If you have a time machine, you probably shouldn’t give it to Jeb Bush. Speaking to Huffington Post reporters from his campaign bus in New Hampshire, the former Florida governor said if time travel was a thing, he’d have zero problems going back in time to end World War II before it could even get started. And no, he wasn’t talking about rounding up a dream team of history’s greatest leaders for some neat diplomatic solution — or even the Carson solution of offering more weapons to Jews living in Germany and Poland. No, Jeb Bush would just kill baby Hitler, which is kind of the opposite of what you’d expect from the man who once described himself as “the most pro-life governor in America.”
New York Times Magazine started a storm on Twitter last month when a poll of readers revealed that the majority would agree to a time travel mission to murder Adolf Hitler before his rise to power. As a sci-fi fan, I could go on for hours about the dilemmas that this question raises, but I’ll stick to the highlights. First, assuming you could go back in time, killing baby Hitler could lead to a new future where World War II never happens and future-you has no reason to ever go back in time. Or, it could just set off a different timestream or alternate universe that runs parallel to our own, changing nothing at all.
Really, the outcome depends on what time travel rules you believe: are you Team Blue Box or Team DeLorean? In any case, someone posed the question to the Republican contender on his new firstname.lastname@example.org email address, perhaps hoping that this tricky time-space paradox might be added to the list of things that Jeb Can Fix. Huffington Post reporters following the candidate on the campaign trail were intrigued and asked just what Bush would do in such a situation:
Bush: They said “If you could go back in time and kill baby Hitler would you? I need to know”
Bush: Hell yeah, I would.
HuffPost: Even if he was really cute?
Bush: No, look, you gotta… you gotta step up, man. That would be key.
Bush seems confident that murdering baby Hitler is the best option. And what, you might ask, does he think about all those nasty time travel paradoxes that traveling back in time might create? The candidate said that we know from the Back to The Future movies that a whole new set of problems could crop up, “But I’d do it. I mean… (shrugs) Hitler.”
Remember, as Florida governor, Jeb Bush fought to restrict even the most basic access to abortion, even leading a crusade to stop a 13-year-old in state custody from obtaining an abortion after she was raped. Bush’s deep pro-life position even led to his unprecedented support of Terri Schiavo’s parents as they lobbied the courts and legislature to keep the Florida woman on life support, despite her persistent vegetative state.
Plus, if time travel is suddenly an option, so are a host of other ways to stop Hitler’s rise that probably wouldn’t involve murder. For example, Bush could have said that he’d go back in time and help teen Hitler get into art school before all that anti-Semitism and hatred had a chance to take root. Or he could have proposed a League of Extraordinary Leaders from history to visit Hitler and show him the impact of his decisions (kind of like Ebenezer Scrooge in The Christmas Carol).
I just made that up, but that’s kind of the point: Time travel opens up an endless list of solutions.
We all know time travel isn’t possible and Bush was probably taking the whole thing lightly. Still, as a staunch pro-lifer it’s the last thing you’d expect Jeb Bush to say, even in jest. And the fact that he was so confident that murder was the only way to go? Well, that’s kinda creepy.
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