I wasn’t a fan of George W. Bush when he was in office, but credit where it’s due: Relative to the Republican currently in the White House, Bush now seems like the smarter, more sensible guy in the room.
In an interview this morning with Today‘s Matt Lauer, Bush softly condemned the way Trump speaks about Islam — treating all Muslims as evil terrorists instead of a religion with plenty of peaceful adherents — and even threw in a shout-out to non-believers.
Recall that Bush said a week after 9/11 that Islam is “practiced freely by many millions of Americans and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah.”
The relevant part of the clip occurs at the 3:15 mark.
LAUER: … Do you think the President’s position on [Islam] has been well thought out?
BUSH: I think it’s very important for all of us to recognize one of our great strengths is for people to be able to worship the way they want to — or not worship at all. I mean, the bedrock of our freedom. A bedrock of our freedom is the right to worship freely. And… you see, I understood right off the bat, Matt, that this was an ideological conflict, and people who murder the innocent are not religious people. They want to advance an ideology. And we have faced those kinds of ideologues in the past.
Bush is foolish to pretend that Islamic beliefs have nothing to do with Islamic terrorism — the terrorists may be advancing their own ideology, but the only way they’re able to recruit people is by convincing them they’re acting in a way that would please Allah, and they can easily point to scripture that justifies their horrific beliefs.
That said, this idea that everyone should be able to worship however they’d like — or not at all — is one we haven’t heard from Trump yet. He’s too beholden to the Religious Right to even pay lip service to the idea that other non-Christian groups matter. In fact, Bush is echoing President Obama‘s first inaugural address in which he included non-believers as part of the tapestry of American religious traditions.
That doesn’t mean I want Bush back in office. He, too, advanced the agenda of conservative Christians every chance he got when he was in power. But I can’t imagine Trump will ever be able to look beyond his own ego to say that people who disagree with him are just as American as those who support him.
I can’t believe I’m praising Bush. That’s how awful this current administration is… I need to go take a shower or something.