Former President George W. Bush has kept a low profile in his years after office, preferring to focus on personal reflection and veterans' causes since leaving the presidency in 2009. But that didn't keep a left-wing panel on MSNBC from using Bush's recent bike ride with wounded veterans to blast his presidency, though.
Alex Wagner, who anchors the noontime Now program on the Lean Forward network, introduced a segment on Friday's program about Bush's annual mountain bike ride with wounded veterans around his ranch in Texas. But she quickly turned the nonpartisan cause into a sneering criticism of the former president's intelligence and decision-making, with nary a word of praise for the charity work:
WAGNER [to the Huffington Post's John Ward]: You got some really great quotes and insights from the former president, John. Among them, Marco Rubio. George W. Bush says "Rubio is articulate." It's always good when Bush is weighing in on who is articulate or not.
The segment came in response to Ward's recent profile of Bush over the three-day bike ride in Crawford. To Ward's credit, he tried to mostly keep the discussion to Bush's ride with veterans and the former president's reflections on his years in office. That was to no avail, as the ruthless panel took every shot they could get at Bush.
Mother Jones's David Corn got in a few hits:
CORN [to Ward]: And that's when you asked Bush, I think, about the War in Iraq and those sort of troublesome matters. And he said [in mocking voice], I tried to solve problems diplomatically. My question is, does he really believe that? Because at the time of the invasion of Iraq, as you know, the weapons inspections were ongoing. They weren't over yet and diplomatic efforts were still under way to reach a resolution. So is he just spinning, is he trying to revise his truth or was it the lack of oxygen after all the bike riding?
Wagner later read a Bush quote on fame from Ward's piece: "I've come to realize that power can be corrosive if you've had it for too long. It can dim your vision. I don't long for fame. And really, gonna shy away from it. Not shy away from it. Avoid it. I'm not very shy. Avoid it."
After reading the reflective quote, the entire panel burst into laughter.
Jacob Weisberg tauntingly exclaimed: "That's the best Bush-ism in a while." Wagner mocked the former president again, declaring she had to "channel my inner Bush to just read that."
While Ward tried to bring the conversation back to his very relevant impressions of the president, the panel continued to bask in their Bush-bashing glory:
WARD: Yeah. I mean I though that exchange was among the most reflective things I've heard Bush say about himself.
WAGNER: Ever. [Panel laughs.]
WARD: In a long time. Probably ever.
CORN: Not a long list.
It's unimaginable and would be inexcusable for any news network to bring up Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton's failures in segments supposedly devoted to detailing recent charity work those men were doing.
Whoever would do such a thing would rightly be condemned for gratuitous shots at men who are, for the most part, retired from political combat and should be accorded some measure of respect for their non-partisan charity work.
While we would expect MSNBC to revel in every possible opportunity to mock Bush's presidency – even five years after his departure – it's disgusting to see the leftist network using the former president's ride with wounded veterans to relive the nostalgia of their years condemning the Bush administration.
See the relevant transcript below:
Now with Alex Wagner
12:35 p.m. Eastern
ALEX WAGNER: George W. Bush the hobbyist is back and alas, this time there are no paintbrushes. Over Memorial Day weekend, Bush joined 13 wounded veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars on a three-day mountain bike ride through his 1500-acre ranch. Bush has been hosting the bike ride to honor veterans since he left the White House. The Huffington Post’s John Ward joined Bush on the bike ride, where the former president opened up about life after the presidency, fame, power, cycling, and Marco Rubio. With us from Washington now, senior political reporter at the Huffington Post, John Ward. John, it is great to see you. Great to have you on the show. And I am thrilled to hear more about this epic bike ride with the forty-third president. Tell us a little bit about what the mood was like on the trail.
JOHN WARD: The mood was, you know, a lot of men and women having a lot of fun. The trails were at times challenging and the weather was hot. It was on his ranch out there in Texas, in Crawford. Beautiful scenery. So I'd say the mood was pretty jocular at times. Bush was throwing around hoots and hollers and he was joking with people pretty loose. But people were also focused on not falling down the 50-foot drop to our right at times.
