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Nov 19, 2015 10:32 PM

Steinhauser: Bush tells NH1 News Obama 'wants to demonize people who disagree with him'

NH1 Political Director -

CONCORD – Jeb Bush forcefully pushed back at criticism from President Barack Obama over the Syrian refugee controversy.

After Bush and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a rival for the Republican presidential nomination, both suggested initially that only proven Christians be admitted among the thousands refugees trying to flee civil war torn Syria, the President said Wednesday that “when individuals say that we should have a religious test and that only Christians -- proven Christians -- should be admitted -- that’s offensive and contrary to American values.”

Asked Thursday by NH1 News for a response to Obama’s comments and what kind of test would be appropriate to determine a refugee’s religion, Bush returned fire.

“So here’s the deal, in the law it requires a religious test. His (President Obama’s) own law. For both asylum seekers and refugees. The notion that President Obama refuses to admit that this is radical Islamic terrorism. He cannot say those words in a sentence. Nor can Hillary Clinton. I mean that’s part of the problem. If you can’t admit what it is, then how can you develop a strategy to deal with it. And in the law it is a requirement that as you go through the screen process that religion is an element to it,” Bush said.

The former Florida governor then teed off on the President.

“So he can say whatever he wants and attack people like me that believe that persecuted people ought to be able to come into this country. He wants to demonize people who disagree with him instead of accepting the fact that he is part of the reason that we have this refugee problem, this humanitarian crisis that is tragic. His lack of leadership is the reason this exists. And it is up to him to fix it, but if he doesn’t do it, I promise you I will.”

Pressed further on what kind of screening he would suggest, Bush said “everybody should go through the same screening process but I can tell you that a persecuted Christian, a Christian family that has been uprooted in their community, whether it’s in Iraq or Syria, who have family members who have been beheaded because of their faith, they’re not Islamic terrorists.”

Bush is now suggesting that he would place a priority on Christians, but he wouldn't ban Muslims who have been vetted thoroughly.

Bush made his comments just a couple of hours before the House of Representatives voted to put the brakes on the President’s plan to allow up to 10,000 Syrian refugees into the U.S. over the next year. In the wake of last Friday’s deadly terrorist attacks in Paris, many Republican lawmakers and governors, joined by some Democrats, have vocally opposed allowing the refugees into the country.

Many of the lawmakers and governors point to the Paris attacks as proof that it’s too risky to provide a haven in the U.S. for those fleeing Syria’s bloody civil war. One of the attackers in Paris appeared to enter Europe posing as a Syrian refugee.

“Unlike other refugees who have come, you have the possibility at least of terrorists organizing to disrupt our way of life and to attack us and to kill people embedded in refugees,” Bush said.

Bush spoke to reporters moments after filing at the State House to put his name on the first-in-the-nation primary ballot. The filing came 24 hours after Bush spelled out his ideas to defeat ISIS in a major national security address at the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina.

Pressed by reporters on his plan to increase U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria, Bush only said that “we have ground troops already, and you would have to have, the likelihood based on the conversations I’ve had with commanders that are retired that know a lot about this, that you would have to have more ground troops.”

Bush: ‘I am going to win the nomination’

Upon arriving at Secretary of State Bill Gardner’s office, Bush was pointed out photos of his father, former President George H.W. Bush, and brother, former President George W. Bush, filing to put their names on the ballot.

Bush started out this year as the front runner for the GOP nomination, but starting this summer he lost the top position in the polls to Donald Trump. Bush is currently in the middle of the pack in national polling and in fifth place, at eight percent, in an average of the two new polls in New Hampshire that were released on Wednesday.

But Bush remains optimistic, telling reporters that “we’ve got a great team of loyal supporters and we’re building on that and I feel really good about my chances here.”

Asked if he would move to protect New Hampshire’s threatened status as the first primary state, Bush said “I’m going to win the nomination and I can guarantee you the minute the nominee is picked, he’s the leader of the party, and we won’t change it. And if I’m president of the United States, I’ll be the leader of my party, the leader of the country, and I would protect it.”

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