For a moment, it looked like things were finally starting to simmer down.
Sure, President Donald Trump had initially failed to decry white supremacists and white nationalists after a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia over plans to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee turned violent over the weekend, but then Trump was roundly criticized for claiming the violence had come from "many sides." Trump ultimately sucked it up and read a statement on Monday condemning Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and other hate groups for their actions that left one dead and about 20 people injured.
But then Trump held a press conference that muddied the waters just over 24 hours later. Now, the only other living former Republican presidents, Houston's own George H.W. Bush, and Dallas's George W. Bush, have publicly spoken out against racism, bigotry and thus, by implication if not by name, Trump.
On Wednesday morning, Jim McGrath, spokesman for H.W. and W. released a joint statement from the father-son presidential duo regarding the violence in Charlottesville making it known that, unlike the current president, neither of the former commanders in chief believes racism is acceptable:
At one point, it might have seemed like this was stating the obvious, but somehow we've reached a moment where two former Republican presidents have felt the need to state in the broadest, most expansive, covering-all-the-bases terms that they are against bigotry.
"America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred in all forms. As we pray for Charlottesville, we are reminded of the fundamental truths recorded by that city’s most prominent citizen in the Declaration of Independence: we are all created equal and endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights. We know these truths to be everlasting because we have seen the decency and greatness of our country."
Republicans have been courting white Southern voters since the Democrats embraced the Civil Rights movement which alienated Southern Democrats and led to mass party change in the 1960s. However, Republican politicians have generally balked at going anywhere near the the party's outlying elements of racism, nativism, and anti-Semitism, as The New York Times noted. Every Republican president from Ronald Reagan to the Bushes has made a point of condemning white supremacists, because while there are some things that are difficult to agree on, in this day and age it has traditionally been accepted as fact that white supremacists are bad.
On top of that, it is highly unusual for former presidents to criticize a sitting president. The Oval Office alumni are members of the most exclusive club in the world, which has just five members, usually refrain from criticizing their successors because they understand how difficult the job can be. This is especially true when the president in question is a member of their own party, but W. even tried to avoid criticizing former President Barack Obama when he took office.
Sure, the Bush family has (mostly) been frosty towards Trump in the wake of how he treated Jeb Bush during the Republican primaries, but they've still attempted to stay quiet about what Trump has been up to since being elevated to the highest office in the land. Until now, at least.
The statement issued on Wednesday is not an outright denunciation of Trump, but all things considered, it's definitely drawing a line between the Bush family and the Trump White House.
When you add that to the other statements Republicans have issued on the subject this week — Senator Ted Cruz got out front on this, and even Senator John Cornyn issued a tweet stating the actions in Charlottesville should be "condemned in the strongest possible terms." It certainly is looking like the Republicans are finally taking steps to distance themselves from Trump, now from the top down.
After all, most politicians understand it is wise to distance themselves from white supremacists. Well, aside from the president, that is.