There is a saying, attributed variously to Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain, that goes “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.”
I can think of no more fitting assessment for former Pres. George W. Bush, who over the last eight years was a constant target of criticism by a man who would have done himself (and the nation) a great service by heeding the sage counsel of Lincoln/Twain. Instead, Barack Obama prattled on incessantly about the “mess he inherited” from Bush.
But it went beyond just that. He negatively invoked the name of George W. Bush so often that he gave rise to the mantra “It’s Bush’s fault” (alternately “I blame George W. Bush”). When asked in 2015 about the rise of ISIS, Obama said this:
ISIL is direct outgrowth of al Qaeda in Iraq which grew out of our invasion which is an example of unintended consequences which is why we should generally aim before we shoot.
Cumbersome syntax notwithstanding, Obama was clearly saying “Bush dunnit.”
So did the former president speak up in his own defense and recall Obama’s early dismissal of ISIS as the “JV team”? Nah. He was too much a gentleman to violate the unwritten rule that an ex-president doesn’t take shots at the sitting commander in chief, no matter how warranted.
Until now. This morning Bush appeared on the “Today Show,” where he was asked about Donald Trump’s travel ban (described by Politico’s Louis Nelson as “the vitriol directed by President Donald Trump toward the Muslim community”).
Here’s Bush’s reply. The transcript follows:
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. The bedrock of our freedom — a bedrock of our freedom — is the right to worship freely.
When asked if he supports the travel ban, he responded, “I am for an immigration policy that’s welcoming and upholds the law.”
Bush also told host Matt Lauer:
I understood right off the bat … 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 kind of ideologues in the past.
His assertions are open to dispute, but even if they weren’t, the travel ban proposed by Trump, which is currently on hold in any case, is not directed against any religious group. If it were — or to be more precise, if it a ban on Muslims — the countries named in it would include Indonesia, home to the world’s largest Muslim population.
The complete interview with Matt Lauer may be viewed here.