In a move rarely made by a former president, George W. Bush, weighed in on Trump’s battle with the press and offered sound reasoning why the current president is making a mistake trying to shut the press out. Bush also offered some insight into what he thought of new immigration policies and the issue with Russia.
“It’s kind of hard to tell others to have an independent free press when we’re not willing to have one ourselves,” Bush said.
When asked by Matt Lauer on NBC News Today about Trump’s claim the media is an “enemy of the people,” Bush said that an independent press is essential to a democracy, and by denouncing the press at home makes it difficult to preach democratic values aboard. Power is a corruptible force, Bush added, and it is important to have a news media to call those into account that abuse their power.
“I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy,” Bush said.
Regarding Russia, Bush said the American people need all the answers, but stopped short of supporting an independent prosecutor, saying that he had faith in Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr. He’s an “independent thinker.”
Bush went on to say that if Burr did recommend a special prosecutor it would have a lot of credibility with him.
Lauer tried to pin Bush down on what he thought of Trump’s travel ban, a position he has failed to endorse. However, while Bush fell short of criticizing the ban or calling it discriminatory, he did defend religious freedom and said there is a difference between religion and ideology.
“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 to not worship at all. A bedrock of our freedom is the right to worship freely,” Bush said.
Bush said he never thought terrorism was about religion.
“I understood right off the bat that this was an ideological conflict and the people who murder the innocent are not religious people,” he said, “they want to advance an ideology and we have faced those kinds of ideologues in the past.”
Bush said he supports immigration policies that are welcoming and uphold the law. “I think it’s very hard to fight a war on terrorism if we’re in retreat,” referring to the practice of using fear to deport people based on religious reasons or the country they are coming from.
The former president is currently promoting a book of his paintings depicting wounded veterans.