Rich Koele /

Bush: One's Religion Not an Appropriate Criterion in Race

The Floridian further wades into the Muslim controversy generated by fellow Donald Trump and Ben Carson.

MA­SON CITY, Iowa – A per­son’s re­li­gion, or lack of one, should not mat­ter in someone’s quest for the pres­id­ency, Jeb Bush said Monday, fur­ther weigh­ing in on con­tro­versy gen­er­ated by fel­low Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ates in their re­marks about Muslims.

“I don’t think that re­li­gion should be a cri­terion for be­ing pres­id­ent, that there should be some kind of ex­clu­sion based on one’s faith, or the lack of faith, frankly,” the former Flor­ida gov­ernor told re­port­ers after a town-hall cam­paign ap­pear­ance.

GOP fron­trun­ner Don­ald Trump last week failed to cor­rect an audi­ence mem­ber at a New Hamp­shire rally who said there was a Muslim “prob­lem” in this coun­try, and that Pres­id­ent Obama was one him­self. Re­tired neurosur­geon Ben Car­son told NBC this week­end that he had no reas­on to doubt Obama’s Chris­ti­an faith, but that he per­son­ally could not sup­port the idea of a Muslim pres­id­ent.

Bush had pre­vi­ously said Trump had erred by not cor­rect­ing his ques­tion­er, and said Monday the whole is­sue was need­lessly di­vis­ive. “Frankly I don’t think it’s very pro­duct­ive for the con­ver­sa­tion,” Bush said of Car­son’s state­ments. “But he’ll ex­press his views and de­fend his views. I don’t have to ne­ces­sar­ily have a view on what he’s say­ing. I just gave you mine.”

Bush’s ap­pear­ance in the real-life mod­el for “River City” in the “Mu­sic Man” mu­sic­als came just minutes after Wis­con­sin Gov. Scott Walk­er an­nounced he was drop­ping out of the pres­id­en­tial race. Bush praised both Walk­er and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who had earli­er dropped out, for be­ing ac­tu­al lead­ers, rather than merely “yap­ping” about it – a not-so-veiled ref­er­ence to the sen­at­ors and former sen­at­or also seek­ing the GOP nom­in­a­tion.

Bush later laughed when asked if he has also con­sidered drop­ping out, as Walk­er sug­ges­ted oth­ers of his rivals do to make it easi­er for those re­main­ing to de­feat Trump. “No, no, a thou­sand times no,” Bush said. “We have a plan to win. I’m in it for the long haul. Things are go­ing great.”

Bush took 10 ques­tions from the crowd of about 300. Most were policy ques­tions like Ir­an or stu­dent loan debt, but Bush also fielded one about his fa­vor­ite pres­id­ents. He answered that while he loved his fath­er and his broth­er – the last two Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­ents – he also ad­mired James Polk, be­cause of how Polk man­aged to ac­com­plish those things he prom­ised he would do and then re­tired after a single term.

“He said what he would do, he did what he said he was go­ing to do, and he left,” Bush said, and ad­ded that he, too, would leave after a single term if he could ac­com­plish everything he wants to do.

Bush began the day in Hou­s­ton with a speech to the United States His­pan­ic Cham­ber of Com­merce. He has three cam­paign events in east­ern Iowa Tues­day be­fore head­ing to Wash­ing­ton, D.C., in time to at­tend Wed­nes­day’s pap­al mass.

(Image via Rich Koele / )