THE BLOG

Jeb Bush Lacks Key Presidential Quality

05/29/2015 12:15 pm ET | Updated May 29, 2016

The recent interview of Jeb Bush by Megyn Kelly of Fox News (aired May 11, 2015) casts serious doubt upon Mr. Bush's qualification to be president of the United States.

One of the most critical qualities of any president is judgment. Therefore, every candidate seeking this high office must clearly possess sound judgment. This includes the ability to perceive facts correctly and assess situations accurately. This quality is absolutely essential.

Now of course candidates will disagree over issues and will indeed offer differing approaches to solving problems. This is perfectly fine and healthy as reasonable minds can reasonably differ.

But basic judgment is a very different matter. It is not fine for any candidate to be unable to accurately perceive and assess fundamental aspects of a situation. If a person fails to perceive the basic reality of a situation, then this person cannot possibly choose a wise course of action to fit the situation and thus is doomed from the start to make very serious mistakes. Such a shortcoming is simply unacceptable for any candidate seeking an office as critical as the president of the United States.

Unfortunately, Mr. Bush is afflicted with exactly this crucial shortcoming. It was laid bare during his interview in response to questions about religion and the issue of abortion. Mr. Bush responded with an impassioned defense of his faith and a disturbing interpretation of the constitutional protection of the free exercise of religion. Mr. Bush clearly believes that his religion is under a nationwide attack in violation of the constitution.

To be clear, the problem is not that Mr. Bush is religious or pro-life. Indeed, many people who are religious and pro-life possess sound judgment. Rather, the problem is with Mr. Bush's inability to assess the situation accurately.

To understand Mr. Bush's view, let's consider a little example with two hypothetical people. On the one hand, Religious Ruth is a strict religious observer who adheres to the orthodoxy of her religion, and her position on the issue of abortion is pro-life. On the other hand, Secular Sue follows her own conception of spirituality that is not a part of a formal orthodoxy, and her position on the issue of abortion is pro-choice.

The constitution of this great nation protects the free exercise of religion for all citizens, and thus both Religious Ruth and Secular Sue are protected equally. The wonderful thing about our system is that Religious Ruth and Secular Sue can each practice their own beliefs while simultaneously living and working together in peace and harmony in our society. It's a beautiful thing. The key to it all is that the individual beliefs of Religious Ruth and Secular Sue cannot be imposed upon the other. They are each free to practice their own beliefs, and this means that they are each free from having the beliefs of the other imposed upon them. This is why it all works out nicely.

Unfortunately, however, all is not well. Religious Ruth feels that her religious freedom is under attack by Secular Sue. My goodness, Religious Ruth's complaint suggests that Secular Sue may be seeking to impose her own beliefs upon Religious Ruth. But, in fact, it turns out that this is not the case. Secular Sue has no desire whatsoever to interfere with Religious Ruth's right to practice her own beliefs of pro-life. Instead, it is just the opposite.

It is Religious Ruth who is so opposed to pro-choice that she feels it is insufficient for her to limit her opposition to merely abstaining from practicing pro-choice herself, and instead, Religious Ruth desires to also restrict Secular Sue from practicing pro-choice. Religious Ruth strongly desires an outright ban on all abortions nationwide, but her view is not shared widely enough in the nation to overcome the Supreme Court's protection of pro-choice. Religious Ruth, however, is not content to accept that others have the right to practice their own beliefs of pro-choice, so Religious Ruth attempts to undermine pro-choice in every way that her fretful imagination can devise. Naturally, Secular Sue resists the attempts to infringe upon her right to practice pro-choice herself. When she does so, Religious Ruth's reaction is to complain that Secular Sue is attacking Religious Ruth.

Of course, Secular Sue is hardly attacking Religious Ruth and is hardly any sort of an aggressor here. Secular Sue is merely defending her right to exercise her own freedom of religion, including being free from having the pro-life beliefs of Religious Ruth imposed upon her.

This little example highlights the disturbing views harbored by Mr. Bush. He aligned himself in the interview with the equivalent of Religious Ruth and gave expression to the notion that his religious freedom is under attack. As he described it, in this country "the world we're moving towards" is one in which the rights of freedom of religion "only exist for people that don't have faith." And as he stated in his recent commencement address at Liberty University, "as usual, the present administration is supporting the use of coercive federal power" in an "aggressive stance" against religious freedom. In other words, Mr. Bush feels that religious people like himself are being persecuted by having their religious freedom taken away from them.

