(DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania) — President George W. Bush cautioned against criticizing gay couples, saying in an exclusive ABC interview that you shouldn’t criticize others “until you’ve examined your own heart.”
Bush had waded into the revitalized gay-marriage debate last week — if only barely — in a comment to a reporter in Zambia, who asked whether gay marriage conflicts with Christian values.
“I shouldn’t be taking a speck out of someone else’s eye when I have a log in my own,” Bush said.
The former president explained his comment to ABC’s Jonathan Karl during their exclusive interview last week in Tanzania.
“I meant it’s very important for people not to be overly critical of someone else until you’ve examined your own heart,” Bush told ABC.
As president, Bush opposed gay marriage, and Republicans pushed ballot measures to ban it at the state level. The topic has seen rejuvenated discussion after the Supreme Court overturned the federal ban on gay marriage, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
The 43rd president traveled to Africa with former first lady Laura Bush to promote their Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon initiative, a program through their foundation to expand care and prevention of cervical cancer in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Last week, the Bushes helped renovate a clinic in Zambia that will serve as a cervical-cancer screening and treatment center.
As president, Bush launched the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, to address the wide spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa. Since leaving the White House, he has received warm welcomes on the continent.
“People admire America,” Bush told ABC. “Africans are thrilled with the idea that American taxpayers funded programs that save lives.”
By chance, the Bushes and Obamas crossed paths on their coinciding Africa trips, as President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama spent six days touring the continent to strengthen U.S. ties with sub-Saharan nations. President Obama and President Bush appeared together in Tanzania, but did not speak publicly, at a ceremony commemorating the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy there.
“This is one of his crowning achievements,” Obama said of PEPFAR before their meeting. “Because of the commitment of the Bush administration and the American people, millions of people’s lives have been saved.”
“We just chatted about his trip,” Bush said of their time together, noting that he asked Obama about his daughters. “We didn’t sit around and hash out policy.”
On his ascent to the White House, Obama heavily criticized his predecessor, mostly for the war in Iraq. But Obama has maintained some of his Bush’s national-security policies since taking over — a posture that has earned him criticism from liberal supporters.
Obama has continued the use of overseas drone strikes, and, most recently, the White House and the National Security Agency acknowledged that until 2011, NSA continued collecting email “metadata” records for U.S. citizens. The Bush-launched program continued with Obama’s approval.
Asked why some of his counterterrorism programs have continued under Obama, Bush suggested that Obama realized the gravity of security threats after becoming president.
“I think the president got into the Oval Office and realized the dangers to the United States,” Bush told ABC. “He’s acted in a way that he thinks is necessary to protect the country. Protecting the country’s the most important job of the presidency.”
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Tom LoBianco, Deirdre Walsh and Tal Kopan, CNN
Kevin Liptak, CNN
Shelbie Harris, Idaho State Journal