Former President George W. Bush has weighed in on the current administration’s controversial travel ban.
During an interview with TODAY‘s Matt Lauer on Monday, Bush argued in favor of religious freedom when asked about Donald Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order, which temporarily banned people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S.
“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,” said Bush, 70. “A bedrock of our freedom is the right to worship freely.”
When asked whether or not he supports the ban, Bush said he is “for an immigration policy that is welcoming and upholds the law.”
“Everybody looks at the presidency when they campaign one way then they get in office and find out there’s a reality to the job,” he said, adding that he believes “you have to take [Trump] for his word” that his goal is to unify the country.
That being said, “it’s hard to unify the country with the news media being so split up,” he continued, noting the massive uptick in media coverage and quipping to Lauer: “When I was president, you mattered a lot more, because there were three of you.”
“It’s just a different world,” he added.
But according to Bush, the media is “indispensable to democracy.”
“We need an independent media to hold people like me to account,” he said. “Power can be very addictive, it can be corrosive. … It’s kind of hard to tell [other countries] to have an independent free press when we can’t have one ourselves.”
On fighting the war on terrorism, Bush said he feels the U.S. should “project strength.”
“If the United States decides to pull out before a free society emerges, it’s going to be hard to defeat them,” he said. “The enemy is very good about exploiting weakness. If that’s the goal, to defeat ISIS, which I believe it should be, [we should] project strength.”
Bush’s appearance was tied to his new book, a collection of oil paintings and stories titled Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors. Some of the American military veterans profiled in the book also stopped by the TODAY show.
“People ask me: ‘Do you miss being president?’ ” said Bush. “The answer is not really, but I miss saluting people who volunteer to wear the uniform.”