George W. Bush laments role of 'anger' in politics

Story highlights

  • "What needs to drive policy is what's best for the people who are angry," Bush said.
  • As president, Bush was a staunch free trader,

Washington (CNN)Former President George W. Bush lamented the role of "anger" in politics after the grievance-fueled victory of Donald Trump, expressing a worry that the emotional response could unfortunately "drive policy."

Speaking in his hometown of Dallas and for the first time since Trump won a week ago, Bush did not directly critique his successor as a Republican president. But his comments, which came as he stressed the importance of free trade -- a position not shared by Trump -- seemed intended to rebuke the protectionist message unfurled to his party at rallies nationwide for the last two years.
"I understand anger, and some people may have been angry when I was president. But anger shouldn't drive policy," Bush said. "What needs to drive policy is what's best for the people who are angry."
    Bush has been a quiet critic of Trump, declining to endorse him after he won the Republican presidential nomination but not speaking out publicly about his differences with the nominee. He did not vote for either Trump or Hillary Clinton on Election Day.
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    Sources told CNN Bush's father, former President George H.W. Bush, voted for Clinton, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush replied "secret ballot" when asked shortly before the election about his plans.
    As president, George W. Bush was a staunch free trader, a position no longer in vogue in Trump's GOP. Bush, even as he praised major international trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement, acknowledged that the economic anxiety induced by trade deals explained much of what happened on Election Day, analyzing that Americans were "sick and tired of the status quo"
    Yet despite their differences, Bush in Dallas honored the traditional position held by most former presidents: not to criticize those who follow them in the White House.
    "I don't think it's helpful for a former president to criticize successors," Bush said. "It's a hard job to begin with."