In a rare interview, former president George W. Bush told NBC's Matt Lauer that the relationship President Trump now has with the media is more complicated that it was for previous administrations. Bush, when asked about Trump's exchanges with news media, answered, "It is hard to unify the country with the news media being so split up, and when I was president, you mattered a lot more. Because there were like three of you. And now there is all kinds of information being bombarded out. You can say things anonymously. It is just a different world."
"Power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive," Bush said. When Lauer asked whether he had ever considered media to be the "enemy of the American people," Bush answered,"I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy," Bush said. "We need an independent media to hold people like me to account, whether it's here or elsewhere."
"It's hard to tell others to have an independent press when we're not willing to have one ourselves," he added.
When Lauer asked if he had seen "anything" that Trump has done in office to address national divisions, Bush said, "First of all, there's only been one month in office, and so he's got four years. Secondly, I think you've got to take the man for his word, that he wants to unify the country, and we'll see whether he's able to do so."
Lauer asked Bush if he thinks that a special prosecutor is needed to look into contacts between Trump's associates with Russian government representatives, Bush said "We need answers." He would not commit to supporting the notion of a special prosecutor, but expressed confidence in Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee. If Burr were to recommend a special prosecutor, Bush said "it would have a lot more credibility with me."
When Lauer questioned him about whether or not he supports Trump's "ban" on the entry of persons from seven predominantly Muslim countries, Bush that he cherishes the freedom to profess or not profess religion, but said that those who murder innocents "are not religious people." He said that they are ideologues of the sort that America has faced before. "I understood from off the bat that this is an ideological conflict," Bush said. He noted that "it's very hard to fight the war on terrorism if we're in retreat. And I think we learned that lesson." When pressed to answer whether he supports Trump's policies, Bush said he supports immigration policies that are "welcoming" and that are lawful.
Bush, an amateur artist, recently published a book that features his portraits of American military veterans. It is entitled: "Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief's Tribute to America's Warriors."