Former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon served up a searing attack Friday night on former president George W. Bush, saying Bush âdidnât understand anything he was talking aboutâ in a speech the day before that was widely seen as a rebuke of Donald Trumpâs presidency.
âHe embarrassed himself,â Bannon said in a dinnertime address at the convention banquet of the California Republican Party. âThe speechwriter wrote a highfalutin speech. Itâs clear he didnât understand anything he was talking about. â¦ He has no earthly idea whether heâs coming or going, just like it was when he was president of the United States.â
Bannon â who has declared war on the Republican establishment since leaving the White House â went on to apologize to any âBush folksâ in the audience before asserting that âthere has not been a more destructive presidency than George Bushâs.â
Conservatives have been critical of Bushâs presidency for spending increases and an expansion of foreign entanglements.
Bannonâs broadside was prompted by a rare political speech that Bush delivered Thursday in which he warned of threats to U.S. democracy and a decay of civic engagement.
At a New York forum sponsored by the Bush presidential center, Bush offered a blunt assessment of a political system corrupted by âconspiracy theories and outright fabricationâ in which nationalism has been âdistorted into nativism.â
âWeâve seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty,â Bush said during a 16-minute address at âThe Spirit of Libertyâ event. âBullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone and provides permission for cruelty and bigotry. The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them.â
Bush did not mention Trump by name, and former aides emphasized that his message echoed words he has spoken before. But the fact that a former president was sounding the alarm about American values and the United Statesâ role in the world at a time when Trump has unsettled allies abroad and provoked intense political backlash at home injected Bushâs remarks with greater urgency.
At a White House briefing Friday, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, âOur understanding is that those comments were not directed towards the president.â
David Nakamura contributed to this report.