WASHINGTON – Former President George W. Bush says the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol nauseated and “disgusted” him, describing it as an attack on democracy.
“I was sick to my stomach,” Bush said in a taped interview broadcast Thursday for the SXSW conference out of Austin, Texas.
While he did not mention former President Donald Trump by name, Bush said he was disgusted “to see our nation’s Capitol being stormed by hostile forces.” The attack “really disturbed me to the point where I did put out a statement, and I’m still disturbed when I think about it,” he said.
More than 300 people in the pro-Trump mob have been arrested in connection with the Jan. 6 attack designed to stop the counting of the electoral votes that elected Joe Biden to the presidency.
“It undermines rule of law and the ability to express yourself in peaceful ways in the public square,” Bush told interviewer Evan Smith, the CEO of the Texas Tribune. “This was an expression that was not peaceful.”
More:A minute-by-minute timeline of Trump’s day as the Capitol siege unfolded on Jan. 6
More:Former President George W. Bush extends ‘warm congratulations’ to President-elect Joe Biden
During the interview that was taped on Feb. 24, Bush also said he regards Biden as a legitimately elected president. He did not comment on Trump’s protests of the election process.
“I think the election, all elections, have some kind of improprieties,” Bush said at one point, but he added “the results of this election, though, were confirmed when Joe Biden got inaugurated as president.”
Asked specifically if he thinks the election was stolen, Bush said: “No.”
Bush used the interview to promote a new book on immigration to be published on April 20. In Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants, Bush offers stories and his painting of a select group of migrants who have succeeded in America.
The former president criticized the government for repeated failures to enact new immigration laws, though he did not mention any lawmaker by name. If anything, Bush said his book is a “rebuke of Congress” for its inability to come together on improvements to the immigration system.
Congress rejected Bush’s own immigration plan proposed in 2006, largely because Republicans objected to his proposed path to citizenship for migrants already in the country illegally.
Right now, Bush said, “there’s a lot of anger” in the political system. But he expressed optimism about the future of democracy, citing the high turnout in last year’s election and the tendency of political movements to come and go.
“These populist movements begin to fritter over time,” Bush said.