Right off-the-bat this sounds extreme. It hardly seems the case that religious people in this country are being stripped of their right to worship as they desire. But Mr. Bush described it further. He said it is not enough that he be able to believe in his religious faith, but beyond this, he also must be able to "act on" his faith. It appears what he meant by this is that it is insufficient that Religious Ruth be able to practice pro-life customs for herself, but instead, in order to "act on" her pro-life beliefs, Religious Ruth must be able to engage in activity that imposes her pro-life beliefs upon others, like upon Secular Sue.

Mr. Bush's view is troubling. First of all, it would be bad enough if Mr. Bush's desire to "act on" his beliefs were limited to imposing his beliefs upon others because this contradicts the main point of religious freedom of not imposing religious beliefs upon others. But Mr. Bush goes well beyond this. Any resistance to his desire to impose his beliefs upon others incites the extreme reaction from him that he feels under attack.

This is where the lack of judgment runs off the rails and becomes very troubling. This clearly displays that Mr. Bush is unable to perceive the facts impartially and unable to assess the situation accurately. Religious Ruth is hardly under attack. No one is seeking to restrict her ability to practice her own beliefs in her own life in any way whatsoever. Secular Sue is not overstepping the boundary line between her and Religious Ruth and entering the territory of Religious Ruth. In fact, it is exactly the opposite. It is Religious Ruth who is reaching across the boundary line and seeking to impose restrictions upon Secular Sue. This is very plain to see. After all, it is Secular Sue's right to pro-choice that is at risk of being restricted. Religious Ruth's right to pro-life is not being challenged in any manner whatsoever.

But Mr. Bush fails to see this accurately. Mr. Bush's view is that Religious Ruth is being attacked by Secular Sue, and that in order to "act on" her freedom of religion, Religious Ruth must be permitted to engage in activity that infringes upon the beliefs of Secular Sue. This is a fundamental misperception of reality and a monumental failure to assess the situation accurately. It displays an utter lack of judgment.

While the main issue is Mr. Bush's lack of judgment, the nature of his misjudgment is highly unsettling as well. This is not just a slight misjudgment, but rather, it is a view of reality that is completely upside down. It suggests that Mr. Bush is so rigidly locked into his own predetermined beliefs that he is susceptible to severe distortions of the truth in order to validate his own belief system. As a consequence of his outlook, he is unable to understand the perspectives of others who happen to disagree with him. Secular Sue has little hope of being understood by Mr. Bush and thus little hope of being treated impartially.

Furthermore, Mr. Bush's inclination to feel under attack is also disturbing. Not only is Mr. Bush unable to identify and sympathize with those who happen to disagree with him, but he feels persecuted by these people and misperceives them as attacking enemies. This suggests a tendency toward over-defensiveness and perhaps a degree of delusional paranoia. To elect a president who is inclined to misperceive false threats of attack would be to subject the nation to an unnecessary degree of danger.

This great nation is not well served by having a president who is unable to assess situations accurately. We need only look to recent history as an example. This nation, and indeed the world, have suffered grievously as a result of the misjudgments of former President George W. Bush, who is Jeb Bush's brother and current advisor. This is illustrated perhaps most prominently by George Bush's tragic mistake of leading the nation into the war against Iraq in 2003. George Bush was misguided by his misperception that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, which it did not, and by his misperception at least at some point that Iraq was behind Osama bin Laden's terrorist attack against the United States on September 11, 2001, which it was not.

The Iraq war is now widely regarded as a mistake. And it was an enormous mistake as it inflicted horrendous loss of life and catastrophic suffering upon a vast number of people. It also tore apart an entire region of the world and unleashed a vicious outbreak of violence that continues to rage out of control to this day.

The mistakes that George Bush imposed upon the nation and the world illustrate the critical importance of selecting a president who possesses good judgment and the ability to accurately assess situations.

The fact that Jeb Bush is so significantly misperceiving the situation about his religious freedom being under attack should rightly sound alarm bells and call into question his qualification to be president of the United States.