The “casual cruelty” he sees in public discourse

Jeb Bush’s brother George gave a talk in New York this morning rebuking the many flaws of Donald Trump without actually saying he was talking about Donald Trump.

It’s funny about George. He’s the pretend folksy guy, and Trump is the real thing. George is from the upper crust, and Trump is from Queens. George fakes a Texas drawl, and Trump is stuck with a Queens snarl. Both grew up rich; both profited from a big boost from their daddies.

Former President George W. Bush never mentioned his name but delivered what sounded like a sustained rebuke to President Trump on Thursday, decrying nationalism, protectionism and the coarsening of public debate while calling for a robust response to Russian interference in American democracy.

In a speech in New York, Mr. Bush defended free trade, globalization and immigration even as Mr. Trump seeks to raise barriers to international commerce and newcomers from overseas. He condemned the “casual cruelty” he sees in public discourse and denounced white supremacy two months after Mr. Trump suggested that “both sides” were to blame at a neo-Nazi rally that turned violent in Virginia.

Bush and his friends prefer a more genteel form of conservatism, that makes the rich richer and the poor poorer but is polite about it. I have to admit that so do I; probably so do most of us.

His speech on Thursday seemed a clear rejoinder to Mr. Trump in various ways. Asked by a reporter as he left the hall whether his message would be heard in the White House, Mr. Bush smiled, nodded slightly and said, “I think it will.”

The Bush family has never been fond of Mr. Trump, who beat former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida for the Republican presidential nomination last year. Neither the former president nor his father, former President George Bush, voted for Mr. Trump last November. But advisers said the younger Mr. Bush has been deeply troubled by the state of the national debate under a president who routinely demonizes his adversaries on Twitter.

“Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry and compromises the moral education of children,” Mr. Bush said in his speech. “The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them.”

Mr. Bush, who issued a statement with his father condemning white supremacists after the violence in Charlottesville, Va., in August, returned to the theme. “Bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed,” he said.

Well, that depends which American creed we’re talking about. For centuries of course white supremacy in the most literal form imaginable was at the core of the American creed.

But still. What he said is welcome.

Also interesting: Rice and Albright explained that diplomacy is not some frivolous luxury.

The conference also featured a panel with two former secretaries of state, Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine K. Albright, joining Nikki Haley, Mr. Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations.

Ms. Rice, who served under Mr. Bush, and Ms. Albright, who served under President Bill Clinton, seemed to gently coach Ms. Haley, urging the Trump administration to rethink its cuts to the State Department budget and its approach to the United Nations, to protect rather than attack the news media and to make a stronger response to Russian meddling in last year’s election.

Ms. Albright said the disparity between the Pentagon and State Department budgets was “crazy” and deprived the president of necessary resources. “We do not have a lot of tools,” she said. “It is necessary to have a functioning diplomatic service.”

Ms. Haley said the president’s budget proposal to slash the State Department budget by one-third was not meant to be enacted in its original form. “It was just his conversation point,” she said. “He was starting a conversation.”

Oh stop that. Pouring contempt on the value of diplomacy is not “starting a conversation.”

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