LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com/AP) — 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 to promote his new book, “Portraits of Courage,” a volume of his paintings of military veterans.

“You don’t know what you can do until you try it,” he said.

Scott Flanagan from Oxnard is a veteran and says he appreciates attention to the cause.

“It makes me know that my time serving was appreciated, and the commander-in-chief respected us for what we were doing.”

Others agree.

“We want to thank President Bush,” Anush Gagua of Los Angeles said, “for honoring the men and women defending our country.”

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.

(TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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