Calling former President George W. Bush a “man of character,” GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie lionized Bush for his response to the 9/11 attacks on America — and implored the Republican party to again nominate a candidate like Bush, with a focus on public service instead of personal gain.
Was Bush “prepared substantively” for the 9/11 attacks? No, Christie says, implying that no one could be. But Christie says he “never once worried” for the nation during those dark days, because he knew Bush, and knew the “country would be well served by that President.”
Speaking at the Erick Erickson conference, Christie cites Bush in drawing a distinction between the last two Republican Presidents — an altruist and a narcissist, respectively, by Christie’s estimation. Bush served, while Trump expects to be served.
No one can be ready for everything that comes across the desk of the President.— Chris Christie (@GovChristie) August 23, 2023
How a President responds depends on their character. And we can evaluate their character in the campaign.
Let’s nominate someone who will actually put the country before their own self-interest. pic.twitter.com/UGGC2ZYpO5
While Trump employs the political policy slogan “America First” — a MAGA worldview of non-interventionism and protectionism — Bush actually put America first, Christie says.
Christie admits that he didn’t always agree with Bush, but that citizens could “know that he’s going to make decisions not on his own self-interest, but on the interest of the country.” The ring of a genuine “America first” in that sentence is unmistakable.
Christie makes his pitch to the hearts and minds of any Republican still willing to be swayed by a Trump counterargument: “How about we do this?” he says, “We nominate someone who we know in our hearts will put the country first and not their self-interest first, will put your children and grandchildren ahead of their own children and grandchildren.”
Presenting a different version of America First, Christie’s reference to George W. Bush is no accident. Bush left office with dismal approval ratings, the Iraq war beating down his strong post-9/11 favorability.
But after Trump took office, Bush soared to 61% favorability with Americans in 2018. Even 54% of Democrats by then — with Trump as the new Republican comparison — viewed Bush favorably.
Trump’s favorability numbers, durably strong among Republicans, don’t approach those of Bush — with a recent poll saying 65% of Americans wouldn’t vote for him.
Christie will be on the debate stage tonight with North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former Vice President Mike Pence, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott.