George W. Bush Warns of ‘Casual Cruelty’ Degrading US Discourse

Former President George W. Bush is warning against the proliferation of cruelty and bigotry in American life that is threatening public discourse and may be harming faith in democracy.

Bush's comments deriding the divisions in the United States came Thursday at an event held by his institute in New York. He will accept an award at West Point.

"Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry and compromises the moral education of children," he said, adding later, "bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed."

While Bush took aim at bullying from public figures, a representative said his comments weren't meant to criticize President Donald Trump, who is embroiled in a feud with a Democratic congresswoman over whether he made an insensitive remark to the grieving wife of a fallen soldier.

The speech also comes on the day that a white nationalist is speaking at the University of Florida, with the governor declaring a state of emergency to free up public safety resources for expected demonstrations and counter-demonstrations.

Bush said there are signs that support for democracy is on the wane, especially among young people, who didn't live through the Cold War, and that "casual cruelty" has degraded public discourse. 

He also took a shot at the economic promises that won Trump the White House, though without naming the president.

"We cannot wish globalization away, any more than we could wish away the agricultural revolution or the industrial revolution," Bush said, while acknowledging that globalization has caused some pain and anger.

A Bush spokesman told NBC News that the speech wasn't a criticism of President Donald Trump, saying, "These are the same themes President Bush has spoken on for the last two decades."

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