- The Washington Times - Monday, February 27, 2017

Former President George W. Bush said Monday it’s hard to fight a war on terrorism while “in retreat” and that he generally supports an immigration policy that is “welcoming” and that “upholds the law.”

“I think it’s very hard to fight the war on terrorism if we’re in retreat,” Mr. Bush said on NBC’s “Today” program. “I think we learned that lesson that if the United States decides to pull out before a free society emerges, it’s going to be hard to defeat them.”

The former president had been asked if he believes President Trump’s halting travel from seven majority-Muslim countries makes it easier or harder to fight the war on terrorism.

“The enemy is very good about exploiting weakness,” Mr. Bush said. “It’s going to be very important — if that’s the goal to defeat ISIS, which I believe it should be — that we project strength.”

Asked if he was for or against the current president’s policy, he said: “I am for an immigration policy that’s welcoming and that upholds the law.”

“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,” Mr. Bush said.

“A bedrock of our freedom is the right to worship freely,” he said.

“I understood right off the bat … that this is an ideological conflict and people who murder the innocent are not religious people,” Mr. Bush said. “They want to advance an ideology, and we have faced those kind of ideologues in the past.”

Mr. Bush also said he thinks people have to take Mr. Trump “for his word” that he wants to unify the country.

“One thing … is for certain: The job’s a tough job,” he said. “It requires a lot of people coming together to try to make us united.”

The former president said it’s hard to unify the country with the news media “being so split up.”

“When I was president, you mattered a lot more because there was like three of you,” Mr. Bush said. “And now, there’s all kinds of information being bombarded out. People can say things anonymously. It’s just a different world.”

“I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy, that we need an independent media to hold people like me to account,” he said. “Power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive, and it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power, whether it be here or elsewhere.”

“One of the things I spent a lot of time doing was trying to convince a person like Vladimir Putin, for example, to accept the notion of an independent press,” Mr. Bush said. “It’s kind of hard to tell others to have an independent, free press and we’re not willing to have one ourself.”

Mr. Trump has declared open war on some in the press recently, saying “fake news” is “the enemy of the people.”

Mr. Bush also said he has great faith in Sen. Richard Burr, North Carolina Republican. Mr. Burr chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is looking into the issues surrounding possible ties between Mr. Trump’s team and Russian officials during the campaign.

“I think we all need answers,” the former president said. “Whether or not the special prosecutor’s the right way to go or not, you’re talking to the wrong guy.”

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