Ge­orge Bush touts value of in­de­pen­dent me­dia

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - NATION & WORLD - By Abby Phillip The Wash­ing­ton Post

FormerPres­i­den­tGe­orge W. Bush rarely­weighs in on cur­rent po­lit­i­cal events, but onMon­day, he of­fered in an in­ter­view with NBC News’ “To­day” show some of his most pointed cri­tiques of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s state­ments and poli­cies.

Asked about Trump’s claim that the me­dia is the “en­emy of the peo­ple,” Bush warned that an in­de­pen­dent press is es­sen­tial to democ­racy and that de­nounc­ing the press ath­ome­makes it dif­fi­cult for the United States to preach demo­cratic val­ues abroad.

“I con­sider the me­dia to be in­dis­pens­able to democ­racy,” Bush said. “We need an in­de­pen­dent me­dia to hold peo­ple like me to ac­count.

“Power can be very ad­dic­tive and it can be cor­ro­sive, and it’s im­por­tant for the me­dia to call to ac­count peo­ple who abuse power, whether it be here or else­where,” he added.

Bush noted that dur­ing his pres­i­dency, he sought to per­suade peo­ple like Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin to re­spect a free press.

“It’s kind of hard to tell oth­ers to have an in­de­pen­dent free press when we’re notwill­ing to have one our­selves,” Bush asked.

On Rus­sia, Bush added that “we all need an­swers” aboutwhetherTrump­cam­paign of­fi­cials had con­tact with Rus­sian of­fi­cials in the elec­tion.

But he did not en­dorse the idea that an in­de­pen­dent pros­e­cu­tor was nec­es­sary. Bush said that Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Chair­man Richard Burr was an “in­de­pen­dent thinker” ca­pa­ble of han­dling the in­quiry.

“If he were to rec­om­mend a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor, then it’d have a lot more cred­i­bil­ity with me,” Bush said of Burr.

Bush’s in­ter­view was pegged to the re­lease of his new book of oil paint­ings of wounded vet­er­ans. But the for­mer pres­i­dent seemed un­usu­ally will­ing to of­fer crit­i­cism of the sit­ting pres­i­dent fromhis own party.

Bush even chuck­led as host Matt Lauer re­minded him of Trump’s col­or­ful de­scrip­tion of “Amer­i­can carnage” dur­ing his in­au­gu­ral ad­dress, which Bush at­tended.

Lauer sought to pin Bush down on his po­si­tion on Trump’s travel ban, which Bush re­fused to en­dorse.

In­stead, he of­fered a de­fense of re­li­gious free­dom, warn­ing that the ter­ror threat is not a re­li­gious war but an ide­o­log­i­cal one.

“I think it’s very im­por­tant for all of us to rec­og­nize one of our great strengths is for peo­ple to be able towor­ship the­way they­want to or to not wor­ship at all,” Bush said. “A bedrock of our free­dom is the right to wor­ship freely.”

“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 kinds of ide­o­logues in the past,” he added.

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