Former President George W. Bush called for an end to partisanship in the nation’s continued battle against the coronavirus pandemic, a message that was swiftly rejected by President Donald Trump, who attacked the 43rd president for not coming to his defense during the impeachment trial.
The episode starkly underlines how Trump views his role as the head of state differently from his predecessors. Whereas previous presidents, including Bush, sought to heal divisions in the country following crises, Trump has instead repeatedly blamed Democrats and the news media as his administration’s handling of the crisis has been scrutinized, and he has frequently cast the nation’s recovery from the pandemic in the context of his reelection.
“We are not partisan combatants,” Bush said in a video message posted by the George W. Bush Presidential Center on Twitter Saturday. “We’re human beings, equally vulnerable and equally wonderful in the sight of God. We rise or fall together. And we’re determined to rise.”
“Medical professionals are risking their own health for the health of others, and we’re deeply grateful. Officials at every level are setting out the requirements of public health that protect us all. And we all need to do our part,” Bush added.
“We cannot allow physical separation to become emotional isolation,” he continued, adding: “This requires us to be not only compassionate but creative in our outreach and people across the nation are using the tools of technology and the cause of solidarity.”
Bush, who has remained largely silent during the pandemic, said that following 9/11, he “saw a great nation rises as one to honor the brave to grieve with the grieving and to embrace unavoidable new duties.”
“And I have no doubt, none at all, that this spirit of service and sacrifice is alive and well in America,” he said.
Despite restrictions like social distancing measures, Bush said Americans “can find ways to be present in the lives of others to ease their anxiety, and share their burdens.” And the former president asked that the country “remember how small our differences are in the face of this shared threat.”
Bush’s message was originally shared during “The Call to Unite” 24-hour event.
Trump, however, said Bush missed an opportunity to call for an end to partisanship during the Democratic-led impeachment trial earlier this year, tweeting Sunday that Bush “was nowhere to be found” during Trump’s impeachment trial.
Trump has occasionally publicly criticized Bush, attacking him on the campaign trail in 2016 over his response to the 9/11 terror attacks and accusing the former president of lying about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Trump’s pointed response to Bush over the weekend also highlights how he stands apart from the fraternity of former presidents, who have occasionally called on each other in moments of crisis. One of the first phone calls Barack Obama made after the death of Osama bin Laden was to Bush, and the 43rd president called on his two immediate predecessors, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, to help lead aid efforts following the 2004 tsunami in southeast Asia.
But Trump, who has referred to his unorthodox personal conduct in office as “modern day presidential,” has not shown much interest in seeking his predecessors’ advice, though he did speak with his 2020 political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, by phone last month in regard to the pandemic.
“Look, I respect everybody, but I feel I have an incredible team and I think we’re doing an incredible job,” Trump told reporters during a White House briefing in March when asked if he has considered calling Bush and other former presidents. “So I don’t want to disturb them, bother them. I don’t think I’m going to learn much. And, you know, I guess you could say that there’s probably a natural inclination not to call.”
By Chandelis Duster, CNN