. “We need an independent media to hold people like me to account.”

“It’s hard to tell others to have an independent press when we’re not willing to have one ourselves,” he added, during a conversation about Russia.

Trump has criticized the media as “the enemy of the people” and “fake news” and announced last week that he would not be attending the annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. On Friday, his press secretary, Sean Spicer, barred several outlets from a briefing.

Bush was later asked more directly about Trump’s executive order earlier this month that barred the entry of travelers from seven Muslim-majority nations and suspended the nation’s refugee program — a measure which was later put on hold indefinitely by a federal appeals court ruling — and he responded more directly, too.

“I am for an immigration policy that’s welcoming and upholds the law,” he said.

“It’s very important for all of us to recognize one of our great strengths is for people to be able to worship however they want, or to or to worship at all,” Bush said, adding that “a bedrock to our freedom is the right to worship freely.”

“People who murder the innocent are not religious people,” he added.

The comments mark a first by Bush — whose brother Jeb was relentlessly mocked by Trump during the campaign — regarding the five-week old administration.

Bush, in fact, didn’t attend the Republican National Convention and did not vote for Trump — he didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton either — choosing instead to vote only for down-ballot races in November, in an apparent rejection of the Republican candidate.

At various points during his interview Monday, however, Bush appeared to pass on criticizing Trump overtly.

“He’s only had one month in office … he has four years,” Bush said when asked if he felt Trump could unify the country, as he’s promised.

“I think you have to take the man at his word,” Bush said.

But Bush did say that “we all need answers” about Russian meddling in the election — and about whether Trump officials were involved — but cast doubt on whether a special prosecutor “was the way to go or not.”

When asked, however, if he at all missed his life in the White House, Bush bluntly expressed relief that he was no longer the commander-in-chief.

“People ask me ‘Do you miss being president?’ The answer’s not really,” he said. “But I miss saluting people who volunteer to wear the uniform.”

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Eric Write head editor and chief at The Pluto Daily