As I noted earlier, an exit poll during last night's New Hampshire primary showed that two-thirds of Republican voters there supported banning Muslims from entering the country. Now, political wisdom for a candidate might be to follow the party line -- particularly a line so strong -- especially if you're low in the polls and desperately trying to appeal to voters. To Jeb! Bush's credit, he refused to go along.
On MSNBC's Morning Joe program yesterday morning, he addressed his position on banning Muslims, in relation to what voters in his party are saying.
"If I believe what I believe -- in this case I think it would be horrific, it goes against American values to call for a ban of innocent Muslims and it also makes it impossible to build a coalition to destroy ISIS where it needs to be done, in the Caliphate -- I'm not going to follow what the polls say".
And he emphasized again that he believed it was "a horrific idea." And then went on even further --
"It sends this signal of divisiveness at a time when we need to find things that unite us. Our country has fallen apart. And we don't need presidents, candidates on the left or right, that continue to prey on that division. We need someone who can actually be president to create a set of purposes that unite us. And one of those is we need to protect the homeland from Islamic terrorism and you don't do that by banning all Muslims."
So, hats off to Jeb Bush. He doesn't get bonus points for saying what's sane, rational, humane and supportive of the U.S. Constitution. But he does get bonus points (lots of them) for saying it in the face of his party saying otherwise.
One point that Mr. Bush made was that just because two-thirds of New Hampshire voters (and 60% of Republicans overall) say that they support banning Muslims from entering the country, he suggested that he doesn't believe it is an important issue to them. He might be right, which helps him politically in his position, though in real-world terms it's meaningless. Being a little-bit pregnant still makes you pregnant.
But I admire that Mr. Bush spoke out as he did, and so bluntly.
To be clear, as the inveterate Christopher Dunn noted, this isn't a case of Mr. Bush being overly principled in general, since after all, only this past November the former Florida governor had commented that he was fine with allowing Syrian refugees into the U.S., as long as they were Christian. But...at least he is principled here on this specific issue, similar though different. And in the field we have of GOP candidates, finding any principle anywhere, no matter the possible lapse of contradiction, is a thing to rejoice.