As Paul Waldman has written, in the commencement address Bush chose to "embrace a narrative of victimhood" on behalf of Christians. (Sample sentence: "There are consequences when you don’t genuflect to the latest secular dogmas.") Bush continued this in the Kelly interview, starting with the first exchange, in which he agreed with Kelly that Hillary Clinton is one of the secular fascists who seek to oppress Christians. This is based on a distortion of a recent Clinton speech, as I'll explain below.
Here's the exchange, which comes right at the beginning of the interview. (Transcript via the Daily Caller; emphasis added):
KELLY: So I listened to your speech today at Liberty University, and you focused a lot on faith and commitment to Christian conscience. Which was interesting, because just recently Hillary Clinton came out and said those who hold a deep-seated religious belief have to change them, that those religious beliefs need to be changed, in particular, to allow reproductive freedom for women. Your response to her?This is based on Hillary Clinton's recent speech to the Women in the World Summit. As I pointed out a couple of weeks ago, right-wingers attacked Hillary along these lines. (Sample headline: "Hillary On Abortion: ‘Deep-Seated Cultural Codes, Religious Beliefs And Structural Biases Have To Be Changed.’")
BUSH: Look, it’s okay I guess in the secular work to be someone who is religious. But you can’t act on your faith, you can’t have a conscience and act on it? That was the basic purpose of this speech, was to say that in this incredible country of ours, we need enough space for people to be able to act on their faith.
And by the way, when they do, they do good. They feed the hungry, they take care of the homeless, they protect people, they love people. That’s the beauty of our heritage and our faith.
I was deeply troubled by Hillary’s statement that somehow, you have to put your faith and your convictions in some lockbox I guess, and not be able to act on them.
KELLY: That’s going to be the line, though, that Republicans who are social conservatives are looking to trample on women’s rights from abortion to contraception.
BUSH: I don’t think they’re right about that, but at the same time I don’t think it’s appropriate for people on the left or people that don’t have a guiding faith to be able to say to others, ‘Look, you can’t do anything.’
This is kind of the world we’re moving towards, that the First Amendment rights only exist for people that don’t have faith. I mean, if we reflect on this the right way, I think we’ll realize that we’re a big enough country to allow for the dissenting views on any subject.
But the right was taking her words out of context. She was discussing the status of women worldwide, and she was talking about education access, freedom from rape, and a host of other issues, only one of which was "reproductive health care," which she linked with "safe childbirth."
Here's my transcript of the relevant part of that speech, which starts at 6:31 in the video below. I've added some emphasis:
All the evidence tells us that despite the enormous obstacles that remain, there has never been a better time in history to be born female. Think about that. A girl born twenty years ago in Tanzania could not hope to one day own or inherit property. Today she can. If she were born in Nepal, there was a tragically high chance that her mother and even she would die in childbirth. Today, thankfully, that is far less likely. A girl born twenty years ago in Rwanda grew up in the shadow of genocide and rape. Today she can be proud that women have led the way out of that dark time, and now there are more women serving in her country's parliament than anywhere else in the world.
But the data leads to a second conclusion: that despite all this progress, we're just not there yet. Yes, we've nearly closed the global gender gap in primary school. But secondary school remains out of reach for so many girls around the world. Yes, we've increased the number of countries prohibiting domestic violence. But still, more than half the nations in the world have no such laws on the books, and an estimated one in three women still experience violence. Yes, we've cut the maternal mortality rate in half. But far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health care and safe childbirth.
All the laws we've passed don't count for much if they're not enforced. Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will, and deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.
The right loves to do this -- twist and distort the words of liberals and Democrats, then endlessly repeat the misreading until it becomes the standard interpretation of what was said. "You didn't build that." "Spread the wealth around." And on and on.
I saw that the right-wing media was distorting what Hillary Clinton said in this speech, but I didn't realize that the Republican presidential front-runner was going to pile on. Now I know.