'This effort is broad, systemic, and stealthy,' former president says
The Russian government is intentionally seeking to foment disunity among Americans, former President George W. Bush warned Thursday.
"This effort is broad, systemic, and stealthy," Bush said at his eponymous institute. "Ultimately, this assault won't succeed, but foreign aggressions including cyberattacks, disinformation and financial influence should never be downplayed or tolerated. "
U.S. intelligence agencies have blamed Russia for what they call an "influence campaign" aimed at bolstering then-nominee Donald Trump's White House run. The campaign was widespread and included a vast social media component, according to officials.
So far, tech giants Google and Facebook have reported accounts believed to be linked to Moscow bought $4,700 and $100,000 worth of divisive ads, respectively.
Online advertisements have been free of the regulations faced by their print, radio and television counterparts. But that may soon change as senators are moving Thursday to introduce new rules for online political messaging, including forced disclosure of who has purchased the advertisement.
That is currently the case for radio, television and print political advertisements.
But even as lawmakers act to tighten regulations, Bush, whose tenure was marked by partisan bickering, warned there are stark divisions within American society.
"Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication. Bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed," he said.
"There are some signs that the intensity of support for democracy itself has waned, especially among the young," Bush added.
Staying on America's youth, Bush appeared to take a dig at Trump for his often-criticized bombastic approach.
"Our young people need positive role models. Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone,” he said.
Trump has garnered a reputation for often brutish rhetoric singling out his opponents and has repeatedly demeaned minorities.
In announcing his run for office, Trump called Mexican immigrants rapists, criminals and drug dealers.
"And some, I assume, are good people," he conceded.