Republican presidential candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said in a radio interview Tuesday that “you can tell when someone is a Christian in the Middle East” based on indicators such as their name and birth certificate. “I can promise you that,” Bush told New Hampshire radio host Jack Heath. “By name, by where they’re born, their birth certificates. There are ample means by which to know this.”
It's tempting to give Jeb Bush credit for being far less ridiculous than Donald Trump on, well, pretty much everything. Over the last week, as Trump's radicalism has exceeded any normal boundaries of propriety, the former governor has been willing to call out the New York developer for going too far.
But if Bush is going to claim any credit for taking the high ground, he's going to have to stop dipping his feet in the same waters in which Trump is taking a swim.
Last week, for example, the Florida Republican argued that the United States should reject Syrian refugees for reasons he has not yet explained. Bush later clarified that some refugees might be able to enter the country, but only if they’re members of a religious group he approves of.
“You’re a Christian – I mean, you can prove you’re a Christian,” Jeb inexplicably argued.
BuzzFeed reports today that Bush has done it again.
He reportedly added that he supports pressing “the pause button” on welcoming Syrian refugees in order to ensure that refugee screening processes are “proper.” Bush has not, however, pointed to any specific shortcomings in the existing screening program.
Even putting this aside, there are two fairly obvious problems with his approach. First, his "you can tell" assurances notwithstanding, separating people who claim to be Christians from those who really are Christians isn't nearly as simple as Bush chooses to believe. Names and birthplaces offer hints, but what about sincere converts?
Second, why in the world should it be the policy of the United States to discriminate against refugees, fleeing terrorist violence, based on the popularity of their faith?
A few days ago, the former governor told a town-hall audience in New Hampshire, "I think we need to be careful about not trampling over the values that are important in our country." I agree. But how is it consistent with the values that are important in our country to say victims of a civil war -- families running for their lives -- will be excluded on the basis of religion?