Ellison Praises Bush as Having 'a Lot of Credibility' in Muslim Relations

One of two Muslim members of Congress decried campaign rhetoric arising from the mob violence at U.S. embassies -- and even praised the last president's efforts at relations with the Muslim world.

"President Bush even visited a mosque, had Muslims at the White House, publicly stood up for Muslim civil rights in the wake of 9/11, and said, look, this act was done by some despicable criminals, not Muslims. And he even referred to Islam as one of the great world religions," Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) said yesterday on MSNBC. "I think that President Bush has a lot of -- a lot of credibility there."

The congressman said he hopes folks learn from the reactions to the Libya consulate attack.

"Ambassador Chris Stevens is not even buried yet. He has a grieving widow, a grieving family. And the other three persons who lost their lives, two of them haven't even been identified. One has," he said. "And to start making partisan play out of this tragedy, at this point, is insensitive."

Ellison said it's important to remember that the mob is not representative of Libyan society.

"If the rest of the world judged us by recent events in Milwaukee and in Aurora, and in, you know, in Tucson, when my friend Gabby Giffords was shot down, I mean, they would judge us harshly, if that's the only evidence they had to go by," he said. "...We've got to know that those societies, particularly Libya, is not an anti-American society. And in fact, Libyans fought to help defend the consulate when it was under attack."

He acknowledged that the tragic events are a "setback" for the Arab Spring.

"There will be fits and there will be starts. I mean, if we examine our own history, it wasn't a straight line toward democracy from the moment of Declaration of Independence. There were bumps and bruises up and down," Ellison said. "...It's not going to look just like in the United States. But I do think at the end of the day, we've got to embrace the change and stay the course."