George W. Bush rebukes Republican skeptics of Ukraine conflict

 February 27, 2023

George W. Bush rebuked the "America First" wing of the Republican party and its skepticism of entanglement with Ukraine during a conference in Washington, D.C. 

Bush spoke at an event for the 20-year anniversary of President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a program he launched during his presidency to combat HIV.

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The 43rd president tied PEPFAR to America's intervention in Ukraine, saying the U.S. can support the Ukrainians without "constraining" support for America's own people.

"I think we’re a big enough nation to do more than one thing," Bush said.

"And continuing to fight against AIDS on the continent of Africa and supporting the Ukrainian freedom fighters is not going to constrain our capacity to help our own citizens," he continued.

Bush was joined by President Biden's Secretary of State Antony Blinken, former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and Democrat Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who offered words of praise for Bush and "national hero" Anthony Fauci.

"America First"

Former President Trump and like-minded Republicans have bashed President Biden's aggressive, open-ended commitment to Ukraine as a failure to prioritize America's domestic issues.

Biden gave his critics an easy lay-up last week by visiting Ukraine in the midst of the chemical disaster in East Palestine, Ohio, whose mayor called Biden's Europe trip "the biggest slap in the face."

While "America First" Republicans have been the most critical of Biden's open-wallet approach to Ukraine, a recent poll found that less than half of Americans are in favor of sending weapons there after a year of conflict.

Biden marked the one-year anniversary of the war in Ukraine Friday by pledging another $12 billion in U.S. aid.

"As long as it takes"

Even as skepticism of involvement with Ukraine has grown, leaders of both major parties have continued to argue America's fate is tied with that of Ukraine's "democracy," with Biden pledging support for "as long as it takes."

As for Bush's claim about supporting Ukraine, there are notable differences between combating HIV and prosecuting a war -- namely, the former doesn't carry the risk of a nuclear exchange.

President Trump -- whose shocking rise in 2016 sidelined the Bush family and ushered in a more isolationist GOP skeptical of "forever wars" -- has called for a diplomatic resolution in Ukraine before "warmongers" in Washington, D.C. escalate the conflict to "World War III." 

But Ukraine and its Western backers have pushed back on calls for a peace settlement that would leave Russia with control of Ukraine's territory.

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