Sure, it’s always nice to hear that we’re not the scum of the earth, but, you know, as much as I hate to give the man credit for anything, I recall Dubya himself making a pretty astonishing statement (to me at least) during the third presidential debate with Kerry:
And my faith is a very — it’s very personal. I pray for strength. I pray for wisdom. I pray for our troops in harm’s way. I pray for my family. I pray for my little girls. But I’m mindful in a free society that people can worship if they want to or not. You’re equally an American if you choose to worship an almighty and if you choose not to.
If you’re a Christian, Jew or Muslim, you’re equally an American. That’s the great thing about America, is the right to worship the way you see fit.
This, of course, stands in stark contrast to what his own supposedly more tolerant father said once:
Sherman: What will you do to win the votes of the Americans who are atheists?
Bush: I guess I’m pretty weak in the atheist community. Faith in God is important to me.
Sherman: Surely you recognize the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are atheists?
Bush: No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.
Sherman (somewhat taken aback): Do you support as a sound constitutional principle the separation of state and church?
Bush: Yes, I support the separation of church and state. I’m just not very high on atheists.
So given that there was really no benefit to GW saying such a thing and no real repercussions for politicians treating atheists dismissively or condescendingly, I have to assume he actually did mean that. Strange.