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Obama and Bush take aim at Trump in speeches

Former President Barack Obama breaks his silence on the current state of US politics

It was almost as if he hadn’t been away.

In the swing state of Virginia Barack Obama bounced onto stage with the swagger of a veteran orator who knew he had the audience in the palm of his hand.

He was back in the political fray, with a point to make about the way his successor was dismantling – or trying to – pretty much everything he had done.

Protocol forbids one president openly criticising another, but Obama found a way without naming Donald Trump once.

Donald Trump at a press conference at Trump Tower in New York
Image: Two former presidents took aim at the current state of affairs

“We’ve got folks who are deliberately trying to make folks angry” he said, “to demonise people who have different ideas; to get the base all riled up because it provides a short-term tactical advantage.”

And he added: “If you have to win a campaign by dividing people, you won’t be able to govern them.”

It was a barely concealed critique of the politics that now dominate in Washington.

And interestingly, Obama was not alone in that.

In New York earlier, the last Republican to occupy the White House, George W Bush was also having his say.

He warned that the United States were being torn apart by ancient hatreds that should have been consigned to history long ago.

He spoke out in support of democracy noting that America first had to “recover our own identity” in the face of challenges to its most basic ideals.

He criticised the “casual cruelty” of the current public discourse.

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 23:  Former U.S. President George W. Bush speaks during a conference at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce June 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. The George W. Bush Institute hosted a conference to address veteran issues.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Image: Bush criticised the ‘casual cruelty’ of the current public discourse

Maybe it was no coincidence that two former presidents spoke out on the same day.

Both men have largely avoided taking on Donald Trump since he took office but perhaps something has now changed.

Perhaps these former presidents’ decision to speak out reflects a broader consternation at the way politics in America are heading.

There are growing signs of alarm among leading figures of both major parties and a feeling that the basic principles of democratic government are under threat.

But the return of Obama to the cut and thrust of politics also highlighted a major problem for the Democrats… where on earth do they find the candidate to take on Trump in three years’ time?

The incumbent has proved he’s a winner and a combative opponent who is changing the rules of the game.

It is not at all certain that a second term is beyond him.

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