WAGNER: You got some really great quotes and insights from the former president, John. Among them, Marco Rubio. George W. Bush says “Rubio is articulate.” It's always good when Bush is weighing in on who is articulate or not. But “I met him once, maybe twice, my brother likes him, so I like him.” I thought that was sort of telling. If Jeb is cool with him, I'm cool with him.
WARD: Yeah, I mean Bush has made no secret of the fact that he wants Jeb to run for president. So it wasn't a diss at all of Rubio. But it was very much sort of a backhanded endorsement of his brother, over Rubio. And it was fairly succinct. It wasn't like he was going to great lengths to praise the senator from Florida.
WAGNER: You know, Dave Corn, the Bush-Bush-Rubio dynamic is a really interesting one, because Jeb has absolutely gone out of his way to praise Marco Rubio. But you do get the sense that there is some frenemy vibes, perhaps in Florida.
DAVID CORN: I think so.
JOSH GREEN: You do.
CORN: A lot of soap opera there with the Bush family. I think John looks really buff. I have to say.
WAGNER: Well he managed to do the bike ride.
CORN: I'm very impressed. I have a question, John, because there was a line in the piece that jumped out at me. It was a very long piece. It's good, though.And that's when you asked Bush, I think, about the War in Iraq and those sort of troublesome matters. And he said [in mocking voice], I tried to solve problems diplomatically. My question is, does he really believe that? Because at the time of the invasion of Iraq, as you know, the weapons inspections were ongoing. They weren't over yet and diplomatic efforts were still under way to reach a resolution. So is he just spinning, is he trying to revise his truth or was it the lack of oxygen after all the bike riding? [Panel laughs.]
WAGNER: And I believe the exact quote was: “Had I not made the decisions I made these men wouldn't have been in combat,” speaking with veterans. “On the other hand, every one of these men were volunteers. None of them are angry. I believe strongly that the decisions I made were the right decisions. I knew going in that there were bad consequences to war. If people study my decision, they would recognize I tried to solve the problems diplomatically.”
WARD: Right. There's two pieces there. There's the one David asks and there’s the question of his relationship to the veterans and their wounds. You know, as to David's question, I think he does believe that. You know, he's gone into great detail in his book about how he saw it, and they went to the U.N. a number of times and, yes, there were still things going on at the time. So you know, we point out in the piece, that's a disagreement that will be one for the ages, as to whether or not he exhausted his options diplomatically or not. He felt he did. A lot of people feel like he was raring to go, after 9/11 – certainly in Afghanistan, what he did. And then in Iraq, as well, about a year and a half later. You know, as to his relationship with the veterans, he was very, I thought, pretty frank about his own responsibility for them. But also his, his thinking as to why it's not something that's entirely on his own shoulders. That's also something that will rub some people wrong. But there were vets on the ride who pretty much backed him up on that.
WAGNER: The last piece, John, it's always interesting to examine former presidents and their relation to the public arena. You asked him about fame and Bush replied: “I've come to realize that power can be corrosive if you've had it for too long. It can dim your vision. I don't long for fame. And really, gonna shy away from it. Not shy away from it. Avoid it. I'm not very shy. Avoid it.” [Panel laughs.]
JACOB WEISBERG: That's the best Bush-ism in a while.
WAGNER: I have to read that with – avoid it. I kind of have to channel my inner Bush to just read that. But what did – tell us a little bit more about that exchange.
WARD: Yeah. I mean I thought that exchange was among the most reflective things I've heard Bush say about himself.
WAGNER: Ever. [Panel laughs.]
WARD: In a long time. Probably ever.
CORN: Not a long list.
WARD: I talk in the piece about how, especially when he was in office, he would always ridicule questions about his internal process as naval-gazing. I think the fact that he's out of office, his approval ratings are up. He doesn't feel as defensive, and he had just been kind exercising and was more relaxed, I think made him a little bit more reflective. And I thought the comment about power being corrosive and dimming your vision was fascinating. I would like to hear more from him on that, honestly.
WAGNER: Indeed, perhaps it's easier for him to speak out now that someone else is winding down the wars and figuring out how to pay for them. But hey, that's just me. John Ward, it is a fascinating piece on the Huffington Post, out now. Thank you for your time, my friend.
WARD: Thank you, Alex.