GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush stood up for the president's talents, birthplace and religion — but then panned him as a "progressive liberal" who "tears down anyone that disagrees with him."
"Barack Obama is a talented man — and by the way, he's American, he's Christian," told a crowd of activist and donors gathered Friday to hear his keynote speech at the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference, being held this weekend at Mackinac Island, Michigan, reports MLive
Bush's comments were a likely response to GOP front-runner Donald Trump's failure to correct a supporter
in New Hampshire Thursday who called Obama a non-American and a Muslim during a town hall gathering.
Saturday morning, Trump defended himself
on Twitter, posting tweets that asked if he was "morally obligated to defend" Obama when someone "says something bad or controversial about him? I don't think so!"
The new controversy, though, has revived Trump's "birther" reputation for many though, recalling his push to force the president to release his long-form birth certificat
e, saying that Obama's initial hesitancy was because "maybe it says he is a Muslim" on the document.
Bush on Friday instead criticized Obama for the Affordable Care Act, the Dodd-Frank Act, and the federal stimulus program.
"If I'm elected president, I will commit to you that I will never violate my conservative principles, but I will assume that someone who doesn't agree with me isn't a bad person," Bush said in his speech. "They might be wrong, but it's my duty to convince them that my side of the argument is the better argument. We need to get back to that degree of civility before it's too late in this country."
Bush is polling in third place behind Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, the local newspaper group reported, and was the first of five GOP candidates set to speak at the weekend event on Mackinac Island.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul are expected to make speeches on Saturday, but Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's Saturday morning speech ended up being canceled.
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