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George W. Bush: A free press checks the ‘addictive’ power of the presidency

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Former President George W. Bush said that the power of the presidency can be addictive and that an independent media is necessary to keep things in check.

“I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy,” Bush said in a “Today” show interview Monday morning. “We need an independent media to hold people like me to account. 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, whether it be here or elsewhere.”

Bush’s comments contrast sharply with those of President Trump, who has declared war on the mainstream media, which he has branded “the enemy of the American people.” On Thursday, Trump used a speech at a conservative conference to go on a lengthy diatribe against the media. On Friday, the BBC, CNN, New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Politico were all abruptly barred from an off-camera briefing with press secretary Sean Spicer.

During his “Today” show interview, Bush said it was important for America to have an independent media landscape in order to pressure other countries into embracing the same.

“One of the things I spent a lot of time doing was trying to convince a person — like Vladimir Putin, for example — to accept the notion of an independent press. It’s kind of hard to tell others to have an independent free press when we’re not willing to have one ourselves,” he said.

“It’s hard to unify the country when the president is so split up. When I was president, you mattered a lot more because there was, like, three of you,” Bush told interviewer Matt Lauer. “Now there’s all kinds of information being bombarded out, and people can say things anonymously. It’s just a different world.”

Bush also said he wanted answers regarding Russia’s connection to the White House but wasn’t sure a special prosecutor was the correct tactic. He said he would defer to the judgment of Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, on how to investigate the matter.

Screengrab of George W. Bush on
Screengrab: Via NBC News

When asked about his thoughts on Trump’s executive order banning entry to the United States from seven majority Muslim countries, Bush said, “I am for an immigration policy that’s welcoming and upholds the law.”

“A bedrock of our freedom is a right to worship freely,” said Bush when discussing his response to the Sept. 11 attacks. “I understood right off the bat that this was an ideological conflict. People who murder the innocent are not religious people.”

Both Bush and his father, former President George H.W. Bush, declined to endorse Trump in the general election, a striking snub of Trump when he was the Republican nominee. The younger Bush’s comments on the “Today” show came amid a series of media appearances promoting a new book, “Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors.”

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