It didn’t take very much for 43rd President George W. Bush—who hated the media, started the Iraq War and still holds the lowest exit approval ratings of any president ever—to sound reasoned and sensible in comparison to our current esteemed President Donald John Trump.
Bush, who’s been enjoying new popularity as an amateur portraitist, went on the Today Show on Monday. There, he, of all people, defended the media as “indispensable to democracy” and criticized Trump’s short-lived ban on Muslims as both an assault on the Constitution and a fundamental misunderstanding of terrorism.
“It’s very important for all of us to recognize one of our great strengths is for people to be able to worship the way they want to, or not worship at all. The bedrock of our freedom—a bedrock of our freedom—is the right to worship freely,” he said. When Matt Lauer asked him specifically if he supported Trump’s ban, Bush said no. “I am for an immigration policy that’s welcoming and upholds the law.”
He said the ban would effectively cause the U.S. to retreat, and “I think it’s very hard to fight the war on terrorism if we’re in retreat,” he said.
Bush, whose chief-of-staff once dismissed the media as a special interest and whose administration used the media to sell the Iraq War, also defended the media against Trump’s recent attacks.
“I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy. We needed the media to hold people like me to account,” Bush said. “Power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive, and it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power.”
Though its rare for a former president to criticize his successor, Bush is bipartisan with his winking interviews—in 2015 he also accused the 44th president of causing the US to retreat, apparently his sharpest criticism.
Bush also took a moment to tease his daughter, a correspondent on the Today Show, for getting arrested as a teen. He’s having fun, it looks like.