LOS ANGELES – Former President George W. Bush on Wednesday warned against an "isolationist tendency" in the U.S. that he called dangerous to national security, at a time when the current president has faced questions about its commitment to the country's international partnerships.
The 43rd president was speaking at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, to promote his new book, "Portraits of Courage," a volume of his paintings of military veterans.
Bush's remarks come at a time when Europeans have been skittish that President Donald Trump may promote isolationist policies. Last month, Vice President Mike Pence reassured allies in Europe about the U.S. commitment to NATO and the country's willingness to maintain its ties around the globe.
Bush, 70, said it was not his intent to criticize his successors at the White House and he is optimistic about the future. "I don't want to make the president's job worse," he said.
But he also alluded to the Iraq War, and warned that there is a lesson "when the United States decides not to take the lead and withdraw," an apparent critique of former President Barack Obama.
"Vacuums can be created when U.S. presence recedes and that vacuum is generally filed with people who don't share the ideology, the same sense of human rights and human dignity and freedom that we do," he added.
Bush echoed remarks he made earlier this week by saying he didn't intend to criticize Trump when he said recently that a free press is essential to democracy. Trump has referred to the press as the "enemy of the people." Bush said at the library the nation needed an independent press, but added that it needs to be accurate.