Bush calls on US to 'recall and recover' its identity

Former President George W. Bush in a Thursday speech called on Americans to “recall and recover” their country’s identity, slamming the 21st century rise of isolationism, nativism and anti-globalization sentiments.

Bush spoke at forum in New York City for the George W. Bush Institute and, while he did not mention President Trump by name, the 43rd president delivered an indictment of domestic policies that reject immigrants and free trade and foreign policies that do not confront security threats head-on.

“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,” Bush said.


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

These realities, Bush said, require Americans “to recall and recover our own identity.”

The Thursday forum also featured former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who served under former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonNever underestimate Joe Biden Joe Biden demonstrates public health approach will solve America's ills McAuliffe rising again in Virginia MORE, and United Nations Ambassador Nikki HaleyNikki HaleyPollster Frank Luntz: 'I would bet on' Trump being 2024 GOP nominee DNC gathers opposition research on over 20 potential GOP presidential candidates Will DeSantis, Rubio and Scott torch each other to vault from Florida to the White House? MORE.

Bush’s comments represent an unusual foray into the current political climate for the former president, who left office nearly a decade ago.

He argued that the “deficit of confidence” permeating throughout the country is one of its “worst national problems,” but he emphasized the “resilience” of America.

A spokesperson for Bush said the address was a “long-planned speech” that focused on the policies he has supported for decades. 

“The themes President Bush spoke about today are really the same themes he has spoken about for the last two decades,” Freddy Ford said.

Bush received a round of applause after a line about white supremacy, which has become a prominent part of the national conversation in the last year, particularly since the deadly violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in August.

While Bush also referenced the anger and frustration among Americans suffering due to globalization, he called on the country to adapt to the rapid changes, countering rhetoric against trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump and others view as a barrier to jobs for American workers.

“We must hear and help them but we cannot wish globalization away any more than we could wish away the agricultural revolution or the industrial revolution,” Bush said.